Gun massacre punditry has reached a new low with the Newtown shooting. From Megan McArdle of The Daily Beast encouraging students to "gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide," to the National Review's Charlotte Allen asserting that the lack of men on school grounds led to the high body count- if only "some of the huskier 12 year-olds had converged on Lanza." As it turns out, however, Colorado was once again ahead of the national media curve, this time in making unbelievably warped arguments about mass shootings.
Just days before the Newtown massacre, a young man in Clackamas, OR entered a mall and started shooting strangers, killing two and wounding another before shooting himself in the head. The Christian Science Monitor was quick to cover the story, posting this piece the very next day: "Why more people didn't die in Clackamas mall shooting." Such quick turnaround means getting quotes from the most accessible pundits in the gun rights world, and few are easier to get on the phone to talk guns than Colorado's own Dave Kopel. Dave's quote starts out reasonably before bursting at the seams of logic in a cloud of nonsensical assertions of proper police procedure, pseudo-psychological diagnosis, and not-so-subtle racial dog whistling:
"As far as a social shift, I think people are getting more intelligent and appropriate in their reactions to shooters," says Dave Kopel, research director at the Independence Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank in Golden, Colo. "Police training has changed in significant ways since the Columbine [High School] shooting [in 1999], where they no longer wait for the SWAT team to arrive but go in immediately with … the army they have. There's also an awareness [among police and the public] that if you’re trying to stop a gangster from robbing a liquor store, you may have a [heck] of a fight on your hands, but that these publicity-seeking guys with mental illness, they basically crumble at first opposition."
Really? How do the police determine from outside the mall where bloody people are running out the exits whether the shooter is a "gangster" or a "publicity-seeking guy with mental illness?" Principal Dawn Hochsprung who charged Lanza didn't encounter someone who crumbled at first opposition- or did you mean "armed opposition?" Maybe a trained gun owner…like Lanza's mother? Is a gun-wielding man in a Wal-Mart more or less dangerous than one in DaveCo Liquors? Alert to local media, gun control debates will take place in both Congress and the Colorado legislature in the next few months.
When looking for pundits to frame this issue and provide fodder for public debate, consider their previous statements. Kopel, who also believes "arming teachers is the most realistic war to reduce school shootings," is great for a high-click web traffic building quote, but media outlets who quote this 2nd Amendment attorney, on issues beyond case law and proposed legislation, risk sharing unsubstantiated musings such as his quote above, giving Fourth Estate weight to extreme gun fanatic views. Law enforcement and mental health professionals would be better suited to muse on police tactics and the motives of rampaging murderers. And while Mr. Kopel might be better than the above columnists in cloaking his beliefs about broader gun control in vaguely authoritative assertions, those beliefs are still well outside the mainstream.
How is it that Kopel testifies in Washington D.C. as an "expert" on this or any other subject?