Do Better, CNN – “Why the President, Congress and the Supreme Court can’t – or won’t – stop mass shootings”

Can’t. The answer is, always has been, and always will be can’t. Anyone who tells you otherwise is stupid, high, selling snake oil, or trying to win an election off your misguided grief and righteous anger. I just read the headline that we could “Save 15,000 lives if we just did…” Didn’t click. I don’t know what theory was being pushed, I do know that whichever one it was (because there are only about 6 of them) it uses more wishful thinking than anything like enforceable policy measures.

This “wonderful” write up from my CNN newsletter “CNN What Matters” came in Wednesday, and ultimately I sit here disappointed. I don’t expect a lot out of CNN, I know their politics. But this hit raw because of just how asininely wrong Zachary B. Wolf is… but he is so close to being right on this.

CNN, like many, cannot get over the myth that if we just make the politicians write the right things down on some paper that we can magically interdict evil intentioned individuals or groups. We can’t. Never could. Never will be able to. That is fundamentally how life and free agency work.

Wolf’s write up on the politics of violence surrounding Robb Elementary is titled “Can’t or won’t” and it’s clear where he misplaces the blame.

Can’t or won’t – Zachry B. Wolf

This cycle of gun violence is sad, predictable and permanent.

Statement. Fact.

Zachary, you are correct here. This is permanent because all the gods, all the heavens, all the hells, and everywhere in between, cannot, with anything like acceptable accuracy, predict or assuage the human capacity for violence. Period. Full stop. The free agency of the human mind can choose to kill, can choose violence, and the intangibles that encourage people to be or not be violent are innumerable and vary between individuals. What a psychological nut to try and crack, eh? Let’s talk about gun show loopholes instead, amiright?

We as a species and as societies have trends, we have social behaviors and contracts, we have laws which are simply those social behaviors written down, either well (don’t commit unjustifiable or negligent homicide) or stupidly (AsUzaUlt WeePon BAD!).

But where does the blame rest? Where does this buck for human violence and dead children stop?

It is permanent because presidents lack power, while Capitol Hill is paralyzed by minority rule. And federal courts, though poised to give the power back to the people’s representatives on abortion, have routinely struck down state laws to reasonably curb gun access.


Part of the country thinks the answer is fewer guns, while another part wants to see more guns everywhere to take down deranged gunmen.

Two gross oversimplifications of the popular polarizations that this argument always centers around, so oversimplified as to make both points meaningless to mention. “Fewer” guns is a snake oil salesmen doing their best and “more guns everywhere” ignores the obvious necessity of very well trained, very real, and very motivated security professionals who have methods to harden schools and reduce the likelihood of and the efficacy of the next event.

But sure, let’s just make it about taking away guns or tossing guns into every classroom willy-nilly.

This is an adult discussion.

Journalists like me aren’t even writing new stories about how little can happen to address the problem. They’re regurgitating old ones written after previous shootings because nothing has changed.

You know why nothing has changed, right? We saw a little bit of that change.

Harken back to just after Marjory Stoneman Douglas, where good ole’ David Hogg made his name and has since become a predictable mouthpiece you can give quarters to so he’ll scream the right anti-gun obscenities. Harken, I say.

Remember immediately after that? When the students hated the security measures. Security measures like transparent backpacks, metal detectors, pat downs, and so forth. Remember when that was stressful and invasive, so they stopped?

Security is inconvenient, that is why it works… to a degree. Security is primarily dissuasive and then reactive. Dissuade people from doing, and reacting when someone does anyway. That is all security is. Both of those failures have come glaringly out of Uvalde.

We know that gun violence can happen anywhere because it has happened everywhere. Schools, churches, supermarkets, ball fields, Walmarts. Gun violence targets young children, Black people, Asian Americans, random citizens and politicians from both parties.

It has happened everywhere, correct. In total spite of every single law against it, it happened. Weird. It is almost like the only thing that actually prevents a violent act is… the violent actor not doing it. Illegality, oddly enough, does not seem to factor into the thinking of the extremely violent.

More US kids 17 and under died from gun violence in 2021 than have died from Covid-19 during the pandemic:

Not to be that guy… but COVID killed the old and infirm more than any other demographic because its a virus that savages the lungs and not a human being angry at other human beings. Kids tend to have strong developing lungs, so their numbers were lower. Kids are not immune for the anger of others, especially their peers.

Funny, you don’t use the number of children and number of teens distinction GVA uses. Considering the deaths at Robb Elementary fall under the category children, far rarer, and teens start the demographic bracket used in another circle. Military Aged Male. Put another way, the age males are most likely to become criminally active.

So how many of those 1,560 ‘kids’ were children? 313.

Leaving 1,247 ‘kids’ deaths in the teen category where 15, 16, and especially 17 are going to be the ages where they were killed.


Take a guess.

That starts the most violent time of male life, and the rates for suicide increase too. Using that overly broad demographic (male), the rates quiet back down in our thirties. Criminal involvement starts in the teens, the consequences for criminal involvement start in the teens too. Pointing out the death of ‘kids’ without that distinction gives us no basis to solve the various reasons they are dying.

But no, let’s just say more ‘kids’ were killed by ‘gun violence’ than COVID, like that actually means something useful, that we can formulate a plan around that information to reduce those deaths.

We don’t like to say out loud that these could be criminally associated, just like we don’t want to admit security is hard, or that our Government can’t, not won’t, but truly can’t do much about it. Not in the way we wish we could stop horrific events. That authority over human behavior doesn’t exist and no amount of ink will make it exist.

Free will sucks sometimes, doesn’t it? Why doesn’t literally everybody will only the things that you want willed, within an acceptable margin by your standards? Why are there outlier events like mass killings that don’t make sense to us? Free agency, free will, a motivation we don’t understand ourselves but must accept as the reality we live in.

We use that phrase a lot, ‘The Reality We Live In’. We use it disparagingly too, like we could solve “gun violence” if we just remembered something as simple as the light switch in the bathroom. Like we can align 7 billion moral compasses if we’d just remember to take out the trash on time.

Zachary, this isn’t easy. It’s life. Work on the workable solutions and stop worrying about the unworkable. I’d love if it Joe Biden actually had the power to meaningfully stop violence, he doesn’t. I’d love it if he could speak in coherent sentences too, but not much luck their either.

Powerless President

President Joe Biden couldn’t even get a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed in the first year and a half of his presidency. His first nominee, though a career ATF official, had ties to groups that support gun restrictions. His second nominee, Steve Dettelbach, had his confirmation hearing Wednesday.

Chipman is a dirtbag who was tied to Waco and Fast and Furious, on top of his clear anti-gun biases. He should never have been close to the running of a neutral federal agency any more than I should be. Less even, since I at least look critically at data instead of party/organizational talking points. I don’t want Wayne Lapierre in that seat either. I want an unbiased data analyst and good manager since they have an agency to manage.

Biden, doing what he can, has begun administrative efforts to crack down on home-assembly ghost guns, but lacks the power to do much about the guns used in mass shootings.


That’s because, among other reasons, most mass killers have clean criminal and mental histories and ‘red flags’ are just as much snake oil as ‘assault weapons bans’ are. We are running up against the extreme points of free agency and instead of taking steps to lower the collective stress in this nation, which would lower the probability of outlier events, we keep poking at things that make it worse and creating more extreme hot points. We then just point at team ‘not us, them’ and blame them.

The Ghost Gun Ban is laughable. Oh, 77% of mass shooters use handguns by the way. Just a reminder.

Former President Donald Trump’s administration tried to reinterpret an existing law against civilian ownership of machine guns to ban so-called “bump stocks” like the one used to kill 58 people in Las Vegas in 2017. Gun rights groups have sued the Biden administration over the rule.

They sued Trump too. I don’t know what Trump is going to say at NRAAM over the weekend but I wouldn’t be surprised if he admits the bumpstock ban was an error, it would drum up political base power in the 2A crowd for those he soured with that move. He won’t get everyone back but he doesn’t have to.

Paralyzed Senate

Good. The less they mess up with crap like the S.A.F.E. Act, the better.

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, a majority of senators agreed to a bipartisan bill to expand background checks to all gun purchases except those between family members. It failed because a bipartisan minority opposed the bill.

Remember that most mass killers have clean backgrounds? Remember that? Did we check the noncompliance estimates in states that have implemented so called ‘universal’ background checks? How’s enforcement of that rule going? Not well? Shocking.

Notably, the three Democrats who opposed that 2013 bill have all been replaced by Republicans in the Senate. Another Democrat opposed the bill for procedural reasons.

Three Republicans supported the bill and two of the seats they represented are up for grabs in tightly contested elections this fall.

Oh, this is just about getting Red Team or Blue Team seats? Cool. Because if we could just pass more laws the other laws will work better! That’s how laws work, right? If you make a thing super-extra-ultra illegal, it goes away.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had no answers for how to move gun legislation other than to encourage people to vote in November in the midterm elections. But no likely election outcome will give either party the 60 votes needed to pass meaningful legislation.

Good. Gun legislation isn’t going to accomplish anything. We need infrastructure and socially positive legislation to harden schools, punish actual criminals who hurt folks, treat the mentally unwell, and economically boost the nation competitively. Every artificial equity initiative we put in place is going to be ruthlessly exploited, look at the PPP fraud alone, so we need to be extremely cautious with handing out and setting rules for that. We should look at logical methods for debt easement nationally and personally, we should be looking at ways to make businesses grow and educations work to pay bills instead of feeding fat checks to university coffers. There are all manner of things we should be looking at to promote the general welfare and contentment, which in turn would lower the likelihood of outlier events.

We don’t need to do a thing on gun laws except trim the books. NFA, axe it. ATF, rolled into the FBI where they belong and stripped of a ton of weird authorities. GCA, kill it with fire.

New bill.

The Firearms Clarification Act. All semi-automatic or manual action firearms are hereby Title I firearms, must be 18 to buy from a Federal dealer and do the 4473/NICS thing. The categories of AOW, SBR, SBS, Suppressor/Silencer, and Handgun are eliminated. It is all just now Firearm. Select fire and automatic firearms are Title II NFA transfers, transfers will be conducted through electronic or mail-in updates as now. Transfers will take no more than 30 days from proper submission, or the tax is refunded. Transfers taking longer than 60 days are automatically transferred upon completion of a 4473 and NICS check.

FBI can use their own resources to recover a wrongly transferred item.

We’d solve a lot of wasted time and effort with a paragraph, and you can keep your background checks since they make you feel so warm and fuzzy. I’m willing to be reasonable.

Partisanship is growing

Democrats, who narrowly control the Senate today, have moved toward a vote on a background check bill, but it is doomed to fail without those 60 votes.

Gotta get those “I tried” votes in before mid-terms.

There are efforts to legislate in other ways, with red flag laws to take guns from people who raise concerns about a shooting, for instance. A red flag law was enacted in Florida after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, for instance. Read more about red flag laws.

I’ve read about red flag laws, its more feel good nonsense that never works well in practice. Voluntary removal of your own firearms or court ordered efforts in conjunction with compulsory institutionalization for mental health have always been around and work about as well as they can. They hover dangerously close to civil rights violations (not just the Second Amendment) at the best of times. Broadening the definitions are going to hurt a lot of people and help few to none who wouldn’t already be eligible for help under other laws.

These laws will either be abusive or lose their teeth in civil rights violation trials. Better to not even try to navigate the absurdity of pre-crime. That is what a red flag law is, pre-crime but with none of the plot magic that makes pre-crime actually work. We’re back to challenging free agency directly again.

Any compromise seems a long way from becoming reality. And it’s not clear those bills would have kept guns from most of the people who carry out these horrible crimes.

No, it is clear. It is clear they wouldn’t have mattered a fart in a windstorm, which is one of the primary objections to every one of these pieces of legislation. I won’t even dig into the constitutional protections problems, just stop pissing on me and calling it rain with laws that won’t prevent a free person from doing the horrific end of the spectrum of what free people can do. If you say loophole or universal or assault weapon in your proposed solution, it’s a bad idea and it won’t stop another violent actor from acting violently.

North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis said he worries red flag laws would also take guns from people who don’t need them taken away.

With ample reason.

“Virtually every one that I’ve seen here has been one that sweep up law-abiding gun owners into what I consider to be an overreach,” Tillis told CNN on Tuesday.

This is all overreach on the slim hope that we might, maybe, if we are really lucky, stop a mass killer. Screw anyone who gets hurt by the law too, we won’t talk about them until a civil rights lawyer gets angry enough. Almost like a false rape accusation, or how the gun laws currently on the books disproportionately impact the impoverished and minority groups negatively without anything positive to show for the law’s efforts. It’s hard to say, “Well we’ve lowered the homicide rate in the Black and Hispanic communities thanks to all those background checks…” when you look at the numbers.

Many states keep loosening laws. Other states’ laws don’t work

Loosening is a leading term, like ‘kids’ when we are talking about the whole 0-17 year old range. There is a mountain of difference between the cognitive free agency of a 7 year old and a 17 year old.

The Texas Tribune looks at how Texas, despite seeing many mass shootings in the state, has moved toward ever looser gun laws. Last year, it moved away from gun permits, allowing most people to openly carry guns without a permit or training.

Because, say it with me, the right to keep and bear arms. That is the default. You, a free person of this nation who is not adjudicated in any way shape or form to be unable to participate in society or act on your own behalf, have the right to the ownership and carriage of a weapon in your own defense and the defense of your community.

Also, what would have disallowing it have prevented? What does it prevent? Would there be 21 people alive in Uvalde if they still had handgun carry permitting in place?

No? Then why are we having the argument that every gun law, even ineffectual ones, need to stay on the books? Like if we just pile up enough stupid rules that don’t work, while also ignoring their negative consequences, a magic shield will form and the country will be safe. Odd variant of the monkeys writing Hamlet thing.

Meanwhile, laws in other states have been ineffective. Red flag laws failed to identify the shooter who targeted Black Americans at a Buffalo grocery store this month. A red flag law in Indiana failed to identify the shooter who killed eight people at a FedEx facility in 2021. The law has since been tweaked.

Tweaked, that is an adorable phrase. I love it when all we need to do is tweak a law that has the potential to dramatically impact someone’s life in a variety of negative ways and think it’s all good now. Red Flag laws are a well meaning attempt to try and catch a bat, in the dark, while blindfolded, but their are a whole lot of birds flying around inside too and you don’t mean to grab or hurt any of them… but you’re going to.

We are accepting a bunch of negative things that we don’t want to talk about to try and get ahead of, maybe, maybe just one negative horrific event we are terrified of. And we now openly admit it doesn’t work.

Courts strike down laws

That is literally there job. Not all laws are good ones. Not all laws remain good ones. We are a group of flawed humanity doing our best. Just because it says SAFE doesn’t make it do anything. If that were the case we could pass the Just Be Kind Act, and everyone would. Kindness would overflow, our patience with each other would be nearly limitless, communication would become easy, misunderstandings would decrease significantly and be quickly forgiven.

That would be nice. But that whole free agency, differing perspectives, and flawed nature of humanity thing rears its ugly head again.

Most restrictions on guns are enforced at the state level, and there is a patchwork of laws across the country. Even in states where strong majorities support gun control measures, federal courts have stood in the way.

That. Is. There. Job.

The courts exist to make certain the rules passed by legislatures pass constitutional muster, this way a motivated or subverted majority cannot just vote rights away. We aren’t perfect at this either, but it is a good system for checking the power of an uneducated mob at the ballot box. Something that both sides are fond of accusing the other of.

Citing the heroism of musket-wielding young people who he said fought in the Revolutionary War hundreds of years ago, a federal judge earlier this month threw out a California law that banned sales of semiautomatic guns to anyone under the age of 21.

Yep. That checks out.

If you can vote you can be armed. If you can serve you can be armed. You don’t have to wait out some arbitrary three extra years because a semi-auto rifle should only be purchased after you can legally drink too. Sorry that stands in the way… of what exactly? What is it preventing? Where are cases where a semi-automatic was denied to a legal adult teen who has the power of their vote, they can drive, and they can be sent to war, and it has prevented anything worth preventing? Why did it take that rule to do it?

How about we make the age to do every adult thing 25? Drink, drive unrestricted, vote, own a gun, serve in the military, serve in public office? 25 for all of it, so we can get those extra years of development in.

The Supreme Court appears poised to increase the number of guns on US streets – that is, if it chooses to strike down New York’s law governing concealed handguns. A decision is expected in the next month or so.

Ohhhh, guns on the streets is it? You mean the removal of the absurd rule requirements, the cronyistic and ripe for abuse nature of the ‘may issue’ standard for concealed carry? Forcing a state to have a public ruleset that you either meet or you don’t in a fair manner, not subject to whether somebody just doesn’t like you, or guns in general?

Imagine a human right not being subject to the whims of a bureaucrat. What a wonder to have an objective, clear, and achievable standard for being in compliance with or being in violation of the ruleset established for the bearing of arms. Crazy.

The country is clearly split on the issue of guns and how to restrict them. There is an apocryphal belief among many Americans that the Constitution views gun ownership in the same way it views life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. An increasingly conservative Supreme Court has turned that belief into precedent.

Its “apocryphal” that the Constitution views life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in any way, at all. Those were in the Declaration of Independence, 15 years earlier.

The Constitution does state,

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

It then, in the Second Amendment, the Bill of Rights, says,

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

In our modern and enlightened interpretation of who ‘the people’ are, we are therefore to infer that all these people have the uninfringed right to keep and bear arms, for the security of a free State. Part of that is the security quite logically in their own persons.

This isn’t ‘a precedent’, it is the common sense that everyone else keeps claiming in their ineffectual bills.

You’ve certainly read that large majorities of the country support certain gun restrictions – and that is true.

In biasedly written poles answered by people who lack meaningful understanding on a deadly serious topic, that is probably why there is a constitutional amendment about it.

Remember all those videos of people happily signing away women’s suffrage, because suffrage is phonetically similar to suffering, do we really want to weigh those opinions heavily? Should they perhaps demonstrate some practical knowledge on a subject before opining?

Support for gun restrictions rises and falls

Thankfully, it is down since Gen Z appears to be very personal liberties focused and a little more educated on the subject that Boomers and GenXer’s, and to an extent Millennials. Boomers can’t figure out the basics of the internet and social media and are regularly confused by slang, but we sure do have a mess of them making rules about all this important stuff.

We did it, Joe!

But it is not a vast majority of the country that wants a wholesale rewriting of the nation’s gun laws.

Because that requires thinking.

CNN’s director of polling Jennifer Agiesta notes that “support for stricter gun laws tends to spike after high-profile mass shootings, such as the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, which occurred a few weeks before Gallup measured its recent high of 67% support for stricter laws in March 2018.”

I wonder why? An emotional reaction, perhaps? Something that hasn’t been thought through very well even?

Just lash out and do something, because that is how good policy decisions are always made.

In more recent Gallup polling, only a narrow majority of Americans are in favor of stricter laws on gun sales, and a survey last year from ABC News and The Washington Post found that about half the public says that neither stricter laws nor stricter enforcement would reduce the amount of violent crime in the US.

Uh oh, looks like people are paying attention.

All that could change after this new, horrible string of shootings.

You hope. You can say it, I know you mean it.

We aren’t kidding when we say that the gun control crowd certainly seem to have wet bloody dreams over mass killings, because dumb irrational emotive responses are how they get their way. What a way to win… Imagine your idea sucking so much that it can’t pass a logical analysis of its merits and problems, so you need dead children to ram it through. And if you don’t get it passed you’ll be able to make your political opponents look bad. Win either way.

There is broad support in a Pew Research Center analysis of polling last year for some specific ideas that go far beyond what’s possible in Congress:

  • 87% supported preventing people with mental illnesses from purchasing guns.
  • 81% supported making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks.

Okay… Stop… Just stop, Wolf. Have you read a 4473?

It is already illegal for people with a diagnosed mental illness to purchase a firearm. It is a question that is required that I ask, via the form, and that it is required that I deny the transfer if it is marked yes OR the background check, which includes adjudicated mental health items that are NICS applicable, comes back as a denial.

Unless you mean prevent in some way other than… a law.

And private sales at gun shows subject to NICS? Okay… what does that improve? We know ‘universal’ check rules are ignored so why are we talking about ‘universal’ lite? Do we think these killers are sneaking about gun shows looking to hop through that loophole that really isn’t one? They could just leave the gun show and then its a regular private transfer.

People do support specific things

Support does not equate to efficacy. We could all support lowering earths gravity by 10% to lose weight and ease off on the joint pain, but that doesn’t mean much.

Smaller but sill substantial majorities supported more controversial ideas, according to the Pew analysis:

Still, I assume. It’s okay, I mess up on this page all the time. What controversial ideas are these?

66% backed creating a federal database to track gun sales.

Cool. Highly illegal.

64% approved of “banning high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.”

Neat. There are only several hundred million reasons in circulation that this is an awful idea. The first among them are the myriad of mass killings that have taken place with ‘safe’ magazine capacity weapons.

63% approved “banning assault-style weapons.”

Fashion over function after all. These have only failed several times to stop massacres, I’m sure they’re a great idea minus the obviously not working part.

Despite the Supreme Court’s skepticism of New York’s permit law, just 20% in Pew’s polling, including only 35% of gun owners nationwide, favored a law “allowing people to carry concealed guns without a permit.”

Just more reasons we shouldn’t listen to ‘polls’ about things people do not understand. Polls can make things sounds either scary or desirable at will. Suffrage, great example still. It is a rather meaningless data point unless you can establish that the polled group understands the subject matter in the poll.

What this all means is that despite the cries that something – or anything – must be done, the US government is predisposed to inaction, the courts are very respectful of gun rights and the absolutists have a chokehold on the system.

Or. And just hear my out on this one, because you REPEATEDLY mentioned it yourself, all of these ideas are ineffective and they won’t do a meaningful thing to prevent the next person from choosing violence.

So why should the government waste the time? Because you’re yelling about it? They will absolutely waste your time and your money to get that sweet political capital if you are riled about something. They are under no compulsion then to do something that would actually improve anything, just ‘try’ and do the thing their base is yelling about and that is good enough.

Until one or all of those things change, and as long as there are more guns than people in the US, this cycle will continue.

Oh, was that the problem the whole time? I’ll let the nations around the world, like Mexico or Brazil for example, know that they’re doing this whole murder rate thing wrong. They have far too few guns to be out murder rating us. It’s all in the guns per capita. Nothing to do with violent crime, poverty, declining mental health and facilities to do anything about that, cheap untrustworthy politco machinations of opportunists, or any of that.

It’s just all these darn guns we got piled up.

Thanks Zach, nice job figuring that one out.

Keith Finch
Keith is the former Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Agency, Inc. He got told there was a mountain of other things that needed doing, so he does those now and writes here when he can. A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. Teaching since 2009, he covers local concealed carry courses, intermediate and advanced rifle courses, handgun, red dot handgun, bullpups, AKs, and home defense courses for civilians, military client requests, and law enforcement client requests.