Gun Control and Mass Killers


By Jerry A. Boggs | July 2016

In a campaign to stop the massacres in the U.S. – which have become shockingly routine – many Democrats want to ban certain kinds of assault rifles, such as the AK-47 and the AR-15. Many other Democrats want to outright ban all guns. I can understand their anger, their despair and desperation. Consider this mind-numbing chronology of some of the large and small massacres in the United States in the last 130 years:

In 1886, at a labor rally at Chicago’s Haymarket Square, 11 people were murdered, including seven police officers, and more than 100 were wounded.

In 1910, two leaders of the ironworkers union pleaded guilty to killing 20 in the Los Angeles Times building during a labor dispute.

In 1920, anarchists ended the lives of 40 and injured hundreds in New York City’s Wall Street area.

In 1927, Andrew Kehoe killed 38 elementary school children and 6 adults and wounded at least 58 other people, in what is known as the Bath School Disaster.

In 1971, an unknown man murdered 30 in The Upstairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

In 1972, a caller claiming to represent Soviet Jews killed one person and wounded nine in the New York City office of impresario Sol Hurok.

In 1975, Palestinian, Puerto Rican, and Croatian groups were suspected of killing 11 people and wounding 75 at the TWA terminal at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

Also in 1975, the Puerto Rican nationalist group FALN was believed to have killed four people at historic Fraunces Tavern in New York City. The group struck 48 other times between 1974 and 1977.

In 1981, a group calling itself the Puerto Rican Armed Resistance claimed responsibility for killing a man in a men’s bathroom at the Pan Am terminal at New York’s Kennedy Airport.

In 1993, six people were killed and more than 1,000 injured at the World Trade Center in New York City.

In 1995 Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh slaughtered 168 people and injured more than 500.

In 1996, Eric Robert Rudolph pleaded guilty to killing two people and wounding more than 100 at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta during the Summer Games.

In 1998, Theodore Kaczynski pleaded guilty in Sacramento, Calif., to killing three people and wounding 23 during a nationwide murder spree between 1978 and 1995.

Also in 1998, Eric Robert Rudolph was suspected of killing one guard and wounding a nurse at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama.

In 2001, nearly 3,000 people were killed by terrorists in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

In 2013, at the Boston Marathon, Chechen brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev murdered 3 civilians and injured an estimated 264 others.

As I said, I can understand why many Democrats want to ban certain guns – or all guns – to deal with mass killers. There’s just one problem. In the examples above, as attentive readers with an eye for history no doubt already guessed, not one person was killed by a gun. Every single one of the many deaths was the result of a bomb, or, in the case of the 9/11 tragedy, of planes serving as bombs, and in case of The Upstairs Lounge massacre, of lighter fluid exposed suddenly to air, in effect a fire bomb.

To the list, it’s necessary, I think, to add a few near-misses to drive home the point that the employment of bombs to kill has been extensive:

In 1914, Arthur Caron masterminded a failed attempt in New York to assassinate John D. Rockefeller using a bomb constructed from dynamite.

In 1971, the Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., was bombed by the Weather Underground. No one was killed.

In 2009, the so-called “underwear bomber,” Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was subdued by passengers and crew after trying to blow up an airliner heading from Paris to Detroit using explosives hidden in his undergarments.

In 2010, Pakistani immigrant Faisal Shahzad left an explosives-laden SUV in New York’s Times Square, hoping to detonate it on a busy night. Street vendors spotted smoke coming from the vehicle and the bomb was disabled.

In 2011, a backpack bomb was placed along a Martin Luther King Day parade route in Spokane, Washington, meant to kill and injure participants in a civil-rights march, but was found and disabled before it could explode.

Mass killers who use guns often have bombs they undoubtedly would unleash if guns were unavailable.

In 1999, the Columbine High School shooters used a fire bomb to divert firefighters, propane tanks converted to bombs placed in the cafeteria, 99 explosive devices, and car bombs.

In December 2015, after terrorists gunned down 14 in San Bernardino, California, the Boston Herald wrote:

“…12 pipe bombs are found in the home of the two now-dead killers, along with three pipe bombs wired to a remote control device, hundreds of bomb-making tools in their garage….”

Were no guns available, the rampaging duo might have had in their home 50 more remote-controlled pipe bombs after using three or four that might have killed more than 14 and destroyed considerable property.

In June 2016, the terrorist who shot to death 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, threatened to detonate a car rigged with bombs and to strap hostages into explosive vests, according to partial transcripts of his 911 calls.

“This is not about guns,” retired Lt. General Michael T. Flynn, author of “The Field of Fight” and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said on “The Kelly File” June 29, 2016, regarding the war on terrorists.

I ask gun-control advocates: How would a successful ban on all guns, still in effect since the late 1800s, have affected this history of massacres? Not so much, I would venture.

How would terrorists and other mass-killers be affected tomorrow if today the government confiscated all assault rifles or even all guns?

“People respond to incentives, although not necessarily in ways that are predictable or manifest. Therefore, one of the most powerful laws in the universe is the law of unintended consequences.” -From the book “SuperFreakonomics”

If today all guns were confiscated, tomorrow at least the following unintended consequences would ensue (many people are aware of these consequences; just read the comments following the many articles on gun control):

More sophisticated 3D printed guns. Even without a ban, could someone, for instance ISIS-influenced terrorists living in the U.S., right now be printing AR-15s? To borrow a bromide about nuclear weapons, the genie is out of the bottle.

A sky-rocketing bomb-making ingenuity and a proliferation of home-made bombs in basements, garages, storage facilities, etc.

A much bigger black market for weapons — as happened in Australia — resulting in gun-runners as we’ve never seen them before, coming mostly from or through, say, Mexico, their number perhaps equaling drug runners. “Last week law-enforcement officials charged almost two dozen Virginians who allegedly took part in a gun-running ring. The accused bought boatloads of firearms in Virginia and sold them in New York City for exorbitant sums. The tough gun-control laws in New York have made gun-running very profitable, and the repeal of Virginia’s one-gun-a-month law four years ago has made it very easy.” –

If all guns were confiscated and a vast black market materialized, guns would likely cost more, perhaps much more. That could mean thieves, muggers, burglars, home-invaders, and other criminals would face a higher operating cost. And that could lead to even more thieving, mugging, burglarizing, and home-invading to make up the difference.)

A national effort to reduce mass murders, the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004, produced this consequence: “The ban didn’t appear to have a significant impact on the number of mass murder incidents in that decade compared to other decades, and within the decade, there was no downward trend. This only shows that the availability of assault weapons doesn’t change the number of mass murder incidents, which means that killers just switched to different weapons, obtained illegal weapons, or made improvised weapons. During the ban, large attacks like the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Park Bombing occurred, and the average number of people killed per incident increased from 9.4 pre-ban to 11.3 during the ban, then decreasing to 7.6 after the ban expired. The average number of people injured per incident increased from 8.0 to 35.0 during the ban and decreased to 5.6 after the ban. There may have been a downward trend during the ban, but the dataset is too small and too random to draw a strong conclusion.” [Italics by Relevant Matters.] -“The Mass Murder Problem,” by David Hillshafer, Skeptic Magazine, 2013

And if everyone were allowed to carry a concealed weapon, consider this unintended consequence:

Mass killers and terrorists, aware of the carry law, would hurl bombs and/or toxic-gas cylinders as they drove or ran by, catching the gun bearers by surprise, virtually every time.

Suppose a determined mass killer had no access to toxic gas, bomb-making material, or guns. He or she would not speed by crowds in their vehicle but into crowds, as did Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel in Nice, France, on July 14, 2016, Bastille Day, killing 84. Using vehicles as bullets is happening more often. (Some of the people who say “Guns don’t kill, people do,” will bring up “Vehicles don’t kill, people do.”)

With each new gun regulation, we must try to think like a mass killer who is determined to kill. Only by daring to immerse ourselves in these killers’ minds do we have a chance to avoid knee-jerk, futile political responses, best recognize unintended consequences, and find our best solutions.

What can help right now? Stop thinking of mass killers and terrorists as mass “shooters.”



Some anti-gun advocates, often in a frantic search for answers to mass murders, remind me of the medieval doctors who desperately tried to find the causes of the Black Death. No matter what precautions the doctors applied, the plague kept right on mass-killing.

“Australia’s Gun ‘Buyback’ Created a Violent Firearms Black Market. Why Should the U.S. Do the Same?”:

“Police admit they cannot eradicate a black market that is peddling illegal guns to criminals,” the Adelaide Advertiser conceded a few years ago. “Motorcycle gang members and convicted criminals barred from buying guns in South Australia have no difficulty obtaining illegal firearms – including fully automatic weapons.”

More recently, Australia’s The New Daily gained access to “previously unpublished data for firearms offences” and reported a surge in crime “including a massive 83 per cent increase in firearms offences in NSW between 2005/06 and 2014/15, and an even bigger jump in Victoria over the same period.”

“Australians may be more at risk from gun crime than ever before with the country’s underground market for firearms ballooning in the past decade,” the report added. “[T]he national ban on semi-automatic weapons following the Port Arthur massacre had spawned criminal demand for handguns.”

Read about this unintended consequence at

Study: Some Gun Control Laws Result in More Deaths

Gun-control advocates are, I believe, imprudent to ignore all this.

(For the record, I do not like guns, have never owned one. Never will. But I certainly understand why families in high-crime areas keep them in their homes. They do so for the same reason nations keep a military and defense weapons: fear of an invasion. Some years ago, my best friend, while living in a good area, bought a gun after a burglar entered his apartment as he slept. Gun-control advocates might want to spend a few nights in a high-crime area to feel the real fear, before telling residents they need to give up their guns.)



About relevantmatters

I do research and writing about issues that are relevant to our lives -- such as politics, peace, health care, climate change, and advice to young people. For relief, I offer a few short fiction pieces.
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