I feel like I have to start with a disclaimer that I don't hate guns. I don't mind that people own guns. I've been shooting and it's fun, right? I enjoy it. Not enough to buy my own guns, but I understand why some folks do spend the time and money on it.
I also feel strongly that right now is absolutely the right time to talk about our national problem with guns. It's not politicization of a tragedy, it's just that the tragedy is a very visceral example of the intersection of the American attitude about guns and the law of large numbers. And that’s exactly what we need to talk about. Jimmy Kimmel made a great point in his very moving monologue after the shooting. 20-30 years ago there was a hotel fire in California that killed many people. A few months later there was another one. Nobody argued that it wasn't the time to politicize a tragedy. Instead, the California legislature investigated the issue, identified the problems, drafted a fire code and there hasn't been a similar tragedy since.
It is absurd, especially in the shadow of the tragedy to try and claim that there is no problem. The claim "but those guns are already illegal. There is no regulatory change that can be made," That's just not acceptable. Any politician who makes that argument is just too lazy to do his job.
So the law of large numbers ... for those who may not know, it's a cool math thing that allows us to derive probabilities from statistics. A simple example is rolling two dice. The likelihood of getting snake eyes is a simple to calculate 1/36. Yet anyone who has played Settlers of Catan can tell you over the course of a typical game (approximately 60 - 80 rolls) you may not get the expected 1 - 2 2s. You may get 0. Or 5. That's random statistics.
However, if you roll the dice 36,000 times, you will get very close to 1000 2s. Maybe not exactly 1000, but very close to the calculable 1/36. And even closer to 1/36 if you roll the dice 360,000 times.
The inverse is that if you want to know a probability that is not so easily calculable as dice rolls, such as the likelihood someone will order pineapple on a pizza or that an accident will occur at an intersection, you can look at a large number of test cases and approximate those probabilities. Use them to stock a restaurant correctly, or build roundabouts in the right places.
A corollary to the law of large numbers is that if there is any chance something may happen, then if you perform enough tests, it eventually will happen. No matter how small the probability. Eventually someone will ask for sardines on his pizza. Eventually an accident will occur at any corner. I mean, someone wins the lottery, right?
The intersection of the law of large numbers and American attitudes about guns is that it is too easy to get guns in America. We have proliferated them far too broadly. It is a certainty that eventually a crazy man is going to shoot up a country festival. Or a baseball field. Or a school. And sure, theoretically, those things could happen even with strong regulations ... but it is far less likely and would be far less common and that is worthwhile.
I strongly believe we need to stem the flow of firearms. They should be harder to acquire. It should require background checks, waiting periods, licensing and registration. Certain types of firearms should simply not be legal to sell to civilians.
More than just an issue of gun numbers, though, we need to confront our attitude about guns. We have let the NRA define the debate and that is a mistake. They are not some valiant third party protecting our 2nd amendment rights. They are a lobbying organization for the firearm industry. They're not fighting for liberty or personal security, they are fighting to sell as many guns as possible.
One thing the NRA isn't lying about, though, is that guns don't kill people, people do, right? And then my entire life the NRA has been telling us that it is okay to shoot people. In fact, you should carry a gun with you in case you need to. That's abhorrent. It is never good to shoot someone. It always, regardless of circumstances, means something is going tragically wrong. It should be treated as such. Not celebrated.
Culpability for this shooting, the one in Virginia, Sandy Hook, all of these mass shootings, in some measure lies at the feet of the NRA. For their tireless work to inundate the USA with large numbers of firearms, every one of which is a test, "is this the crazy man that will go on a shooting rampage?" For their constant, callous devaluation of human life. For pushing the propaganda that guns are a legitimate answer ... to crime, to social problems, to anything.
I don't know what the answer is. I suspect there is no single simple answer. But I strongly believe the answer needs to include those two elements. Fewer guns. Confronting our NRA attitude about guns.