Progressives jump to false conclusions about San Bernardino killings

Progressives jump to false conclusions about San Bernardino killings

In response to the mass murders recently committed in San Bernardino, liberal reporters and bloggers jumped to conclusions about who was responsible and how to prevent such acts in the future. They turned out to be wrong.

The killers, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, were supporters of ISIS, who had contact with overseas terror organizations. This devoutly Muslim couple were nothing like the angry white male loners from Christian backgrounds earlier suspected to be the shooters by liberal bloggers and journalists, who have long falsely claimed that mass shootings are committed by white men or caused by “white privilege.” The New York Daily News insinuated this by making the strange claim that “skinheads and neo-Nazis have shown pronounced influence in the area east of Los Angeles” in the region where the shootings took place (San Bernardino is a city dominated by Democrats).

Earlier, the bigoted Delaware Liberal blog advocated racial “profiling” of white males to prevent mass shootings, and said that “we don’t need to stop everybody from buying guns. Just preventing white males (between the age of 15 and 30 who talk about guns a lot) would work.” Similarly, Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall suggested “the possible use of profiling to limit access to fire arms … 1. Are you a man? 2. Are you white?”

Similarly, federal tax dollars subsidized left-wing “consultants” who published a race-baiting op-ed in the Washington Post falsely claiming that white men commit virtually all mass shootings, and that we need to collectively “hold them accountable” for a culture that spawns such killings. The website of consultants Charlotte and Harriet Childress boasts that they have “received close to a million dollars in grants from the National Science Foundation.” As the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto notes, “The NSF is a federal agency, so your tax dollars have subsidized the authors of what can only be described as a racist rant.” He lists a number of well-known cases in which mass murders were committed by non-whites — including Korean immigrant Cho Seung-Hui (32 dead, 17 wounded at Virginia Tech in 2007) and Laotian immigrant Chai Soua Vang (6 dead, 2 wounded at Meteor, Wisc., in 2004) — cases that the Childresses ignored even though they would be obvious to any competent researcher writing about this issue. The Childresses ignored even high-profile mass murders committed by non-whites that occurred in the Washington Post‘s own backyard, like the Beltway Sniper killings. Murderers in general are not disproportionately white: slightly less than half of all murders are committed by whites, even though they are a substantial majority of the overall population. By contrast, blacks, who are only 13% of the U.S. population, commit nearly half of America’s murders.

Yet, when GOP candidates offered “thoughts and prayers” for the victims, rather than rushing to endorse gun-control bills proposed by Congressional Democrats before having the facts about the shootings, they were immediately denounced by Democrats for doing so (even though those bills would not have prohibited these killers from obtaining a gun, as Reason’s Jacob Sullum notes in “How Background Checks and an ‘Assault Weapon’ Ban Failed in San Bernardino: Two of President Obama’s favorite gun control solutions did not prevent this week’s massacre.”)

As the Washington Post noted:

Sen. Chris Murphy (D) of Connecticut … was particularly outspoken in his criticism of [Republican] politicians who offered prayers for the victims in San Bernardino … .The effort to cast “thoughts and prayers” as trite reactions to horrendous events certainly represents a ratcheting up of the rhetoric.

Even had this been an attack by a lone wacko, there’s no evidence that gun control would have prevented it. As lawyer David Kopel notes, the U.S. is not the only industrialized country with mass shootings. In the last few years, Germany has had several mass murders, including five murdered in Dilligen, 13 in Albertville, and 17 in Erfurt. So have Switzerland (14 in Zug); France (14 in Luxiol); Britain (12 in Cumbria in 2010); Spain (9 in Puerto Hurraco); and Norway (77 in 2011). Even countries that adopted stricter gun control laws, such as Australia, often only changed the weapon.

Since the 1996 national gun confiscation that President Obama has praised, Australia has had several mass murders by arson (the Childers Palace Fire killed 15 in 2000; the Churchill Fire in 2009 killed ten; and the Quaker Hill Nursing Home Fire in 2011 killed 21), and still some gun mass killings (the Hectorville shooting rampage killed three).

On December 1 in Paris, “President Obama said at a news conference, ‘I mean, I say this every time we’ve got one of these mass shootings; this just doesn’t happen in other countries.’” Is his statement true?

No. Not in the very country he was visiting at the time, France, where over 120 were recently killed by terrorists (the very reason he went there), despite strict gun controls. Similarly, on Nov. 20, 2015, mass shooters attacked a hotel in Mali, murdering at least 19 people. Although President Obama has relatives in Kenya, his statement suggests a lack of awareness of events there as well. On April 2, 2015, criminals murdered 142 students at the University College Campus of Garissa, in northeastern Kenya. Among the other mass shootings in Kenya in recent years are those as Lamu (29 murdered, July 5-6, 2014), Mpeketoni (53 murdered, June 15-17, 2014), Majembeni and Poromoko (15 murdered, two days after Mpekoni) and the Westgate Mall in Nairobi (67 murdered, Sept. 21, 2013). Kenya has extremely strict laws against the possession or carrying of firearms, as well as bows, as detailed in a Quinnipiac Law Review article.

For good or ill, gun control is a very small, perhaps insignificant part, of a general anti-crime strategy. Maryland and Washington, D.C. have much higher crime rates and higher homicide rates than neighboring Virginia, and they have much more gun control. One reason is that they have a worse criminal justice system that is softer on violent criminals. Gun control is so insignificant to overall anti-crime strategies that when politicians talk about it, I tend to view it as a diversion or deflection.

In fact, states with the least gun laws and fewest gun controls tend to have lower homicide rates and lower crime rates than the average state. Law Professor Eugene Volokh, writing at the Washington Post, notes that “states with more gun restrictions on average have very slightly higher homicide rates, though the tendency is so small as to be essentially zero.” But this actually understates the case against gun control, because, as I have explained earlier, this relies on data cherry-picked by gun control advocates, who excluded some safe, pro-gun-rights states from their data set. There is reason to believe that some gun control measures, such as restrictions on concealed carrying of firearms by law-abiding people, actually increase crime and homicide rates.

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” Contact him at


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