Perspectives: Red flags we’re missing on gun control

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION — Two firearms-related tragedies have taken place in the past week. One is a matter of intense media focus while the other is being downplayed.

For those who are willing to think outside the 3-by-5 index card of allowable opinion, there are some clear lessons to be gleaned from each of them.

The killing of 12 innocent people by a deranged gunman in a California nightclub has provided fertile soil for the usual cast of gun control opportunists and political ambulance chasers. What few people seem to be asking is how could such an atrocity occur in a state with such strict gun laws?

California has a 10-day waiting period on handgun purchases, which it also limits to one handgun per month. It prohibits private sales and requires a background check on every firearms purchase. It regulates ammo sales.

It prohibits regular capacity magazines. It discourages concealed carry by the law-abiding by making permits virtually impossible to obtain. California also vigorously tracks and disarms those convicted of a crime and others it considers “dangerous.”

Despite all of these obstacles, the gunman was able to legally purchase his handgun and carry out the murder of 12 other people. How exactly would more restrictions have helped anyone?

It’s a revealing example of the kind of statist blind faith that encourages true believers to trust the authorities to protect them even as it makes it as difficult and expensive as possible for the law-abiding to protect themselves. We’re supposed to believe that if enough people are willing to give up their freedom and the primary responsibility for their own personal safety, bad things will cease to happen.

Someone is trying to sell us a box of rocks.

The reason so many decent folks tend to buy into this authoritarian mythology is that shocking acts of mass violence tend to short-circuit our emotions and our ability to think rationally. That means we’re more likely to make choices in an attempt to feel better rather than carefully considering whether we’re actually affecting positive change.

Aaron Pomerantz, a graduate student in social psychology at the University of Oklahoma, has written a worthwhile essay on “The Four Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Mass Violence.”

Among the responses Pomerantz identifies are the tendency to engage in emotional decision-making, which limits our capacity to see alternatives or to recognize flaws in our plans. We also tend to oversimplify and assign simple causes for actions that are often the result of highly complex societal and psychological issues.

He explains the availability heuristic which persuades us to believe that shocking events like mass shootings or shark attacks are happening more frequently than they actually are. When the media and political class talk about these things as if they were a daily occurrence – which they are not – we fallaciously believe that the authorities are right to take extreme action.

Pomerantz also points out the tendency to engage in hindsight bias in which we behave as if we “knew it all along” when someone points out signs that might have indicated impending trouble. Public policy that has been shaped by hindsight bias can be seen every time we are expected to submit to official molestation while passing through security at the airport.

Who in their right mind would wish for more of that?

A tragic example of where this can lead can be found in the second story of gun-related violence that played out last week in Ferndale, Maryland.

Police officers shot a 61-year-old man to death after showing up at his home to confiscate his firearms based upon a newly enacted “red flag” law. Those laws have been enacted by a handful of states who will forcibly disarm citizens upon the mere accusation that they may be unstable.

When gun-toting strangers showed up banging on his door at 5 in the morning, Gary Willis met them at the door with a gun in his hand. When the police officers demanded he hand over his guns, Willis refused and was shot after arguing with the police.

In typical statist fashion, the police chief of Anne Arundel County tried to spin the story as proof that the so-called “red flag” laws had worked exactly as intended. But did they?

Chief Timothy Altomare stated, that “[W]e don’t know what we prevented or could’ve prevented. What would’ve happened if we didn’t go there at 5 a.m.?”

None of us knows what they might have prevented but we damn sure know what they caused.

If preventing unnecessary violence was the goal, it seems like they failed miserably.

Preemptive laws invite abuse. To avoid that, hold specific individuals accountable for their actual behavior that causes harm to others. Leave everyone else alone.

This was once understood to be the basis for legitimate government. Force alone doesn’t grant legitimacy.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!


  • bikeandfish November 12, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    I agree on many of the points Hyde has made here. The arguments many of the gun-control side make are riddled with mistruths, fallacies and the heuristics he describes. I’m all for more sunlight being cast on those issues, especially the role heuristics are playing in our national dialoug. Complex issues require a thorough vetting.

    And the example of the gun confiscation he highlights is a brutal example of state intervention going wrong. There is no reason for a civilian to die in such an encounter. Police agencies should be trained in deescalation as a primary tool but instead we have seen plenty of evidence of the opposite.

    Hyde’s conclusion is correct that “force alone doesn’t grant legitimacy”. But once again he fails to provide the same standard for himself as he does for his persistent political opposition. A good faith assessment of the gun control debate, its supporters and systems would recognize its more complex than force by the state. Hyde constantly relies upon an absurd reductionist approach and argument that is itself riddled with fallacies and the biases that drive cognitive heuristics. Hyde fills his writing with these stereotypes: “statist blind faith”, “usual cast of gun control opportunists and political ambulance chasers”, etc. He casts his political opposition as caricatures that are only capable of “emotional decision-making”. The greatest irony is Hyde claims this “limits our capacity to see alternatives or to recognize flaws in our plans” despite designing his own rhetoric to the same affect. According to Hyde our options are limited to “statist” who only rely on “force” or a well-armed citizenry to deal with our ongoing national gun violence dilemma.

    One has to wonder why Hyde avoids a more nuanced analysis of the issues every week? It appears to me that Hyde fears providing citizens with a good faith assessment of our nation’s current affairs because it might actually lead to a readership that finds solutions outside the simplistic, restrive range of his political ideology.

  • Utahguns November 12, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    I wanted to point out a few statistics related to gun violence.

    Seems that those who are in charge of cities / towns that bark the loudest about gun control and have some of the highest gun related crimes, never seem to practice what they preach.

    In Chicago so far…Year to date totals:
    Shot and Killed: 435
    Shot and Wounded: 2205
    Total Shot: 2610
    Total Homicides: 511

    In Chicago, a person is shot every 2 hours and 52 minutes.
    Also, a person is murdered every 14 hours and 47 minutes.
    79.1% were Black
    13.2% were Hispanic
    7.1% were White/Other “Illustrating Chicago Values” This website is very thorough, even giving the address and time of every event…

    And you hardly ever hear a word from the MSM on this stuff….

    • bikeandfish November 12, 2018 at 6:01 pm

      Are you serious about media coverage of Chicago’s gun violence problem? It gets major coverage. Ironically it gets more coverage than other cities with higher per capita gun violence and deaths.

      Chicago is definitely worth analyzing and considering when it comes to gun violence but its far from ignored by the media and the facts don’t often match the narrative.

      • Utahguns November 12, 2018 at 7:39 pm

        Check your sources more carefully…

        “470 homicides in 2015 in Chicago, where more than 2,900 people were shot. Chicago had the most homicides of all U.S. cities in 2015, its worst year since 2012, when about 500 people were killed.”

        • bikeandfish November 12, 2018 at 9:04 pm

          Lost in translation. How is your response related?

        • bikeandfish November 12, 2018 at 9:07 pm

          Ah, you didn’t read the details, ie the difference between total homicides vs per capita statistics. Comparing crime statistics between states accurately requires a per capita anlysis to account for the obvious differences cause by population sizes. Chicago does not have the highest per capita homicide rate in the country.

      • Utahguns November 12, 2018 at 8:13 pm

        Your comment: “Chicago is definitely worth analyzing and considering when it comes to gun violence but its far from ignored by the media and the facts don’t often match the narrative.”

        This violence has been going on for years and I’m the city leaders have been doing their “analyses”.
        But when is the analysis going to turn into “Action” ? Blaming police seems to be the default answer.
        And, is there any help coming from the media? I don’t think so…

        • bikeandfish November 12, 2018 at 9:03 pm

          The media’s form of “help” is coverage, which has been plentiful. I mean it’s such a famous issue that Spike Lee made a movie, ChiRaq, about its social impacts.

          I’ve seen some criticism of the polie for sure but its never been the only component discussed. I’ve seen dialoug about the social/cultural issues endemic to the region contributing to the problem: multi-generation poverty, gang culture, gentrification and geographic isolation, recent job displacement, etc.

          And I think plenty of people are disappointed in the city and state’s response. Sadly Chicago has a long history of cronyism and incompetence at government function. And then you add in the fact that it has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and alot of arguments fall apart; granted there is plenty of evidence that many if not most of the guns are bought in border states and imported.

          But you seem to imply that there should be a state solution to eliminating the problem. If that isnthe case then its only consistent to expect other states and the federal government to solve our mass shooting problem. So what is your solution to that issue? Do you think our government should be making a concerted effort to solve it?

          Because while I understand Hyde’s concerns about government abuse I also think its absurd to expect citizens to accept the only solution is for us to be armed and prepare for such violence at any moment. That doesn’t allow for any room for pro-active, preventative measures.

          • Utahguns November 12, 2018 at 10:00 pm

            Gawd no. I wouldn’t rely on a state solution to solving social issues, especially if they’re generations old.
            For me, the only solution to completely protecting myself and those near to me resides in my gun room and my self defense training, which is very extensive.

            And Spike Lee? The well adored liberal filmmaker? C’mon B&F…

            I’ve been the victim of two robbery/mugging attempts by multiple assailants. Both attempts were thwarted by my firearm which I was able to live through it to educate you and take part in these spirited discussions.

            When you are able to survive personal assault situations like these and realize that you’re only way out was to have tactical superiority, then your thoughts about guns and how your proactiveness toward survival will (should) change.

            BTW your link to the Washington Post’s article was over 3 years old.

          • bikeandfish November 12, 2018 at 10:41 pm


            Wasn’t saying Spike Lee is a great source for facts. I used himas example of the various forms of media that cover the violence problem in Chicago.

            I’m all for self-protection with guns. I own 4 guns myself and one that was purchased as a good option for home invasion.

            That said, expecting citizens to believe there is no viable option other than that isn’t exactly a fair approach. Especially considering how our conservative Congressman have stopped even the option of federally funded studies. I like to believe that we’ve shown an ability as a species to address problems in a proactive manner. It doesn’t mean I support an assault weapons ban (doesn’t seem to be a viable option) like so many want but I still have hope. Because we just expect our citizens to deal with these slaughters.

            Yes, the WaPo art is several years old (2 when it comes to annual data). It was used to highlight the fact we’ve seen Chicago used as a counter argument for a long time. Its not a new argument. The data analysis I saw from 2017 showed similar findings: extremely high total homicides but not highest per capita. I just can’t find my source for that memory.

            PS…glad you had the skills to survive and sorry its happened multiple times. I can only imagine how that informs your life and views.

          • bikeandfish November 12, 2018 at 10:42 pm

            *can’t expect

    • Red2Blue310 November 13, 2018 at 7:54 am Now theres where you go to get the real news. ????

      • bikeandfish November 13, 2018 at 10:06 am

        I didn’t check the source and found the hyperlink suspect but the data he’s quoting seems consistent with what is being reported elsewhere. Solely mocking the source doesn’t discrete the data.

  • and November 12, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    Gun control does nothing to prevent crime except make felons out of law abiding citizens.

  • utahdiablo November 12, 2018 at 9:51 pm

    I don’t answer my front door at 5 am, and if those “gun-toting” strangers make their way into my home? ..they’ll be greeted with multiple Remington 870 auto load riot control shotguns….Conceal, Carry, Use when needed

    • darkgoddess November 13, 2018 at 5:25 am

      Same with us! We moved here from a state that allowed for shooting a stranger on your property if you felt threatened, not just in your house (AR).
      Also, I think a lot of people are missing the real issue regarding “gun control”. Most, if not all, of these mass shooters had mental health issues. I don’t recall hearing about “mass shootings” when I was a teen in the late 70s, or in the early 80s before Reagan undid the funding for mental health care.
      The issue here is the shooters, not the guns. People kill people – they just happen to use guns to do it.

    • homer498 November 13, 2018 at 4:19 pm

      Hey Utahdiablo, I checked, (no I didn’t) you can only “effectively” shoot one gun at a time, and you would want to use something like 22lr automatics for best results, not “Pump” shotguns. Remington 870’s are pump shotguns, not auto loaders, and I’m quite sure no one makes a concealed carry rig for 870’s. Someone will likely die of old age before you get the 870 in your pants out. The ladies might look at you more with an act like that, but the bad guys are gonna “Thank You” as they run right past ya.

      • bikeandfish November 13, 2018 at 10:07 pm

        The concealed carry Rem 870 would be quite the sight.

        Not to mention the person killed was armed. Didn’t go well for him.

  • commonsense November 13, 2018 at 5:26 pm

    All of us want gun tragedies to end but let’s be honest about gun control laws. We might just need to protect ourselves at some point and laws like California’s might prevent you from doing that. Laws and law enforcement cannot always be there at a critical moment. Arm yourself and become safe and proficient with your weapons.

    • redrock4 November 14, 2018 at 9:55 am

      Plenty of people are armed – and it hasn’t done a damn thing to stop the gun violence. Not a thing. And you are not going to be there at a critical moment. That’s ridiculous. There are literally piles of innocent children’s bodies resulting from gun violence and you want to play cowboy, junior police officer, defender of the Constitution and all that is sacrosanct about America. Well, go out there and stop it with your side arm and your copy of the Constitution.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.