On November 15, 2013, I gave a talk on “Regulating Crises: Reactions to Shootings” at the Connecticut Law Review’s Symposium on the Second Amendment. I apologize but the audio is really, really low. This is a paper I am co-authoring with Shelby Baird.
Here is the opening of my talk:
The pattern is a painfully familiar one. News breaks that an unknown number of victims were killed by gunfire at a school, park, or other public place. The perpetrator wantonly takes the lives of innocent people. After the police arrive, the perpetrator is sometimes captured, sometimes himself killed, often by suicide. Sadness for the losses soon gives way to an emotional fervor for change. Different proposals for gun control are advanced—some ideas that were bandied about earlier, but never obtained popular support, and other ideas that are developed in response to the recent tragedy. However, as time progresses, support for these laws—many of which were not even on the radar before the crises—fades. Perhaps some laws are adopted, but nothing close to what the immediate emotional tugging after the killing would have predicted. As more time elapses, the memories of the dead fade from our minds, and things return to business as usual. This essay, co-authored with Shelby Baird, offers a sober look what we call the shooting cycle, and assesses how people and governments respond to mass killings.
First, we define the term “shooting,” and quantify how frequent they are.
Second, we turn from the people to the government, and articulate how legislators respond to shootings.
Third, we comment on how the media enables these cycles through sensational coverage that may actually cause more harm than it helps.
This essay offers a sober look what we call the shooting cycle, and assesses how people and governments respond to mass killings. This essay intentionally avoids offering any normative judgment on whether gun control laws are good or bad, or whether gun regulations hinder or contribute to gun violence. Rather, we aim to describe this phenomenon, and offer conclusions about how governments have been able to respond, or not respond, to these tragedies.
This essay, the first of its kind, peels back much of the rhetoric surrounding gun violence, and, distant from the passions, explores how legislatures react to these tragedies.