Friday afternoon a deranged nut (we here at Restricted Arms do not use the names of mass shooters in order to deny them the notoriety they so desperately seek) went into the Virginia Beach, Va., municipal center and killed 12 innocent people before police arrived on the scene and shot the killer dead.
Effectively a gun-free zone
While the state of Virginia allows persons with a concealed carry permit to carry their weapons in non-secure state and municipal buildings, the City of Virginia Beach, like many other governments, prohibits their employees from carrying while on the job. Since only one of the victims was not a municipal employee, the building was effectively a gun-free zone.
Except for the shooter.
The media and gun ignorance
By this point, after nearly two decades of mass shootings becoming increasingly common in the United States, you'd think that the mainstream media would have taken the time to learn the ins and outs of firearm function and the policy data surrounding the right to keep and bear arms.
You would be wrong.
On Saturday, The Washington Post ran an OpEd piece by Juliette Kayyem, a "former assistant secretary of homeland security and faculty chair of the homeland security program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government."
Newspapers like to run pieces by people with some pedigree because, in theory, they're more knowledgeable about the topic at hand. Unfortunately, Ms. Kayyem's understanding of how handgun suppressors work is inaccurate and reflects the same level of knowledge possessed by the average teenage who went to see John Wick 3 last weekend.
In her piece decrying this new paradigm where suppressors are used in mass shootings (Friday's attack was the first one where the criminal used a suppressed firearm), Kayyem suggests that potential victims are further endangered because they don't hear the suppressed gunshots and therefore can't flee or take shelter accordingly.
It is true that suppressors do not quiet guns; industry experts often cringe at the popular reference to “silencers.” Instead, suppressors act like a car muffler — both devices were pioneered by the same inventor, Hiram Percy Maxim — by cooling and dissipating the gases that emanate from the chamber as the trigger is being pulled. That alters the sound enough that the gunshot’s normal sound — a suppressed gunshot can sound like a chair scraping on the floor — is difficult to identify.
This is either ignorance or a lie. Consider this from Range365.com:
The Virginia Beach Shooter used a .45. The use of a silencer would reduce the sound generated by that from approximately 162 decibels to about 130 decibels--that is still at the threshold of pain, but below the level that results in immediate, permanent damage to hearing.
Is 130 decibels really similar to a chair leg scraping across the floor? Hardly. Decibels are a logarithmic scale, not a linear one. So sound energy effectively doubles every 3 decibels. So, a suppressed .45 is not five times louder than a rock concert, but 32 times (25)louder.
The public policy we should take from Friday's mass shooting
Despite Ms. Kayyam's claims, suppressors aren't likely to have any effect on mass shooting responses. Suppressors reduce the volume of a fired gun from ear-damaging levels to merely really loud. When used at gun ranges, persons using suppressors still typically wear hearing protection because the damage to hearing is cumulative.
What we need to do, from a public policy standpoint, is to allow citizens, including public employees to defend themselves should they so choose. Like the debate over teachers and guns in schools, no one is suggesting forcing handgun carry on someone who is unwilling. But those who are willing to undergo training and accept the responsibility can stop these sorts of attacks.
Gun Free Zones do nothing to prevent mass shooters. Instead, they invite them, by assuring them that they will not be confronted by anyone on the scene, and they have several minutes (typically) to reign terror before law enforcement (belatedly) arrives.