Not all white supremacists are mass shooters. I’m not defending white supremacists—it is a reprehensible ideology—but not all of them commit mass murders. Conversely, not all mass shooters are white supremacists. A concerning number are but others are motivated by interpersonal revenge, mental instability, or political causes.
Perhaps this assertion—that a is not b—is verging on tautological, but differentiating between the two is necessary to assess the potential solutions to both issues and subsequently develop a sense of agency in the face of them.
The Inefficacy of Gun Laws
When discussing how to quell future mass shootings, a natural and seemingly common-sense response is to limit the guns that are accessible. If we implement background checks and outlaw assault rifles, shooters will be unable to carry out their attacks, lacking the necessary weapons—or so runs the argument.
However, a study from the RAND Corporation—not a conservatively biased institution by any metric—found that of 13 different gun policies, not a single one of them would have prevented any of the mass shootings in recent history. The reason stems from the nature of mass shooters, who are driven and often free of former crimes that would have disqualified them through a background check. Any racist or mentally unstable individual will find a way to commit their attack with or without a gun. On top of mass shootings, in recent years, there have been events where knives have been used to kill 31 people, trucks to kill 86 and injure almost 500, poison to kill 13, fire to kill 33, and explosives to kill 33 and injure 264.
The push for gun laws is understandable. A quote attributed to Teddy Roosevelt says:
In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
Most Americans felt a sense of crisis when their phone pinged about not one but two massacres in the same day. The rate of mass shootings is increasing with every year, and so many rightly feel that we must try something whether or not it is the right thing.
For a long time, I considered white nationalism to be a flippant issue. Their ideology is reprehensible, yes, but a total of 8,000 KKK members according to higher estimates is a seemingly irrelevant group. Even since Donald Trump’s election, a major increase of this paltry still leaves a paltry few.
However, a small group can have a disproportionate impact. Al-Qaeda’s numbers may have paled in comparison to the United States Army but their attacks on the twin towers were arguably the most consequential event in modern history. North Korea’s GDP is barely above the United State’s per capita and yet their acquisition of nuclear weapons gives them bargaining power. Similarly, members of white nationalist groups may number few but when a high percentage of them take violent steps, their impact is disproportionately high.
The assertion that we must do something then applies to this issue too. However, our choices are not gun laws or nothing; this is a false dichotomy.
Regarding white supremacy, a mixture of changing attitudes that stigmatized and corrected racist beliefs paired with FBI infiltration through history has left the ideology impotent. Throughout the early 20th century, the FBI planted countless agents into white supremacists groups to gather intel, persuade interpersonally, and weaken groups. Similarly, individuals like Daryl Davis and Christian Picciolino have met with and turned hundreds of individuals away from their views. The KKK, once approximately 4 million strong at the height of their power, has been reduced to mere thousands—still too many but far better.
Regarding mass shootings, many pundits and politicians have defended “red flag laws,” which allow individuals to petition to have another’s right to bear arms temporarily revoked. Where a ban on any weapon is a blunt instrument that may or may not have an effect, red flag laws are targeted tools that law enforcement can use to limit potential threats. Along the same lines as dismantling white supremacist organizations, the FBI can also monitor various chat boards like 8chan that have radicalized individuals in violent action.
I intend here not to defend FBI investigations or red flag laws as the only or even best solutions to mass shooters but to reframe the discussion along Roosevelt’s lines. It would be idiotic and immoral to do nothing in the face of white supremacy or mass murder but eschewing gun legislation isn’t nothing; there are other steps that may be the right thing.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.