mass shootings with reloading; the state of the "conversation" on guns

Posted on: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 14:09 By: Tom Swiss

Over on Facebook recently, in a comment thread following up on a bizarre NYT op-ed suggesting we abandon the Constitution, the conversion turned (as it often does these days) to firearms politics and to the recent outbreak in mass shootings. In that thread, one person wrote:

Its not hard to reload a handgun quickly...especially if you're shooting from a distance. It's not like there weren't mass shootings when the Brady Bill was around

Note that the Brady Bill is still in effect, so this is an erroneous comment. But the point about reloading a handgun is true: for someone who practices (not me, but a dedicated shootist), changing magazines of a semi-automatic handgun or using a speed loader to reload a revolver is not difficult.

In reply, a friend -- a very smart and talented woman but someone who doesn't know a lot about the topic -- wrote:

Name a mass shooting that took place as you've described - with a guy standing around reloading a handgun. It doesn't happen.

So, replying to the request/challenge that she posted, I spent some time looking up the topic of mass shootings with handguns where the shooter reloaded -- which was educational, but depressing as all hell. It turned out that her comment was also erroneous. I posted what I found.

My friend then replied in private that she did not appreciate my comment, deleted it from the thread, and asked me not to comment again on any of her posts that touched on the topic.

Sadly, this is the state of the "conversation" on guns. Basic errors of fact are common -- on all sides, but more prevalent among those seeking stronger new gun control laws. But rather than acknowledging these basic factual errors or seeking to become better informed, people who are otherwise caring and intelligent and rational fly off the handle to the point of censorship.

Guns are treated more as a culture war shibboleth than as actual objects. The situation is rather like that with taxes: for many on the right, it doesn't matter that taxes are lower than they've been historically, or that all the evidence shows that cutting taxes on the wealthy doesn't help the economy. Facts be damned, many Republicans and conservatives have to call for tax cuts because taxes are something they are culturally opposed to.

Just so, for many liberals and Democrats, never mind that the U.S. homicide rate fell 50% between 1991 and 2011 while the number of privately owned guns increased and the majority of states became shall-issue for CCW, and never mind that a review by the CDC (an organization with a strong anti-gun bias) was unable to demonstrate effectiveness of any firearms laws to reduce violence, and never mind the strong gun control laws in countries like Mexico and Russia with murder rates more than twice ours while the Czech Republic has liberal gun laws (not quite as liberal as some parts of the U.S., but pretty liberal) and a murder rate less than half of ours: facts be damned, for these folks it's a cultural fact that guns are just bad.

For too many people, it's all about partisan side-choosing.

Anyway, below is what I found about mass shootings using handguns, both semi-automatics and revolvers. I'm sure it's not a complete list, just what I was able to turn up in a short bit of Googling and Wikipedia research. I believe it demonstrates once again that if our goal is to prevent violence we must focus on people rather than things.

What's below is exactly as I posted in the Facebook thread except that I've elided the friend's name. I'll leave it for you to decide if this was a rude or abusive comment worthy of deletion, or it was a respectful reply to a request/challenge to "[n]ame a mass shooting that took place as [was] described - with a guy standing around reloading a handgun."

...I've done some very depressing reading to check on this, and several mass shootings have been perpetrated by people using handguns (both revolvers and semi-automatics) which they reloaded during the course of the killings.

I understand that learning about these incidents can be depressing. I want to go scrub my brain after this reading. You might want to skip the references below and just take my word for it: yes, mass shootings where the shooter reloads a handgun do in fact take place. But here are some cases I found:

Campo ElĂ­as Delgado killed between 26 and 30 people (accounts differ and some may have been killed by police in the crossfire) and wounded 15 with a knife and a single revolver, reloading several times.

Wellington Menezes de Oliveira killed 12 (not including himself) and wounded 12, using two revolvers and firing over 60 shots. He clearly reloaded.

Charles Andrew Williams killed 2 people and wounded 13 with a single revolver; he must have reloaded.

The Dunblane shooter, who killed 17 people and wounded 15 more before killing himself, had four handguns: two six-round revolvers and two 9mm pistols. (The usual magazine size for these 9mm guns was 13 rounds; one source says he had extended 20-round magazines for them). He fired 109 rounds, so clearly reloaded.

George Hennard killed 23 (not including himself) and wounded 20 with two semi-automatic handguns, reloading several times.

Jiverly Antares Wong killed 13 people (not including himself) and wounded four more with two handguns. He fired 99 rounds, so must have reloaded several times.

Nidal Malik Hasan, the Foot Hood shooter, fired 214 rounds from a single handgun, killing 13 people and wounding 13. He must have reloaded several times.

Patrick Henry Sherrill killed 14 people and wounded six. He had three handguns and fired approximately 50 rounds, reloading several times during the shooting.

Howard Unruh killed 13 people and wounded 3 with a Luger. He went out with "one bullet in the chamber, 16 loose bullets and two clips of eight", so he reloaded during the shootings.