I’m pro-gun control, but I come from the most heavily populated corner of one of the most crowded islands on earth, where it’s appropriate. I also grew up in a city and have only fired a gun once, which was basically an air rifle, and the results were predictably Woody Allenesque.
But gun control may not be necessarily appropriate in sparse rural areas, although I do find some of the arguments made by American Second Amendment supporters strange. Whenever someone pops up and kills loads of people, the argument is that if only someone there was armed it wouldn’t have happened. Like in a school? In a club?
We can’t say whether gun control would have prevented the Orlando massacre; but it can be argued that gun control overall reduces the probability of gun massacres. One of the reasons why France is more at risk of terrorism than Britain is that it has far more guns, and because Britain has some border controls, it’s harder to sneak them in.
It’s about probability; if there are lots of guns available, the probability of some unhinged, angry young man shooting lots of people increases. Because violent incidents cause everyone to retreat into their ideological bunker, that’s probably not an argument that some gun supporters will accept; likewise with the arguments over immigration and risk.
The average American is still very, very unlikely to be killed by Islamic terrorists and in an extremely violent nation the attention given to it sometimes seems odd. Democrats like to cite this fact, including the statistic being paraded until yesterday that toddlers have killed more people with guns this year than Islamic terrorists (alas, no longer), but for some reason they don’t like to get too analytical when it comes to violent crime in the US. Even with all those guns, white America is not that much more violent than the European average; but African-Americans have a violent crime rate that is off the scale in first world terms, and the daily toll of death in places like Chicago and Baltimore makes the fear of Islamic terrorism sometimes look absurdly overblown.
Having said that, three of the seven worst mass shootings of the past 25 years have been carried out by Islamic supremacists, which is quite something, considering America is just 0.6 per cent Muslim.
Not only is America’s Muslim population relative small, but compared to western Europe, they tend on average to be well-integrated, middle class and have a positive view of their country. Islam in America is mostly a success story, because immigration from the Muslim world has tended to be selective.
But the less discriminating immigration becomes, the more likely future events such as Orlando are to reoccur, especially when America welcomes supporters of the Taliban, such as the Orlando killer’s father. There is no need for the United States to block migration from the Muslim world, but it would be in their interests to be more selective, and to choose those who have a worldview similar to the American average.
Yet westerners seem blissfully unaware of how unusual their tolerance is in the world, and how at risk they put it with open borders; migration from societies which are largely intolerant is likely to produce more intolerant migrants, and increase the (admittedly small) probability of individuals who take that intolerance to extreme ends.
Compare America’s Muslim story with Britain and France, countries which have attracted large-scale, much more unskilled populations predominantly from North Africa and South Asia. Both Muslim populations – 5 per cent in Britain, and 9 per cent in France – have high levels of unemployment and ghettoisation, even if we could add a thousand caveats about complex demographics (Indian and Iranian Muslims are very different, on average, to Pakistani or Somali). Meanwhile surveys consistently show non-trivial levels of support for terrorism, and widespread views on homosexuality and Israel that would make your Democrat-voting maiden aunt go pale.
If America had had the equivalent levels of migration as Britain and France it would mean a Muslim population of between 15 and 25 million, many living in isolated areas of high unemployment, and with 10,000 American citizens fighting for Isis. This can be said in a reasoned and non-hateful way, but a country with as many guns as America really, really doesn’t want to allow mass migration from the Muslim world on the scale Europe has. No country can stop things like Orlando happening. But it can take reasonable precautions to reduce the odds.