Obama: This kind of violence doesn't happen elsewhere, you know

Please pray for those who have lost their lives in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, for their families and friends, and for their entire community. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering, and need our prayers and support. Let’s start by spreading love rather than division.

With that said, if I had to give one piece of advice to any politician, it would be that any argument starting off with “We don’t have all the facts” is one that should probably remain unspoken. Another piece of advice would be that gathering the relevant facts before speaking will avoid embarrassments like this portion of Barack Obama’s speech, which comes after a whole raft of examples to the contrary (via Daniel Halper at The Weekly Standard):

We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that once again innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.

Now is the time for mourning and for healing. But let’s be clear, at some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.

I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it.

This is the standard argument for gun control, particularly in comparison to other Western nations. We’re just too violent, and we shoot each other at a breathtakingly higher rate than other similarly situation countries. The problem with this argument is that the solution hinted at here by Obama doesn’t work either. The UK saw gun violence skyrocket in the first decade of the century despite having some of the toughest gun-control laws in the West, while the Left governed Great Britain no less.

Besides, this year’s most notable shootings took place not in the US but in France. Two al-Qaeda-inspired gunmen massacred the staff at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, apparently not daunted by firearm restrictions there. In Copenhagen, another radical Islamist shot up a meeting at a cafe, killing two and wounding five police officers. The 2011 massacre in Norway was conducted by a man who obtained his weapons legally in a nation that requires a license to own firearms.

People who commit these kinds of attacks out of hatred will find weapons with which to conduct those attacks. My colleague at The Week, Damon Linker, supports gun control but objects to Obama’s simplistic construct:

This Charleston massacre, where people had gathered in prayer and love, is a horrible, despicable act by one deranged and hateful individual. Rather than turn it into a political platform within hours, a real leader would have led the nation in honoring those who died rather than make it about his own agenda. That’s advice that Obama rarely, if ever, follows.

Update: With all due caveats about the sourcing, Wikipedia has a list of rampage killers in Europe that show 10 such events in the past five years.  Note this qualifier, too: “The list does not include school massacres, workplace killings, hate crimes, or mass murders that took place primarily in a domestic environment, like familicides, which form their own categories.” Charlie Hebdo doesn’t make the list, nor did Anders Breivik with that categorization. (via Laura Fillault)