How Many Lives Did Gun Control Laws Save in Las Vegas? (Answer: Probably Lots)

I’m pro-gun. I say that up front because your beliefs about my intentions will color how you see this post. My intention is to be objective. You can be the judge.

The Vegas gunman used bump stocks on semi-automatic rifles. Those were totally legal. They are also a poor choice of weapons, or so I am told by gun experts. In fact, they are so inaccurate at the distance involved in the Vegas incident that professional snipers say Paddock could have done more damage with a single-shot weapon and some aiming. 

The gun experts I talked to (informally) also agree that the shooter would have killed more than a hundred additional people had he used a fully-automatic weapon. You can legally buy an automatic weapon that was made prior to 1986, for about $15-20K. The shooter was a millionaire, and he seemed to know a lot about guns. He would have known a fully-automatic rifle is designed to not jam the way his bump stock rifles did. He would have known they fire more bullets per second and more accurately. The death toll would have been much higher had the Vegas gunman used the right weapon.

He knew a fully automatic rifle would be more lethal than a bump stock rifle.

He was rich enough to afford the fully automatic weapon.

He had months to plan and prepare.

He was smart.

And yet he didn’t use a fully-automatic weapon in the attack.

The probable reason is that a fully-automatic weapon is harder obtain and it raises some flags. I believe even private transactions with those weapons require some government paperwork. 

I’m speculating, of course, but it seems to me that the ban on fully-automatic weapons did, over time, create enough friction for the Vegas gunman that he decided to settle for relatively worse weapons.

Ask a gun expert how many more people would be dead if automatic weapons were as easy to procure as bump stocks. My estimate of a hundred extra dead in Vegas is probably low. 

Gun control apparently worked in this case, at least to an important degree. The tragedy could have been far bigger. A little bit of friction for obtaining a fully automatic weapon probably saved lives. We can’t know for sure what was in the mind of a madman, but we do know that any kind of friction causes some people to change plans. That’s probably what happened here. 

My hypothesis is that crazy people will use whatever weapon is the most effective killing device they can obtain at acceptable cost (friction). Gun laws introduce friction. They are not intended to stop every type of crime or to deter every type of criminal. But it looks like they helped a bit in Vegas. Had there been no friction to procuring fully automatic weapons, it is likely the Vegas gunman would have used them. Why wouldn’t he?

If you want to ready my argument for why I am pro-gun, see the end of this prior post.

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