A close look at high-casualty shootings in the U.S. by the New York Times shows not only how porous existing firearms regulations are, but also how difficult tightening them in a meaningful way may be. The Times examined all 130 shootings last year in which four or more people were shot, at least one fatally, and investigators identified at least one attacker. The cases included drug-related shootouts, domestic killings that wiped out entire families, and chance encounters that took harrowing wrong turns.
They illustrate some of the gun control debate’s fundamental issues: whether background checks and curbs on assault weapons limit violence; whether the proliferation of open-carry practices and rules allowing guns on college campuses encourages violence, and whether it is too easy for dangerously mentally ill or violent people to get guns. The findings are discouraging to anyone hoping for simple legislative fixes to gun violence. In more than half the 130 cases, at least one assailant was already barred by federal law from having a weapon, usually because of a felony conviction, but still acquired a gun. Including those who lacked the required state or local permits, 64 percent of the shootings involved at least one attacker who violated an existing gun law.