Firearms and Madmen

With one hundred million more inhabitants than Brazil, the United States has four times fewer death crimes. Not even taking that into account, Brazilian journalists, those most educated and honest people, will stop taking advantage of the impact of the Sandy Hook massacre to pontificate about “the American culture of violence.” Some even can swear that the Connecticut massacre calls for greater state control of firearms, pretending not to know that this measure is already in full force in Brazil and has only served to encourage mass murder.

There remains, as an excuse for these outpourings of justice-seeking anti-Americanism, the horror inspired by the very nature of the crime, its insane and almost demonic absurdity. Even though being far below Brazil in murder rates, the United States seems to have specialized in massacres of innocents, crimes which at first glance have no other explanation than the ease of access to firearms.

Let’s see if this pretext is intellectually sane and morally respectable.

Since 1985 there have been 62 mass shootings in the United States. Two per year. Even assuming that all of them happened at the same time, it is obvious that taking away guns from 120 million people in order to prevent 62 of them from committing mass murder is like dynamiting a whole neighborhood to kill 62 cockroaches. Whoever, impressed by the Connecticut killings, shouts out “Gun Control! Gun Control!” only proves that either he cannot do math, or he has an interest in the growth of state power at the expense of the people’s rights.

If the mere right to bear arms were by itself the cause of mass murders, there would be no way to explain that out of 120 million arm-bearing citizens only 62 people have committed these crimes over a period of 27 years. If guns were the cause, mass murders in the American territory should be as epidemic as the slaughtering of Christians in Nigeria and Sudan, producing thousands of murder victims each year. Quite clearly then, some other factor must be at play.

Do the math: How many of the 120 million gun owners in America became mass murderers? Approximately 0.000005. How many of the perpetrators of mass murders in recent decades were mentally ill people who, benefitting from the ideology of “deinstitutionalization,” lived in their homes, freed from all medical supervision, and enjoyed all the rights of ordinary citizens, including the right to buy guns? All of them, with no exception.

Oh! Do you get it? Or is the difference between almost everything and almost nothing too hard to grasp?

If the matter is not clear enough, this piece of information may be helpful: there are 500 thousand madmen on the loose in the United States. Of course, not all of them are violent. But the probability that none of them is violent is zero. And to cherish hopes that among them there will not be every year at least two people predisposed to committing heinous crimes is to be more than unreasonable: it is to be as crazy as they are.

Quite clearly, the problem is not that 120 million citizens have the right to bear arms. It is that a few thousand madmen are on the loose, and that there is nothing in the documents they present when purchasing a firearm to distinguish them from ordinary citizens (that would be “Discrimination!”). This explains both the occurrence of mass murders and the fact that these murders are so few when compared to the total number of firearms held by private citizens in America.

Ergo, what causes mass murders is not the fact that there are millions of guns in the hands of people who do not commit mass murders. It is the demagogic and absurd insistence on “not discriminating” the mentally ill, the insistence on treating them as if they were normal and responsible citizens, entitled to all democratic rights, including the right to bear arms.

Until the 1960s, mass murders of innocent people in the United States were unheard-of. The phenomenon of mass shootings accompanied pari passu the growth of “deinstitutionalization,” which gradually shut down lunatic asylums and released to the streets a growing number of mentally ill people, especially from the 1990s on. No, this is not a post hoc, ergo propter hoc sophism (that is, the fallacy of attributing the status of cause to mere chronology): the fact that all the perpetrators of mass shootings were mentally ill people who proves beyond any doubt the causal connection between the two series of events.

Is it necessary to clarify that “deinstitutionalization” was an offshoot of a Marxist theory, and that it was first proposed by the Italian psychiatrist Franco Basaglia, according to whom psychiatric hospitals are instruments of capitalist oppression against the poor? Basaglia died in 1980 and is not here to see the dire consequences of his theory. But if he were here, he would have no reason to be frustrated. Invariably, the masterminds of the revolutionary movement propose solutions which only aggravate problems, and, a few decades later, when no one remembers how problems got started, a new generation of revolutionaries throws the guilt of the intensified evils upon the darned society, proposing new aggravating solutions. Today’s advocates of gun control are Franco Basaglia’s strategic heirs.

In fact, not only regarding this issue has the left used its traditional expedient of creating trouble in order to sell solutions: the Obama administration, which promises so many wonders with gun control bills, has dawdled for four years over the enforcement of the existing laws, thus favoring irregular sales and facilitating events like Sandy Hook (

Olavo de Carvalho is the President of The Inter-American Institute and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Philosophy, Political Science, and the Humanities.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. This article was translated from the Portuguese by Alessandro Cota.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.