Nasim Aghdam hardly fits the profile of an active shooter. She was a 39-year-old vegan animal rights activist who was frustrated with YouTube for demonetizing her bodybuilding videos. However, her non-conformity to the conventional shooter profile did not stop her from injuring three people at YouTube headquarters in San Bruno on April 3rd, nor did it stop her from taking her own life in the wake of the incident.
Twitter was apparently awash in bogus narratives surrounding Aghdam – some saying she was an Islamist terrorist (her family practices Baha’i), that she was an illegal immigrant (she was a legal immigrant from Iran), while others ranged to absurdity, claiming she was a robot or trans woman. Twitter has subsequently defended its policies on policing malicious content – and I’m inclined to agree with them.
That’s because the narrative surrounding this shooting is inconsequential.
Whether some groups want to make a meal of Aghdam being a woman or an immigrant is not where the focus of analysis of the shooting should be. The common denominator between her and all the other mass shooters is the gun.
People are going to become disillusioned, develop psychopathy, fantasize perversely and lash out uncontrollably for as long as we continue to form societies – there is very little we can do to prevent the impulse to mass violence. We can, however, regulate the tools available to the people who succumb to that impulse, and in this particular case, California’s gun laws prevented a lot of deaths.
The statewide ban on assault-style rifles seems like a good place to start. In California, purchasing an AR-15 or similar rifle has been illegal since 2016; modifying any rifle you already owned with a bump-stock or larger magazine is also illegal. Any rifle that was previously owned and modified has to be registered with the state.
According to San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini, the police anticipated having to deal with a rifle shooting and expected casualties to be much higher. After all, it is still possible to bring in such a weapon from out of state or to acquire one illegally.
But Aghdam did not acquire her Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun illegally; she was registered and licensed to own that weapon.
The virtue of a handgun in this type of shooting event is that they are less accurate and hold fewer rounds than an assault-style rifle. The handgun that Aghdam used held only 10 rounds, and so limited the number of shots she was able to take before turning the gun on herself.
So, while many critics of assault rifle bans are correct that they do not reduce gun homicide overall, they do in fact save lives in mass shooting events.
Another factor in the reduced lethality of the YouTube shooting is that mass shooters tend to acquire their guns through legal means when those avenues are open to them. This stands to reason, as the legal acquisition of a firearm is simpler than trying to acquire one on the black market. By limiting the availability of high-powered rifles with large magazines, California has effectively ensured that mass shootings will be less lethal in the future.
Of course, the NRA was quick to dismiss California’s more stringent gun policies and say that they had no bearing on the events that transpired.
Chuck Holton, one of the NRA’s inflatable fear-mongering devices, said on NRA-TV:
“Liberals are always trying to fight the last battle and not the next one. In this case, age restrictions wouldn’t have done anything. California has a ban on assault rifles. They have a ban on high-capacity magazines. There’s a 10-day waiting period for any firearm purchase.”
So, let’s just forgive Chuck the axiomatic nonsense with which he began his statement – as the battle for gun legislation in California has already been won, and it had nothing to do with political affiliation and everything to do with sensible safety measures. Demonizing liberals is a hallmark of NRA rhetoric, but one that rings particularly false in this case. Liberals in this situation are people who think that high powered, high magazine firearms should not be available to the general public because there is no conceivable scenario where they are necessary for self-defense. Those crazy libtards.
Also, Holton’s notion that those other laws he carelessly tossed at the end of his statement did nothing is manifestly false. Those laws performed exactly as they were intended to, with the ban on high-capacity assault rifles being key to the no fatalities in this shooting outside of the shooter herself. The law which mandates background checks and a waiting period is designed to prevent criminals from getting guns and people from impulsively acquiring a weapon. Is there a conservative alive who thinks more criminals need to make more impulsive decisions with firearms?
The long and the short of this is that California’s gun laws worked. And they will continue to work. The rest of the nation should take notice of laws which allow gun ownership with sober restrictions – it’s the way forward.