The usual suspects are at it again, and I’m not talking about isolated, mentally ill young men. I’m talking about the politically motivated talking heads who don’t even wait until bodies are cold after tragic mass shootings to spout off about the need for red flag laws, “assault weapons” bans, and “universal background checks” because — you’ve heard this one before — “Why are we willing to live with this carnage?”
After the mass shooting in a wealthy Chicago suburb over the holiday weekend that left seven dead and dozens more wounded in one of the most gun-controlled areas of one of the most gun-controlled states in the country, local State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart did exactly that. He touted the state’s “strong” red flag law and insisted on the need to “ban assault weapons in Illinois and beyond.” Vice President Kamala Harris likewise made an unscheduled visit to the community to call for more gun control, however incoherently. And the typical Twitter blue checks all had something to say.
Meanwhile, as the armchair class prattles on about how our first freedoms are an existential threat, the face and name of the 21-year-old alleged shooter are plastered all over every news channel as he sits remorseless in jail facing a slew of charges that will probably amount to life in prison at worst. The upper echelons of chattering politicos will accomplish nothing but celebritizing murderous cowards — but hey, anything to signal virtue, pick up a few progressive voters, and pad their pockets with a little extra donor cash.
You know how we know they aren’t accomplishing anything? Because the reforms Rinehart called for are both already on the books in Highland Park where the shooting occurred. Despite a local so-called assault weapons ban plus red flag laws and a state with some of the strictest gun-control laws in America, many people died. If the latest shooting taught us anything about guns, it’s that even tightly restricting them doesn’t deter killers.
It’s time for a new approach, and this case presents the perfect set of circumstances to justify it. The Highland Park shooter should be executed, and he should be executed quickly.
There would be nothing “just” about criminal justice if we dispensed with due process, but it’s not much more than a formality that we use the word “alleged” to describe this particular shooter. Not only have authorities confirmed that the male suspect dressed as a woman to conceal his identity, hide his face tattoos, and blend into the frantic crowd. Not only were these facts captured on video, with a witness apparently watching the suspect wrap his firearm in a red blanket before ditching it. Not only has he had multiple run-ins with local law enforcement that were ultimately relayed to state police in a report identifying him as a “clear and present danger,” plus an incident wherein police confiscated 16 knives, a dagger, and a sword from him after he threatened to “kill everyone” in his house.
But he also already told police he’s the shooter. And if his confession of guilt weren’t enough, he also admitted that he almost attacked another July Fourth celebration in Madison, Wisconsin, but decided against it because he just hadn’t had enough time to plan out a murderous scheme.
There’s a more effective deterrent to this carnage than catapulting mass murderers into the limelight by detailing every step of their grisly crimes or featuring their faces on the cover of Rolling Stone. There’s a better way than making impassioned speeches about gun violence, but then helping to bail out violent rioters and advocating for low bail that enables offenders to violently mow down women and children with a vehicle. It’s time to be honest about the fact that bans on AR-15s and red flag laws, in addition to stomping out due process and being ripe for political weaponization, simply don’t work to deter crime. Illinois tried that experiment. It failed.
There are a handful of things that become apparent about deterrence, but here’s a pretty basic idea: Swiftness and certainty are more important than severity, as Cesare Beccaria argued way back in the mid-1700s. Of course, if punishment must be proportional for justice to truly be just, then execution is warranted in cases of mass murder, the perpetrators of which cannot die enough deaths to make up for the many they stole.
But it isn’t the mere execution of a known mass murderer that deters other disturbed individuals from shooting up jubilant innocents. The reality of taxpayer-funded eons on death row doesn’t appear to have any concrete deterrent effect, much like lengthy incarceration. But what about a visual representation of this chilling message: You will be caught, and you will be put to death — soon. Certainty and swiftness accomplished.
We’ve watched the inverse cycle play out before. A young man goes on a gruesome killing spree. Everyone learns his face and name during wall-to-wall coverage of his acts, including the alienated who get inspired to pursue their own moments of infamy. He’s charged with crimes, and politicians pounce for their own personal benefit. And then — nothing. The perpetrator gets whisked away to some facility to await trial for ungodly amounts of time, and that’s the last we hear of it. If we get any updates on his fate (which is intended to deter others but fails on account of its slowness and uncertainty), those are afforded a fraction of the attention by the media and are likely to be buried by coverage of the next catastrophe.
It’s time to end this cycle. If politicians are serious that they’re sick of “living with this carnage,” the Highland Park shooter should be tried and convicted on the basis of his confession and executed immediately. Perhaps instead of inspiring another coward to pick up a gun, it will inspire them to think again.