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Guns... or Not?

Exploiting Tragedy

Orange County Register
December 28, 2000

The killing of seven co-workers Tuesday at Edgewater Technology Inc. in Wakefield, Mass., allegedly by software engineer Michael M. McDermott, should lead to a sober assessment of the complex factors that lead to such tragedies.

Unfortunately, as might be expected, gun-control advocates quickly seized on it as another platform from which to advance their attempts to dilute the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Predictably, Attorney General Janet Reno led the chorus, Wednesday calling for more gun control.

But, "Massachusetts has more gun control than almost any jurisdiction in America," David Kopel told us; he's research director at the Independence Institute and co-author of the forthcoming book, "Gun Control and Gun Rights: A Coursebook." He added, "Gun controllers are complaining about the kind of gun he [the alleged killer] used, but an AK-47 is not as powerful as hunting rifles."

It's not clear when this AK-47 was purchased, but federal law has banned that weapon for resale since 1994. And hunting rifles and shotguns — the other weapon the killer used — have not been the target of gun controllers.

What can be done to reduce such killings? Ironically, it would help if it were easier for law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons, with which they might defend themselves. "When you pass gun control laws, it's law-abiding citizens who obey them," John Lott said; he's a professor at Yale University Law School and the author of "More Guns, Less Crime." "You make it easier for those who intend to do harm. When you look across the states over time, only one thing affects these multiple-victim assaults: conceal carry laws."

Massachusetts does not have such a law. So the killer knew he likely faced an office of law-abiding — and unarmed — victims.

There was another factor. Reported the Boston Globe, "The attack might be related to the Internal Revenue Service's request that Edgewater garnishee McDermott's wages for back taxes, Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley said. ... The amount was so substantial, according to a law enforcement source, that McDermott had said he might not be able to live on the money left over."

It ought not to be the job of businesses to act as enforcement agents for the IRS. Any dispute about money should be between the taxpayer and the IRS, preferably after a court trial rather than the IRS' usual action of simply seizing people's paychecks.

Of course, such a dispute is not an excuse for murder. But it might be part of the explanation in the complex set of circumstances that drove this man to such a horrendous act.

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