Courthouses, Guns / Firearms, Suicide

Attempted Suicide at an Alabama Courthouse

I was just on HuffPost Live debating gun regulation with Professor Eugene Volokh, among others. It was a good discussion where I argued that guns should be regulated like cars, and Volokh thought it would be a good idea to regulate guns like cars… and then we completely disagreed about what that would mean.

But I wasn’t off the webcam for five minutes when another tragic story about gun violence came across the wire. A man in Alabama shot himself inside an Alabama federal courthouse.

I’m not sure that there’s any regulation, up to and including abolishing the Second Amendment entirely, that would stop these kinds of situations entirely. But I am, again, shocked that courthouse security was such that this guy was able to get a firearm in there in the first place….

Details are still sparse but CNN has the basics:

A worker at the federal courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama, shot himself in the head Thursday, the U.S. Marshals Service said.

The man walked into the chief clerk’s office at the Hugo Black U.S. Federal Courthouse “mumbling about a will. He then put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger,” CNN affiliate WBMA reported, citing a source inside the courthouse. The FBI confirmed the source’s report, WBMA said.

According the Associated Press, the man was able to get the gun into the courthouse because he worked there and employees don’t have to go through the metal detector.

That’s a dumb rule that will almost certainly be changed in light of this tragedy. Because we’re always fighting the last war. We’re always adopting some new law or procedure in response to a tragedy, instead of preventing the next thing. And even when we do take proactive steps, we tend to focus on the appearance of safety instead of things that actually make us safe. Let’s make sure that people are hassled when they try to get their cellphones through the front of the courthouse, but an employee can waltz in with anything through the back.

Whatever, addressing security concerns in the wake of a tragedy is the worst kind of policy. Maybe some day in the future, when nobody is shooting themselves in the courthouse, people can sit down and at least have a conversation about guns, security, rights, and responsibilities in a way that focuses on effective solutions instead of effective politics.

Shooting For Compromise [HuffPost Live]
Alabama courthouse employee shoots himself, authorities say [CNN]

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