There’d be 14 dead in Texas if he’d had a gun instead of a knife

Earlier today, a Lone Star College student brought a knife, not a gun, onto the college’s CyFair campus and stabbed, but didn’t shoot, at least fourteen people.

Local authorities have taken a 21 year old man into custody; he is currently the only suspected attacker. There are no suspected shooters. Two people are in critical condition, none are dead.

On December 14th, 2012, Adam Lanza took an arsenal into Sandy Hook elementary school and shot, not stabbed, twenty-six people, including twenty children.  Twenty children and six adults died that day.

On the same day as the Sandy Hook massacre, Min Yingjun took a knife, not a gun, into a primary school in central China and stabbed, not shot, twenty two children of similar ages. While all twenty-six of Lanza’s victims died, none of Yingjun’s did.

Gun and knife via Shutterstock

Gun and knife via Shutterstock

As was the case in the wake of Newtown, my Facebook feed is currently blowing up with posts about how you can’t keep people from breaking the law, and that violent people will find a way to be violent, regardless of what weapons we ban or regulate.

And they’re right; there will always be nuts out there who want to hurt others.

But if this is the case, and we can’t do anything about violence in and of itself, certainly we should do what we can to prevent “violence” from becoming “gun violence.” The crime rate may not change, but the body count sure as hell will.

Of course, that didn’t stop gun extremists from claiming that today’s violence proves that we need more guns, not fewer:

Right. Then we could have had 14 dead people today in Texas. A point that the NYT’s Nicholas Kristof noted as well:

Knives don’t kill people.  Guns kill people.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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58 Responses to “There’d be 14 dead in Texas if he’d had a gun instead of a knife”

  1. Sqwidman says:

    Knives don’t kill people? According to the FBI in the US 1800 people are murdered per year with knives. Awesome argument.

  2. mike says:

    I own lots of firearms it’s true, but I would NEVER take a life. why should I give up my rights? why should I pay for a madmans evil?

  3. dk2852 says:

    Are you kidding? The US has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world. Only in America can you own a gun but be locked up for possesion of a plant. I can see the Republicans have properly brainwashed you .

  4. Mike Spears says:

    Thank you Jon Green!!! I am glad you point out how knife violence it so much better to have than gun violence. I bet you wish more of the violence that happens in America or around the world were acts of knife violence because at least people live. But I wonder… Why did this person, who was born deaf, was given ear implants at 7 started having fantasies of knifing people from age 8? Also, why all of a sudden do you think he went off on that mass slashing spree? Well I am with you. Thank God he had knifing fantasies instead of gun fantasies. Also, bet it was a Gun Free Zone, so he was just following the law.

  5. Fair enough!

  6. Not everyone should be armed. Everyone should be able to decide for themselves if they should be armed. I don’t decide for you, you don’t decide for me. Fair enough?

  7. I’m not preaching, I thought we were having a debate. I believe in systemic solutions, you believe we should all be armed–I don’t think we’re ever going to see eye to eye on this one.

  8. Nope. You know that when someone points a gun at you, all the thoughts about whether that person has an untreated mental illness or lives in poverty goes out the window…I mean, since you are preaching to me about guns and self defense, I can’t be the only one to have been on both ends of a gun at one time or another…or is your talk all theoretical??

  9. “Evil” in the case of violence in our society includes poverty, crime, and untreated mental illness, all of which can be addressed without turning this country into a shooting gallery. For someone claiming such intellectual superiority, your proposed solution is shockingly simplistic and myopic.

  10. Pretty much, when dealing with those young enough to know it all. Ideas and thoughts are still evolving, and college kids deserve the time to sort things out without getting their heads tore off.

    But you did admit that no one can make the case that more guns equal more violence and more crime, so I consider that a task completed

  11. How magnanimous of you. The statistics on rates of violence and concealed carry laws are not conclusive–there are studies finding both increases and decreases in violence. The gun issue is multifaceted and I don’t pretend it’s not, but neither should you. Guns are not magic safety wands; they can both protect and devastate. A man in Washington state recently shot and killed his pregnant wife because he thought she was an intruder in his home. A soldier with PTSD shot his friend who was trying to help him with his trauma at a gun range. There are many stories of people saving lives because they had a gun, and there are many stories of people needlessly dying because someone nearby had a gun. Neither side is completely right or wrong–that is fact, not theory. Are you always this condescending?

  12. I have bipolar disorder and PTSD, so I am familiar with the shortcomings of our system, and no, it is absolutely not a sad joke; What’s sad is that the police shoot and kill hundreds of mentally ill people each year because we let sick people get to the breaking point before we provide adequate treatment (Portland Press Herald study). What’s sad is that we could prevent shootings like this if we got serious about addressing our broken mental healthcare system. If you look at the costs of treatment versus the costs of ER visits, police intervention, and warehousing people with mental illness in prison, you’d see that it’s not financially prohibitive at all. Loss of productivity due to mental illness costs this country $100 billion each year (NAMI statistic). Also: why did you put the term “mentally challenged” in italics?

  13. Taking Adam Lanza’s life by any means before he had a chance to end so many others would have been a lifesaving act…but if you are smart enough to run a keyboard, you are smart enough to run the math in your head to already know that.

    Unless you can think of a way to prevent Evil in the hearts of some people, you better have a way to confront it. Otherwise, Evil wins. This is the reality. South Korea is not suffering like North Korea has for the past 60 years because a couple hundred thousand men picked up “…killing machines to pump lead into flesh and take lives”, Bill.

  14. remember 9-11?

    Yeah, and my recollection was it was box cutters and not knives.

  15. Agreed, but do ya have any idea of how many of the mentally challenged are released into society every day simply because we don’t have the funds to care for them?

    Attempting use caring for the mentally ill to reduce gun violence is a sad joke!

    It is financially prohibitive.

  16. Any more theories?

    Yeah, just one:

    Ain’t it the job of the extinguisher to put out fires and save lives and the job of killing machines to pump lead into flesh and take lives?

    How can ya possibly compare the two?

  17. JCL says:

    Stop playing the emotional card. Knifes initiated the biggest terrorist attack in US history, remember 9-11? We didn’t outlaw sharp objects then; we beefed up security at airports among a myriad of other changes. Why is it so difficult to do some of the same thing at schools? Predators attack the young, weak, & elderly because they are EASY targets. It amazes me that some Homo sapiens think this behavior is only limited to 4 legged carnivores. I want to make meaningful changes so that massive killings don’t happen; but the anti-gun zealots overall seem to be emotionally incapable of this right now.

  18. I wasn’t criticizing the author, I was excusing him. As the first part of a famous quote attributed to Winston Churchill goes, “If you are not a liberal at age 20, you have no heart…”

    Having a gun doesn’t lead to violence any more than having a fire extinguisher leads to more arson. Every liberal predicted widespread violence if people were allowed to carry concealed weapons, and violence and crime went down, not up.
    Any more theories?

  19. your logic leads us towards a civilians’ arms race, which I doubt would address the problem. Turning this country into the O.K. Corral certainly won’t mitigate violence. Everyone in the Wild West had a gun and I don’t recall reading anything about it being a peaceful utopia. Also: if you were smarter than the author, you wouldn’t need to disparage his IQ to criticize him. He’s got decades of experience in Washington and a solid CV–do you?

  20. if that were true, stabbings like this one wouldn’t be happening. I absolutely agree that the anti-gun control crowd has little to no real interest in mental health and uses it to get the heat off gun control, but we need to address violence, including gun violence, and that requires a multi-pronged approach.

  21. I bet a lot of things surprise you now, and a lot more will surprise you in the future, moreso than “somewhat”, especially if you can only think in your own, contrived stereotypes, such as the “trigger happy but inept CCW holder” you fantasize about. Most CCW holders I know shoot considerably better than the local police I have seen at the local range (including my son and myself), but again, I believe I am talking to someone in the age group that tends to think they know more than their present intelligence and maturity actually allows.

  22. So, the author of this piece claims to be able to predict alternate realities? Let’s give his talents a go then:

    How many dead would do you prophesy at Sandy Hook if one of the teaching staff was armed?

    How many wounded in the knife attack still happen in your visions if one of the victims were armed?

    Would the Bath Township School Massacre victim toll be lesser or greater if the attacker would have used a gun, according to your clairvoyance?

    Peering into the past with your all seeing eye, would the total number of Happyland murders in New York City be greater or lesser if an assault weapon was used?

    Here’s my take: A person attacking other people will continue unabated until he confronts equal or superior force to stop him, or until he stops by his own choice. This is true whether we are talking knives, guns, or Hitler’s Panzer Divisions.

    My other take: The author would never write such an article if he had ten more years of maturity and / or 40 more I.Q. points under his belt. I will give him a pass until he attains either.

  23. How about the mass killing because someone is simply pissed off at his boss?

    The problem isn’t necessarily the killer or his sanity, but his easy access to killing machines.

    Any other argument is a canard to distract your attention from the real issue… an endless supply of weapons.

  24. Now give this a stab: how is the only way to stop a bad guy with a knife?

  25. Ans sarcasm is sarcasm.

  26. anagramalistic?

    Perhaps ya should spell it out Magical artisan

  27. Careful, SF. I understand he has 5 gallons of maple surple on the ready.

  28. And chicks for free.

  29. “trying to down the perp”

    Nah, ya have to be trained for that:

  30. Jesus Christ in a mortar shell!

    Doesn’t everybody know that the only way to stop a bad guy with a knife is a student population collectively armed with bazookas?

  31. DKarma says:

    ok lets get it started guys: BAN ALL KNIVES! BAN ALL KNIVES!
    No? Why not knives are responsible for this!!

  32. Great point about media coverage. Only 5% of violent crimes in this country are committed by people with mental illness (NAMI statistic), but those are often the highest profile ones. Crazy sells.

  33. NCBrian says:

    That’s an excellent point. Yes, I should say that crazy can’t easily be legislated in criminal court. By the time it gets to that arena it’s often too late, or prison and a fine just isn’t what the person needs. It does seem like funneling money into mental health would be a reasonable course of action… or put another way, ignoring the problem is what’s truly “crazy.”

    It’s such a difficult situation – this kind of story sells papers, the other doesn’t.

    “Man snaps and opens fire in a crowd killing X people”
    “Man, feeling himself close to his breaking point, talks to someone and is now recovering nicely after getting the help he needs”

    Which one do you read about?

    Global legislation based on outlier events is illogical.

  34. to diverge a bit from your main point…”crazy” can be combated with legislation by allocating more resources to the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. In this country, people with mental health issues who can’t access and afford treatment will not get any help from the state until they present an imminent danger to themselves and others; in other words, we wait until people are ticking time bombs before we provide the help they need, and by then it’s difficult if not impossible to adequately treat them. This article in “The Oregonian” points out that most shooters are between the ages of 18 and 24, the exact age gap in Medicare coverage:

  35. NCBrian says:

    No – it would be the same percentage whether i was personally affected by it or not. are you aware of how percentages work? Please do not twist my words – I said small percentage of a global number of victims not small in terms of importance.

    It was not my intent at all to make light of the suffering of the families and friends of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. My intent was to try and shine a little light on the other 30,000 or so victims of gun violence that die every year that never even make the papers let alone end up as White House cover art.

  36. Demittry says:

    Congressional Record–Appendix, pp. A34-A35

    January 10, 1963

    Current Communist Goals



    Thursday, January 10, 1963

    Mr. HERLONG. Mr. Speaker, Mrs. Patricia Nordman of De Land, Fla., is an
    ardent and articulate opponent of communism, and until recently published the De
    Land Courier, which she dedicated to the purpose of alerting the public to the
    dangers of communism in America.

    At Mrs. Nordman’s request, I include in the RECORD, under unanimous consent,
    the following “Current Communist Goals,” which she identifies as an excerpt from
    “The Naked Communist,” by Cleon Skousen:

    [From “The Naked Communist,” by Cleon Skousen]


    1. U.S. acceptance of coexistence as the only alternative to atomic war.

    2. U.S. willingness to capitulate in preference to engaging in atomic

    3. Develop the illusion that total disarmament [by] the United States would
    be a demonstration of moral strength.

    4. Permit free trade between all nations regardless of Communist affiliation
    and regardless of whether or not items could be used for war.

    5. Extension of long-term loans to Russia and Soviet satellites.

    6. Provide American aid to all nations regardless of Communist

    7. Grant recognition of Red China. Admission of Red China to the U.N.

    8. Set up East and West Germany as separate states in spite of Khrushchev’s
    promise in 1955 to settle the German question by free elections under
    supervision of the U.N.

    9. Prolong the conferences to ban atomic tests because the United States has
    agreed to suspend tests as long as negotiations are in progress.

    10. Allow all Soviet satellites individual representation in the U.N.

    11. Promote the U.N. as the only hope for mankind. If its charter is
    rewritten, demand that it be set up as a one-world government with its own
    independent armed forces. (Some Communist leaders believe the world can be taken
    over as easily by the U.N. as by Moscow. Sometimes these two centers compete
    with each other as they are now doing in the Congo.)

    12. Resist any attempt to outlaw the Communist Party.

    13. Do away with all loyalty oaths.

    14. Continue giving Russia access to the U.S. Patent Office.

    15. Capture one or both of the political parties in the United States.

    16. Use technical decisions of the courts to weaken basic American
    institutions by claiming their activities violate civil rights.

    17. Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism
    and current Communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of
    teachers’ associations. Put the party line in textbooks.

    18. Gain control of all student newspapers.

    19. Use student riots to foment public protests against programs or
    organizations which are under Communist attack.

    20. Infiltrate the press. Get control of book-review assignments, editorial
    writing, policymaking positions.

    21. Gain control of key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures.

    22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic
    expression. An American Communist cell was told to “eliminate all good sculpture
    from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless

    23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote
    ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”

    24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a
    violation of free speech and free press.

    25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and
    obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.

    26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural,

    27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social”
    religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity
    which does not need a “religious crutch.”

    28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on
    the ground that it violates the principle of “separation of church and

    29. Discredit the American Constitution by calling it inadequate,
    old-fashioned, out of step with modern needs, a hindrance to cooperation between
    nations on a worldwide basis.

    30. Discredit the American Founding Fathers. Present them as selfish
    aristocrats who had no concern for the “common man.”

    31. Belittle all forms of American culture and discourage the teaching of
    American history on the ground that it was only a minor part of the “big
    picture.” Give more emphasis to Russian history since the Communists took

    32. Support any socialist movement to give centralized control over any part
    of the culture–education, social agencies, welfare programs, mental health
    clinics, etc.

    33. Eliminate all laws or procedures which interfere with the operation of
    the Communist apparatus.

    34. Eliminate the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

    35. Discredit and eventually dismantle the FBI.

    36. Infiltrate and gain control of more unions.

    37. Infiltrate and gain control of big business.

    38. Transfer some of the powers of arrest from the police to social agencies.
    Treat all behavioral problems as psychiatric disorders which no one but
    psychiatrists can understand [or treat].

    39. Dominate the psychiatric profession and use mental health laws as a means
    of gaining coercive control over those who oppose Communist goals.

    40. Discredit the family as an institution. Encourage promiscuity and easy

    41. Emphasize the need to raise children away from the negative influence of
    parents. Attribute prejudices, mental blocks and retarding of children to
    suppressive influence of parents.

    42. Create the impression that violence and insurrection are legitimate
    aspects of the American tradition; that students and special-interest groups
    should rise up and use [“]united force[“] to solve economic, political or social

    43. Overthrow all colonial governments before native populations are ready
    for self-government.

    44. Internationalize the Panama Canal.

    45. Repeal the Connally reservation so the United States cannot prevent the
    World Court from seizing jurisdiction [over domestic problems. Give the World
    Court jurisdiction] over nations and individuals alike.

  37. Demittry says:

    March 2010

    On March 23, 2010, Zheng Minsheng (郑民生)[2] 41, murdered eight children with a knife in an elementary school in Nanping,[3] Fujian province;[4] The attack was widely reported in Chinese media (called 南平实验小学重大凶杀案),[2] sparking fears of copycat crimes.[4] Following a quick trial, Zheng Minsheng was executed about one month later on April 28.[3]

    April 2010

    Just a few hours after the execution of Zheng Minsheng in neighboring Fujian Province,[5] in Leizhou,[6] Guangdong another knife-wielding man named Chen Kangbing, 33 (陈康炳)[7] at Hongfu Primary School wounded 16 students and a teacher.[4] Chen Kangbing had been a teacher at a different primary school in Leizhou;[7] he was sentenced to death by a court in Zhanjiang in June.[8]

    On April 29 in Taixing,[3] Jiangsu, 47-year-old Xu Yuyuan went to Zhongxin Kindergarten[9] and stabbed 28 students, two teachers and one security guard;[4] most of the Taixing students were 4 years old.[10]

    On April 30, Wang Yonglai used a hammer to cause head injury to preschool children in Weifang,[3] Shandong, then used gasoline to commit suicide by self-immolation.[4]

    May 2010

    An attacker named Wu Huanming (吴环明), 48, killed seven children and two adults and injured 11 other persons with a cleaver at a kindergarten in Hanzhong, Shaanxi on May 12, 2010;[3] early reports were removed from the internet in China, for fear that mass coverage of such violence can provoke copycat attacks.[3][11] The attacker later committed suicide at his house; he was the landlord of the school,[12] Shengshui Temple private kindergarten, and had been involved in an ongoing dispute with the school administrator about when the school would move out of the building.[12]

    On May 18, 2010 at Hainan Institute of Science and Technology (海南科技职业学院), a vocational college in Haikou, Hainan, more than 10 men[13] charged into a dormitory wielding knives around 2:30 am;[14] after attacking the security guard and disabling security cameras, 9 students were injured, 1 seriously.[14] The local men attacked the dorm in an act of revenge and retaliation against college students following conflict the previous day at an off-campus food stall in which 4 students were injured, for a total of 13.[15]

    August 2010

    On 4 August 2010, 26-year-old Fang Jiantang (方建堂) slashed more than 20 children and staff with a 60 cm knife, killing 3 children and 1 teacher, at a kindergarten in Zibo, Shandong province. Of the injured, 3 other children and 4 teachers were taken to the hospital. After being caught Fang confessed to the crime; his motive is not yet known.[16]

    August 2011

    Eight children, all aged four or five,[17] were hurt in Minhang District, Shanghai when an employee at a child-care centre for migrant workers slashed them with a box-cutter.[18]

    September 2011

    In September 2011, a young girl and three adults taking their children to nursery school were killed in Gongyi,[19] Henan by 30-year-old Wang Hongbin with an axe.[20] Another child and an adult were seriously wounded but survived.[21] The suspect is a local farmer who is suspected of being mentally ill.[22]

    December 2012

    On 14 December 2012, a 36 year-old villager in the village of Chenpeng, Henan Province, stabbed 23 children and an elderly woman at the village’s primary school as children were arriving for classes.[23] The attacker was restrained at the school, and later arrested.[24] All of the victims survived and were treated at three hospitals, though some were reportedly seriously injured, with fingers or ears cut off, and had to be transferred to larger hospitals for specialized care.

  38. Carl Web says:

    If the nut had a katana they wouldn’t have been so lucky.I read these 2 reports in one day:
    3 shot,1 dead 2 injured

    3 stabbed,2 dead,1 injured

    To simply say if he had a gun,they would’ve died is flawed.

  39. Badgerite says:

    Not so small if it was one of your children killed by Adam Lanza and his Bushmaster before anyone could intervene or reach safety.

  40. melbach007 says:

    I got drunk over the weekend and ran down the block crashing into more than a dozen people and there were no fatalities.

  41. NCBrian says:

    Yes – both “sides” of this issue can use stories like this. I think that’s stupid. Crazy is just crazy and you’re never going to legislate it away, as both sides love point out as well.

    Yes – if somebody there had been armed maybe they could have stopped him.

    Yes – if he had a gun instead of a knife then the chances are many of these victims would have died.

    So what’s the answer?

    The answer is that “mass shootings” or “mass violence” are not the reason to legislate (or not legislate) firearms. They represent such a small percentage of gun deaths in this country that while obviously shouldn’t be ignored, are just a small part of a more global problem. Tens of thousands of people die at the end of a gun in this country ever year and almost none of them during shooting sprees.

    Obviously a school with almost 2 dozen shot children is going to spark conversations about gun legislation – but what about the other thousands of children shot elsewhere?

    The solution (if there is one) is not that “we have to do SOMETHING” but rather we have to DO something if you take my meaning.

  42. samizdat says:

    The 50’s called. Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover (in a dress) need help rooting out the Red Horde. Purity of Essence, don’tcha know.

  43. lynchie says:

    and how pray tell do you measure your intelligence? Maybe the name is too hard to figure out? It is an anagramalistic name

  44. lynchie says:

    And stupid is stupid

  45. SkippyFlipjack says:

    That’s the best you’ve got?

  46. Ah, young ignorant college kids, such good little sheep.

    If you don’t like the principles this country was founded on, I suggest you leave. Go to Canada or Europe, where you have no gun rights and (not coincidentally) you can be put in prison for thoughtcrime. You know, they took away gun rights in Bolshevik Russia too, right before they slaughtered fifty million Russians.

    If 1984 isn’t here already, it surely will be soon.

    War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Bleat bleat.

  47. piniella says:

    On the same day as the Sandy Hook massacre, Min Yingjun took a knife, not a gun, into a primary school in central China and stabbed, not shot, twenty two children of similar ages. While all twenty-six of Lanza’s victims died, none of Yingjun’s did.

    In the wingnut version of this story, all of Yingjun’s victims died.

  48. Your screenname is all we need to know to understand your intelligence

  49. Barry Spence Dunagan says:

    So you would be in favor of “knife control” if he had sliced deeper??

  50. freewayblogger says:

    God really hates poor African kids, that’s for sure.

  51. karmanot says:


  52. SkippyFlipjack says:

    I actually saw a gun nut today try to make the case that this showed that, guns or no guns, people will hurt others, and that guns in the hands of bystanders would have stopped the attack. When told that nobody had died, unlike if the attacker had been armed with a gun, he said “yes but some might still die of their injuries” and noted that 58 people didn’t die at Aurora. Have to admit that I hadn’t looked at the bright side of Aurora — 58 people were only injured!!

  53. RepubAnon says:

    Ever hear the Austin Lounge Lizards song “Jesus Loves Me – But He Can’t Stand You”? “Jesus loves me, this I know… and he’s told me where you’re gonna go…”

  54. Cletus says:

    And weed was plentiful.

  55. Gas was cheap and the acid was free

  56. Cletus says:

    Blues for Allah. Those were the days…

  57. Cletus says:

    Loved hearing one of the bystanders say that God protected him and the others, which I always interpret as meaning that God hated those that he didn’t protect. He also said that if only the school had allowed him to pack heat this wouldn’t have happened…

  58. I am somewhat surprised that no passerby in the crowd was able to whip out a concealed carry and start peppering the crowd with pot-shots, trying to down the perp

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