Here’s something to consider: This punk went into an elementary school with an AR-15, multiple 30-round magazines and several handguns. When the Marines of Task Force Tarawa rolled into Iraq in 2003, each carried an M-16, 30-round magazines, and one handgun ...when the mentally ill can legally out-gun Marines-in-combat then it’s time to take a step back and re-think the gun laws.
But remember, please, that the Second Amendment is part of the law of the land, and even as sad as this massacre is (or Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, and many others), the Constitution should not be changed. One of the strengths of the United States is that we’ve got the longest form of written government in the history of the world, and it gives us a generational stability that not the Germans, Canadian, or even the English, share.
But it’s no longer 1776, where some 2.5 million Americans, spread thinly through 13 states battled Indians, Brits, and others with single-shot muskets for survival. Today the United States has a population of 310 million and the world’s most powerful military; while the ‘right to bear arms’ remains part of America’s psyche, killing after killing with automatic weapons means something has gone awry
Adam Lanza was mentally ill. If he’d not had access to rifles and handguns, he’d likely have attacked his mother and the students with a baseball bat, a knife, or something equally lethal. And the same could be said for the perpetrator of July’s Aurora killings, James Holmes; take away his weapons and perhaps he’d have set the theatre on fire. So mental illness is clearly an issue here as much as gun control, although it’s important to note that Lanza’s mother withdrew him from school and kept him away from mental health services that might have helped him.
Doing nothing doesn’t work; so what’s the answer?
1) Cutting back on military-oriented accessories can reduce the carnage. As Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) said, a 30-round magazine isn’t necessary at a shooting range; so cut back availability to 10-round magazines (in fact my 7-round magazine lets me concentrate on marksmanship instead of just casually blasting away).
2) Gun owners need to take – and pass – a hunter safety / weapon-safety test. Most states already mandate them for hunters. Will this stop a potential mass murderer? No, but if it stops the casual home accidents where (mostly) children are killed, that’d be a plus.
Would having a smaller magazine in his rifle stopped the Sandy Hook massacre? No, but it’d have reduced the number killed. And a weapons safety course might have saved the life of the 7-year old boy mistakenly shot by his father 10 days ago in Mercer, Penn., as he sat in Dad’s car.
Perhaps selective institutionalization and standardized national mental health laws are the answer, but as mental health advocate Ms. Natasha Tracy explained, there are substantial civil rights and medical issues that need to be addressed:
Blithely forbidding the mentally ill from buying weapons is a civil rights issue, plus listing them on a “mentally ill” database would certainly be a HIPAA Privacy Act issue.
Most mental illness (which excludes low IQ, retardation, addiction, etc) is treatable; the anti psychotic drugs and lithium developed in the 1960’s are remarkably effective – so long as the individual takes them. But with side effects ranging from sexual dysfunction to extreme weight gain, enough people went “off their meds” that California passed ‘Laura’s Law,’that allows for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment that mandated taking their drugs or going to jail. It’s been effective in reducing violence, but has not been adopted nationally.
A national version of Laura’s Law, plus half-way houses dedicated to the mentally ill rather than addicts, plus institutions for those who need 24 hour treatment, would be a step in the right direction; all of the above would ensure antipsychotic drugs are being taken by those who need them, and at no extra cost to society.
Some 50% of America’s massive prison population is suspected to have a treatable mental illness; since these illnesses don’t disappear when they’re released, maybe it would be more effective if some funding was diverted from building prisons to building institutions and funding half-way houses.
It’s also worth noting that an 18-yr old teen was arrested in Bartlesville, Okla. last Friday and charged with planning the mass murder of students and teachers in his high school; with teen brains subject to influence from hormonal stress, to bullying pressure, or a potential mental illness, it’s difficult to determine what made him want to do this. But it was the easy access to both rifles and handguns that led him to a horrific plan where he planned to slaughter both his fellow students as well as the first-responders.
There’s no single answer, unfortunately, but perhaps a number of steps – both small and large – will begin to reduce the needless deaths caused by gun violence.