A mental health problem, not a gun problem

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Last Friday’s tragic school shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas should tell us, once again, that we have a serious mental health problem in this country, instead the political left will make it about guns.

Not the usual suspects

The 17-year-old Texas shooter (Hoystory does not name mass murderers.) killed 10 and wounded more than 10 others using a pump-action shotgun and a .38 caliber revolver. This did not fit the standard refrain from the usual gun-control advocates that the solution is to ban assault rifles and “high-capacity” magazines. Aside from the honest individuals on the extreme left who advocate repealing the 2nd Amendment and a complete ban on firearms of any kind, no one is suggesting that we implement a ban on shotguns and revolvers.

The Texas shooter also planted explosive devices around the school. It’s not clear why they did not detonate, but like his possession of firearms by a minor, building explosive devices for the purpose of injuring or killing people is already illegal.

The Parkland shooter, though he used an AR-pattern rifle, did not use “high-capacity magazines,” but that didn’t stop the usual suspects for calling for their usual solutions. (For the record, gun control advocates call any magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds—and in New York, more than 7 rounds—”high capacity.” In reality, the standard capacity magazine that AR-15s were originally paired with was 30 rounds. Depending on the caliber and the handgun, a standard-capacity handgun carries anywhere from 13-19 rounds or more.)

As a reminder, the most deadly school shooting continues to be that at Virginia Tech that left 32 people dead and was committed with a pair of handguns.

The same old “solutions”

Despite the weapons used in the Texas shooting being uncommon in the history of mass shootings, the “solutions” remained the same.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy:

Every single time this happens I am overcome with both sadness and outrage. But frankly, I’m furious and heartbroken every single day, because every single night, kids are getting shot and killed all across this country. This an epidemic of horrifying proportions, and Congress has made a deliberate, conscious choice to facilitate this slaughter. Inaction is endorsement. Inaction is complicity. Inaction is a green light to future would-be shooters who covert political silence into permission. Politicians who offer hollow words with no action should start saying prayers for themselves, because judgment will be firm on those who stand by idly while children are gunned down.

Murphy has not proposed any regulations that would ban the sale of shotguns or revolvers.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein:

If school shootings were normal, the press wouldn’t cover them the way they do. They’d be a 20-second brief on the evening news or an 8-inch story on page A-24.

Targeting just one of the tools

The focus on firearms, the AR-15-pattern rifle in particular, is rather unique. Again, the Santa Fe shooter didn’t use one. The Parkland shooter didn’t use the “high-capacity” magazines that are another target of the gun-control left because only 10-round magazines would fit in his bag. Yet, the calls for

The Santa Fe shooter’s bombs haven’t prompted calls for background checks on the sale of lengths of pipe or saws or drills or any of the other tools necessary to build a bomb.

The 2013 Washington Naval Yard shooting that left 13 dead prompted the New York Daily News to run a front page showing an AR-15 and the words: “Same gun, different slay.” That shooter too used a shotgun and couple of handguns.

Last year’s Las Vegas shooting was the most deadly in U.S. history, leaving 58 dead and hundreds injured. In Nice, France, in 2016, a terrorist drove a truck down a busy pedestrian thoroughfare killing 86. Yet there have been no calls for enhanced background checks or restrictions on the rental of large trucks to the public.

It’s a mental health problem

It goes without saying that even 30 years ago, when I was in high school, school shootings weren’t an issue. (Bringing weapons on campus was banned, but that largely meant knives, not guns.) They just didn’t happen in the late 1980s. Go back 20 years more and public schools in many parts of the country had rifle teams and it was not uncommon for kids to have guns in their cars to go hunting before or after school.

Something has changed in our society, our culture, over the past twenty-some years. Some will blame abortion; others, movies, video games and rap music; still others a decline in the numbers of boys raised in two-parent familes.

What is clear is that we’ve got far too many young men who seem to have not a care for human life. Want to read something scary? Read The New Yorker’s Malcolm Gladwell on the case of John LaDue.

In the day of Eric Harris, we could try to console ourselves with the thought that there was nothing we could do, that no law or intervention or restrictions on guns could make a difference in the face of someone so evil. But the riot has now engulfed the boys who were once content to play with chemistry sets in the basement. The problem is not that there is an endless supply of deeply disturbed young men who are willing to contemplate horrific acts. It’s worse. It’s that young men no longer need to be deeply disturbed to contemplate horrific acts.

I confess that I don’t have a single, ready-made solution to this problem we face as a society. I remain convinced that there will be occasions when evil will find a way despite our best efforts to stop it.

Some things that can help

The gun control movement’s ultimate goal is to ban all firearms in civilian hands. From time-to-time they deny it, but I have no doubt that the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action and the rest of their ilk will not stop until the 2nd Amendment is either repealed or made a dead letter by a liberal Supreme Court.

Such a move would, by definition, only affect the law-abiding. Guns would not disappear.

What we should do is what we can to harden soft targets. That means gun-free zones not manned by metal detectors and armed guards should go the way of the Dodo, since they only serve to remove law-abiding concealed carriers from the equation and are a draw for the mentally ill whose main interest is the size of the body count they can generate.

It means taking violations of gun laws seriously; throwing the book at straw purchasers and even charging them as accessories to crimes committed with the guns they purchased. The poster child for this is Jalita Johnson who bought a gun for her convicted felon boyfriend that he used to shoot and kill an Omaha, Neb., cop just hours before she went on deferred maternity leave. Johnson was sentenced to just 12 months probation.

We are not taking the laws that are currently on the books seriously. That should be Step 1.

Step 2 is we need to make sure the database queried by the background check process is complete. Too many of these shootings are committed by people that should’ve been caught had the appropriate government agency done its job and submitted disqualifying information to the federal NICS database. Both the Sutherland Springs, Tex., and the Charleston, S.C., church shooters would’ve been foiled in their attempts to buy firearms from commercial firearms retailer had the government done its job.

Step 3 is to take a serious look at how we deal with the mentally ill in this country. It’s clear, beyond any doubt, that we have a serious mental health problem. I’m not for the mass re-institutionalization of all of them, but I think it is beyond question that there is a need for more in-patient facilities to house those who are a danger to themselves and others.

Once this is done, we can start looking at other possibilities.

How the law-abiding are affected

But the fact of the matter is that new laws passed by state legislatures or the congress will only affect law-abiding citizens. Banning “assault weapons” or limiting magazine size won’t stop criminals from getting them.

The Heller decision made it clear that the only weapons that the government could ban are those that are “unusual or dangerous.” Despite several lower courts flouting this standard, the AR-15 is by no means unusual or dangerous. It’s a very good rifle for self-defense situations because of its versatility (you can make all sorts of ergonomic adjustments to the rifle very easily, along with mounting things like flashlights and lasers for targeting) as well as the number of rounds it can carry.

Any gun control law that puts the law-abiding at a disadvantage to the criminals they may have to face is a bad one. Limiting me to a 10-round magazine because some nut shot up a school with a 60-round drum magazine and a home invader is likely to have a 30-round magazine is morally wrong.

One Response to "A mental health problem, not a gun problem"
  1. Paul A Sand says:

    Matthew, I like your blog’s content, but don’t care for the low-contrast dark grey type on light-grey background. I blame myself, specifically my aging eyes. But: https://www.wired.com/2016/10/how-the-web-became-unreadable/

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