COMMENTARY | As a gun-owner for more than 25 years, I have heard the arguments on both sides. But waiting periods, bans on various firearms or ammunition-feeding devices, registration or excessive taxes simply do not work because criminals do not obey the laws.
In the wake of the Newton shooting, I was asked by friends and family, "What laws could have been passed to prevent this tragedy?"
Sadly my answer was: "Not one single gun law would have made the least bit of difference that day."
Criminals, by their nature, do not obey laws and nothing would have stopped a determined killer from carrying out his plans.
Americans are guaranteed the right to keep and bear arms by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court has ruled that this is an individual right and applies to modern weapons in current use, not just those in use at the time the amendment was written.
However, if I were a politician on the national level and wanted to enact a piece of legislation that would help to prevent mass-shootings carried out by a mentally-deranged shooter, I would look to that problem and restrict access to firearms by the mentally ill or those on psychotropic medications.
Currently it is illegal for someone who is mentally defective (in that they are potentially dangerous to themselves or others or incapable of managing their own affairs) to purchase a firearm through a licensed dealer. Unfortunately, according to according to this 2007 report by the FBI, not all states submit this information to the federal government.
Furthermore, according to a 2009 article published in Psychiatric Times by doctors Donna M. Norris and Marilyn Price, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System "contained only 235,000 mental health records as of January 2006, although it was estimated that 2.7 million people had been involuntarily institutionalized for mental health disorders."
To keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill, we should ensure that those who pose a clear threat to the lives of our fellow citizens are tallied alongside the violent felons, dishonorably discharged veterans and other prohibited persons as opposed to relying on their absolute honesty when checking box 11(f) on a form 4473.
While serving as a U.S. Marine, I suffered a seizure and was reported immediately to the DMV to have my driver's license revoked. I was told to expect "no right to privacy when the safety of the general public is at risk."
Who poses a greater threat to the public safety? A one-time sufferer of a seizure behind the wheel of a car or an unreported mentally ill person seeking to do harm to other people?
It may not have stopped the shooter in Newtown who murdered his way into possession of a semiautomatic rifle, but could it have stopped the shooters in Tucson or Aurora?
According to the Mayors Against Illegal Guns organization, "The lack of adequate reporting of the mentally ill to NICS was responsible, in part, for allowing Seung-Hui Cho to kill 32 people at Virginia Tech in April 2007." Cho purchased his handguns one month prior to the shooting, despite a judge's finding that he was "an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness." In 2005, Virginia changed its laws and reports all such mental-illness cases to NICS.
Unfortunately, politicians have decided to focus on the types of firearms used in these tragedies and are attempting to criminalize millions of Americans for the possession of rifles and handguns which "look scary," while having no impact on the real problem: scary individuals.
- Politics & Government