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January 12, 2013
The elephant in the living room in the gun control debate
Hush. Do you hear it? I can hear a pin drop. There is an almost absolute silence in discussion of the root causes of the gun violence that has traumatized so many. On the front pages and in the corridors of power so far it has been a one sided debate.
Our most liberal politicians have seized the moment and are pressing for greater restrictions on guns.
Guns are inert until the trigger is pulled. And it is the mind of the person who is pulling the trigger that is at the heart of the matter. Guns and magazines are as safe and insubstantial as a block of wood or a potato until someone decides to pull the trigger.
One can argue quite accurately that it is liberal politicians who are the real cause for so many guns flowing into our society. Ever since the Brady Bill every time restrictions have been proposed there has been a massive surge in gun sales. By stoking the fear that firearms may be restricted or banned, the politicians have fed demand and created panic buying rather than tamping down demand. Billions of dollars in firearms are sitting in gun safes because of this.
The firearms industry has been experiencing boom times and yet the FBI reports tell us that the violent crime rate has plummeted for the past 25 years. We have become more law abiding than ever as gun sales have flourished. This fact alone might cause the gun control advocates to consider their solutions, but it has not.
The real issue is very clearly the mental health and mindset of the murderers. In criminal law, mens rea; a "guilty mind" or the more poetic malice aforethought, must be established. This is at the core of our system of justice. The first step is to examine the mind of the criminal.
But the Vice President is trying a Bum's Rush in order to cram down some highly unpopular and quite possibly unconstitutional gun control laws. Some of our politicians are once again trying to overturn the 2nd Amendment. Rahm Emmanuel, after having just had Chicago's ban on firearms overturned, is now right back at it. Of course it is Mr. Emmanuel who famously stated "never let a good crisis go to waste".
In Newtown and in Columbine, CO; in Aurora; in Tucson, and at Ft. Hood it is clear that the shooters had incredibly dark mental health issues and many common traits.
They did not live in a vacuum. Criminologists and psychiatrists and therapists have all worked to understand the reasons for these massacres and others and there are boxcars of data. But the discussion of mental health is not a part of the desired narrative.
20%+ of our prison population has been diagnosed as mentally ill. The problem is not just massacres. It is ax murders and mothers drowning their own children and the physical and mental violence committed by and against the mentally ill.
The psychological profiles of many criminal types are well understood. That of mass murderers is well-known and is archetypal. One or perhaps two crazed loners at odds with society. And yet the political solution proposed is to regulate the many rather than the few.
There is an effective blackout in dispensing this information and encouraging root cause solutions. And so the debate is dishonest at its very heart.
Our country's treatment of the mentally ill is abysmal. Schizophrenia is often untreated or maltreated. Other forms of the madness that lead towards mayhem must also be addressed. It is not a matter of banning inanimate objects. It is a matter of addressing mental health and other factors in the decision to reach for a tool and lash out. But that is not the headline grabbing solution that attracts the politician or true believer.
From Skid Row to the prisons to Newtown, there is an elephant in the living room. Until we include this as topic #1 in our dialog, there will be no real change in the violence. Hammers killed more people in the United States last year than rifles. There will always be a tool at hand. It is the mind of the murderer and not the tool that is at issue.
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