Tuesday, February 5, 2013

“More Gun Foolishness”

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“More Gun Foolishness”
February 5, 2013

Tragedies almost always beget dubious responses. For the sake of looking busy and important, following the shootings in Connecticut, politicians have criss-crossed the country demanding gun reform. By that they mean limiting or reducing sales of automatic weapons and clips that hold more than a set number of cartridges. But they don’t want to look like spoilers of the Second Amendment, so they weasel around the subject in an unappealing manner. A collateral consequence was the silly photograph of the President allegedly firing a shotgun at clay pigeons, but, given the stance in which he was aiming at head level, more likely at Republican interlopers.

In terms of murder rates per thousand people there is little correlation between states with strict gun laws and those that are more liberal. Three states, including New Jersey, have implemented a one-gun-a-month policy, a policy endorsed in yesterday’s New York Times. The policy states that buyers, unless receiving an exemption from the superintendent of New Jersey’s state police, can only buy one hand gun per month. Of course, that also means that over a ten-year period anyone could purchase 120 weapons, enough to outfit a small army. Left unanswered, of course is the question: how many weapons does a criminal or a madman need? Again, there seems to be little relationship between murder rates and one-gun-a-month policy. In fact, all three states with such laws rank among the top half in murder rates. The other two states are Maryland, which ranked 4th in murder rates in 2011, and California that clocked in at 19th. (New Jersey comes in 24th, and is one of the few states not to have seen a decline in murder rates over the past fourteen years.)

The one-gun-a-month policy supposedly prevents an accumulation of weapons for re-sale to undesirable people; though it is far more likely that anyone wishing to buy anything on that scale is more interested in collecting than in killing. On its face, the law seems silly. Would not a national registration make more sense? Crimes and mass killings are the venue of the criminals and the insane, and that is where government’s focus should be. An op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal should be required reading by every member of Congress. The author is Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center. In the piece, Dr. Torrey discusses the failed initiative instituted fifty years ago, which closed mental state hospitals and substituted community mental-health centers. Most of those discharged never entered the community centers. Half of those discharged, those without family support, have done poorly. Dr. Torrey quotes from a study done by his center that notes that the untreated mentally ill are responsible for 10% of all homicides and a higher percentage of mass killings.

Nevertheless, the New York Times felt an obligation to enter the fray on the side of New Jersey, regardless as to the shallowness of their argument. Their ability to write ridiculous editorials is unsurpassed. Unfortunately, they have become so commonplace that they rarely necessitate mention, other than as a source of humor. The editorial yesterday on New Jersey’s one-gun-a-month policy brought new meaning to the word absurd.

The focus of authorities should be on keeping weapons out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. That means demanding just punishment for criminals and openness and honesty as to mental behavior, perhaps returning the obligation for their care to the states. It may mean violating some people’s sense of privacy and dealing with uncomfortable truths, but it is the greater good that should be considered. Neither the press nor authorities should ever forget that a rifle or a pistol is an inanimate object that left alone is harmless. It only becomes a lethal weapon when in the hands of one who is predisposed to do harm.

No comments:

Post a Comment