Saturday, October 3, 2015

Ok. The Cure For Gun Violence: What Do You Have?

Over the past couple of days, I've watched our president call out gun owners and 2nd Amendment advocates for getting in the way of "sensible" gun laws, notwithstanding the fact that the sorts of laws he talks about and the sort that are commonly mooted usually would have had NO effect on the ability of shooters to procure guns for their purpose. I have run across a plethora of others, online and elsewhere, who have called us out as a society on how hideously we treat our citizens, the mentally healthy and otherwise, and how well other countries treat their own, suggesting that this sort of thing doesn't happen elsewhere, neatly forgetting the horrible massacre in Norway and the recent killings in Australia. I have also noticed the sense of smug superiority and condescension from the "we have to do something" crowd toward anyone who points out the complications.
Walk me through this. There is the "too many guns" argument. We have some 300 to 350 million guns presently within the bounds of the United States, and we have a 2nd Amendment that (however you want to parse it) has been interpreted to allow for private ownership. The courts have struck down gun controls in Washington, DC, Chicago and the like, and have placed strictures on the sorts of actions the states, cities, and the federal government can take to "solve" this problem. Far too many people are willing to call out responsible gun owners and other people of reasonable character who, generally, disagree with them about gun control and, probably, everything else, suggesting that if they just get out of the way, the problem can be solved. But consider: in a country of over 300 million people, where there are more than enough guns to outfit every man, woman, and child, actual statistics on violent acts like Sandy Hook, Umpqua and the like reflect a vanishingly small likelihood of occurrence. And yet they continue to happen every so often to the same sorts of reactions.
Then there's the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" argument. Part of the issue is that violent people who want to kill people will find a way, guns or no guns, like Timothy McVeigh and, quite likely, the recent Charleston shooter. But for the most part, shooters have been mentally disturbed and seeking to take out their aggressions and their failures on others. And in the face of that sort of problem, we have fallen amazingly short of any reasonable response. A significant part of the difficulty is that we chose, in the 1960s, to de-institutionalize the mentally ill and offer them pills and panaceas instead of concerted care. As far back as 1984, the New York Times was noting that part of the price of de-institutionalization was a ramping up of state resources to take care of the mentally ill through out patient clinics and the like. And to be blunt, this did not happen. For example, the Virginia Tech shooter was repeatedly brought to the attention of authorities for being mentally ill, and yet legally got guns and managed his attack with frightening ease. (One of the loopholes in how he acquired guns was closed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System - NICS.) But nevertheless, the problem of the mentally ill going untreated and getting their hands on weapons persists.
So, with these two issues in juxtaposition, I ask you this: what do you propose? Do you actually have an idea of how to solve this problem, or will you simply slander everyone who disagrees with you and your more comprehensive view of government by slyly suggesting that they are perfectly fine with seeing periodic gun violence as the price of gun ownership? I will admire to see honest responses.