Gun Control - Will Public Safety Improve by Controlling Guns?
The heartless slaughter of 20 kindergarten students and seven adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut has placed gun control at the forefront of the national conversation - once again. The logic has an inexorable simplicity to it. If Adam Lanza did not have guns this never would have happened. It seems straightforward, doesn't it? No guns, no deaths. This article questions the logic of assuming that more gun laws will improve public safety. It also questions whether leaders who argue for more gun control are being responsible or even intellectually honest.
Guns Are the Weapon of Choice in Most Mass Murders
Mass murders of innocents often involve guns. That is undeniable. The list, sadly, grows:
· Long Island Railroad New York 1993 - 6 deaths and 19 injuries
· University of Texas Tower massacre in 1966 - 16 deaths and 29 injuries
· Moses Lake Washington 1996 - 3 killed 1 injured
· Thurston High School Oregon 1998 - 2 deaths and 22 injuries
· Westside Middle School Arkansas 1998 - 5 deaths and 10 injuries
· Columbine High School Colorado 1999 - 12 deaths and 21 injuries
· Red Lake High School Minnesota 2005 - 10 deaths and 5 injuries
· Amish Schoolhouse Pennsylvania 2006 - 6 deaths and 5 injuries
· Virginia Tech 2007 - 33 deaths and 29 injuries
· Chardon High School Ohio 2012 - 3 deaths and 3 injuries
· Aurora movie theater shooting 2012 - 12 deaths and 59 injuries
The shooter or shooters are often killed during the incident or they committed suicide. Because of this, psychiatric details are often missing and professional mental health opinions are rendered based on factual details gleaned from interviews with the perpetrator's family and acquaintances.
What is a Psychopath?
Few would disagree that the killers in these cases were mentally ill, possibly psychopaths. According to an article in the Association for Psychological Science,a psychopath suffers from a personality disorder manifested by shallow emotions, lack of fear, no empathy, egocentricity, superficial charm, manipulativeness, impulsivity, antisocial behavior, a lack of remorse and a parasitic lifestyle. In Erik Larson's bestselling book The Devil in the White City, he provides a detailed story of psychopathic serial killer H.H Holmes. Holmes was a charming con man who lured victims to his elaborate Murder Castle.
A Cunning Mentally Deranged Person Will Not Be Deprived of His Weapon
When I say a mentally deranged person I am including the mass killers mentioned above as well as committed jihadists and other radicals who kill in the name of religion or ideology. These are not killers who turn to murder out of rage, jealousy or any of the other motives known best to opera writers. These are cold blooded killers who drench themselves in the soothing waters of evil and turn their desire for death upon innocent victims.
Try a mental exercise. Imagine that we could eliminate ALL guns in the hands of people other than those in law enforcement. This is quite an imaginative exercise, because it can't be done, at least not here in the United States under our Constitutional framework. But let's imagine on and let's see how it could be done. First it would require a repeal of the Second Amendment, the one that guarantees us the right to bear arms. Next it would require martial law, because removing guns means removing guns from all citizens, and that takes some pretty tricky police work, not the kind that could be done under current law. Then we would have to suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus, because we couldn't brook a lot of pesky lawyers demanding to know why their clients were incarcerated. To further imagine a totally gun free society we would need the authorities to conduct warrantless home and car searches to make sure nobody is harboring a gun. This, of course would require a repeal of the Fourth Amendment, the one that protects us from unreasonable search and seizure. So yes, using the above theoretical framework, we could achieve total gun control, and if you owned one you just may use it one more time - to blow your own brains out.
In the exercise above, we've eliminated all guns. So what's a killer to do? Will he sit down and pen a nasty Letter to the Editor? Will he let out a deep breath and say, "Gee, maybe I shouldn't kill anybody"? Unlikely. A killer kills not because he wants to get practice using his gun. He kills because of his mental derangement or because of his moral derangement. By eliminating all guns, in the above theoretical mind game, all we will have done is to change the choice of weapons. The killer will not be deprived of a weapon.
The Killer's Choices in a Post Gun Control World
A gun is a weapon, nothing more nothing less. A weapon doesn't cause its own use, it is merely an instrumentality.
· 9/11 - Boxcutters were used by Islamic terrorists to subdue the aircraft personal leading to the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the failed attempt possibly aimed at the US Capital. Total killed almost 3,000.
· The Tokyo Subway Attacks of 1995 - Sarin Gas was the weapon of choice by the domestic terrorist group. 13 were killed and about 1,100 injured.
· Car bombs, Molotov cocktails, roadside bombs, and suicide vest bombs. To review all of the incidents just in the last 25 years would take a book not an article.
Can There and Should There be Reasonable Gun Control Laws?
You will notice that the above question is loaded - loaded with the word "reasonable." I submit that we have many reasonable gun control laws, that we could use some more, and yes, they should be on the books. Here is what my idea of reasonable is. Please add to this in your comments.
· Mental health background checks. A person who has suffered from mental illness should not be able to possess a gun. This will avoid countless domestic dispute deaths. Will it avoid a mass murder as in the Newton Connecticut tragedy? No it wouldn't. As of this writing we have learned that the killer, Adam Lanza, had a history of mental problems. But the guns were not his. He stole them from his mother.
· Alcohol and drug abuse background checks. It's hard to argue that a habitual drunk or drug addict should not have a gun. These people are not known for their reasoned judgment. But, just as in the above discussion of mental health checks, such regulations will not prevent an intentional mass murder. A committed killer will find his weapons, guns or otherwise.
In the wake of a tragedy such as Newtown, the issue of gun control inevitably comes up. Who can be more innocent than the little victims in their school? A lot of the gun control pleas that began within hours of the tragedy could almost be recorded messages. This article is intended to focus on a terribly important issue, the murder of innocents, and to avoid the clichés of the gun control debate. I will be happy to respond to reasoned comments. If you majored in psychology and regurgitate your senior thesis in a comment, I'm not available to respond. This is a far more serious matter. If experience is any guide, I will see that many commentators will read my title and respond to it without reading the article. Please read it and then respond.
Copyright © 2012 by Russell F. Moran