December 17, 2012

Is A Sensible Discussion Of Gun Control And Mental Health Issues Possible?

.223 Semiautomatic Bushmaster Rifle
When there’s a national tragedy related to gun violence, politicians and the National Rifle Association (NRA), often say “now is not the time to discuss gun control policy.”

On Friday December 14th, 2012 White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded to a reporter’s question that “today is not the day” to talk about gun control.

When will it be the right time?

I looked at the NRA website, and there isn’t one word about the Newtown massacre. There’s
a section
called “
Wayne’s Commentary.” I don’t have a clue who Wayne is, and I don’t know why his commentary is important to members of the NRA. Wayne is definitely a gun lover. He says:
Virginia Commonwealth University Professor Thomas Baker has crunched the numbers in the state of Virginia, and has determined that gun sales in the state have climbed 73% since 2006, while the number of violent crimes involving guns has declined by more than 27%.

I don't know anyone who thinks a decline in violent crime can be attributed to a single factor. That's not the point. The point is that, despite Goddard's new assertion, the anti-gunners have been telling us that what's happening in Virginia is impossible. The point is people like Andrew Goddard think that Virginians would be safer with Chicago-style gun control laws, even though that flies in the face of logic and reality.

The point is, gun owners and the NRA have been right all along. It's the criminals, not the law-abiding gun owners, who are the issue. More guns, less crime isn't just "quite possible," it's a fact.
So the NRA’s “Wayne” says that even though gun sales have gone through the roof in Virginia, and violent crime has been reduced 27%, that it’s the “criminals” who are the issue.
The perpetrators of the mass shootings in Connecticut and Colorado used semi-automatic assault weapons, and the guns were legally purchased. They didn’t have criminal records that indicated a propensity for violence. I think it’s safe to say that in both cases, there were major mental health issues.

I’d love to ask the NRA’s Wayne how the Connecticut and Colorado murderers, fit his hypotheses that “it’s the criminals” and that lax gun control laws, and the stigma of mental health treatment, doesn’t contribute to our violent culture.

While there are some federal and state laws related to the sale and purchase of guns and firearms, there are 33 states with little to no regulation of gun show or private sale regulation. Frequently called the “gun show loophole,” because anyone can buy a gun from a private dealer without a background check. That must change.

I think it’s important for hunters to be able to continue to hunt, and hunting rifles don’t do the damage that semi-automatic or automatic assault weapons do. I’m personally not comfortable with handguns, and don’t understand why anyone other than a law enforcement officer would need to have one.

I know there are some complex issues surrounding guns, and I certainly don’t have all of the answers. Regardless, we must have a national discussion about guns. We also need to have a discussion about mental health care, and mental health treatment, and need to encourage our political leaders to expand funding for mental health treatment, not reduce it.

Even though Wayne says “it’s the criminals who are the issue,” this problem is much more complex and goes well beyond that. Gun violence will not end by enacting more criminal penalties. Smart gun control, including legislation in every state regulating the sale and purchase of guns, closing the gun show loophole, and destigmatizing and promoting mental health treatment, would be a positive first step in the right direction.

And Wayne - that’s a fact.


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