The NRA is Half Right

If anyone has followed my blog ruminations over the years, I think it is perfectly clear that I am not a fan of the National Rifle Association and favor tougher gun laws in this country. But when the gun advocates put on their car bumper stickers that ” Guns Don’t Kill, People Kill”, they are half-right.

It is now crystal clear that this country has a woefully underfunded and under appreciated mental health system. Whether it is the massacre in Arizona that left Representative Gabby Giffords paralyzed, the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado on Batman night or the recent rampage at the Navy Yard by a killer who was tormented by electromagnetic radio waves, what connects these shootings is access to guns despite evidence of mental illness. If there is any logical defense of the need for strong background checks and regulations on gun ownership, it is in the area of denying guns to those with records of mental disorders.

Unfortunately, what we have in this country is not only a broken mental health system ( system is really too kind a word) but the fear and unwillingness of family and friends of the mentally disturbed to seek counseling or forced commitment to a mental health facility. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to state that most of us either know or have seen people exhibiting aberrant behavior and just ignore it when it is clear that such people need help.

People in this country get killed every day with guns, but too many of these high profile massacres are the work of someone who has paranoid tendencies, violent outbursts or suffers from a range of delusions. So the answer would seem to be a full-scale effort to strengthen our mental health programs, alert people to the signs of mental illness, and be aware of those will severe mental problems around us.

But while mental health reform is being addressed, there cannot be a half-right position taken by the NRA and other gun lobbyists that guns don’t kill, people kill. Guns in the hands of the mentally disturbed do kill and usually kill many innocents. This country does need tougher gun laws, if for no other reason than with a broken mental health system Americans need assurance that those with severe mental issues are not buying up guns without responsible registration or sales regulations. It’s just common sense.

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