The NRA is Half Right

September 26, 2013

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.

More Than Just Talk

July 20, 2012

The horrific mass murder in Aurora, Colorado during a showing of the latest Batman movie has, as has been the case so many times in the past, caused politicians to engage in empty platitudes. President Obama called for a period of reflection and Mitt Romney asked for national unity. All well and good but just words when what is called for are deeds.

No truly sane nation would find logic in the right of its citizens to own automatic weapons, multiple automatic weapons. No truly sane nation would view the ” right to bear arms” as meaning perfunctory background checks or purchases of deadly weapons at gun shows. No truly sane nation would allow a powerful interest group, in this case the National Rifle Association, to so control the national debate on gun ownership that any hint of rational restriction is viewed as un-American. Remember I said sane nation.

What this nation needs are political leaders who address the senseless gun violence in this country rather than be intimidated by the gun lobby. Few Americans would deny the right of Americans to own a gun for the purpose of protecting their family and home from danger. Few Americans would deny hunters the right to enjoy a sport that requires ownership of guns. Few Americans would condemn the store owner from shooting back at a robber intent on doing bodily harm. Most Americans are for gun ownership, but most Americans are not for automatic weapons in the hands of crazy people or someone with a huge grudge against society.

The only good that might come out of this terrible night of killing is that a new issue has been added to the presidential campaign and it will be interesting to see which of the candidates actually promises to do something about automatic weapons, unlicensed purchases at gun shows, and useless background checks.

It is proper that Obama and Romney are taking a day off from campaigning and offering words of solace to devastated families, but tomorrow and the next day and the next day the vast majority of sane Americans deserve real action to rein in gun ownership that has nothing to do with safety, hunting or protection. Words are OK at this time, but actions speak louder than words.