Tuesday, January 8, 2013

In the Crosshairs

In the wake of the shooting tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, the anti-gun people are predictably calling for more restrictive laws on firearms.  No one is against common-sense regulations on weapons, e.g., background checks to make sure a prospective buyer doesn't have a criminal record or history of mental illness.  

The problem with gun laws, as with all laws, is that only law-abiding citizens obey them.  Criminals couldn't care less about the laws - that's what makes them criminals.  Thus, more restrictive gun laws are unlikely to reduce criminal behavior.  

The gun control crowd is focused on a symptom and not the disease.  Al Sharpton, in advocating for stricter gun laws, used the analogy of a headache.  To paraphrase the good reverend, if you have a headache,  you take an aspirin to get rid of it.  What Sharpton seems to miss is that a headache is a symptom of another, deeper problem.  If you only treat the symptom and do nothing about the underlying causative disorder, the symptom will recur over and over.  

In a similar fashion, enacting tighter gun control laws will do nothing to prevent future violence and will certainly not alleviate the underlying problem.    Clearly, in the shootings in Arizona (Gabby Giffords), Colorado and Connecticut, all three gunmen were mentally deranged to one degree or another.  It would be more useful to focus on recognizing and treating mental illness than to focus on the means by which they achieved their atrocities.  Charles Krauthammer, who at one time was a practicing psychiatrist, has said that it used to be easier to commit people who were believed to be a danger to themselves or others, but organizations such as the ACLU have made involuntary commitment more difficult.  While recognizing that abuse is certainly a concern with involuntary commitment, there surely is a way to formulate common-sense laws that will protect the community while preserving the rights of the mentally ill.  It's time to focus on the people who perpetrate these heinous acts instead of the inanimate weapons which they employ in their violence.  

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