Weighing In

My Facebook friends are likely sick of my gun control posts, so I’m turning here instead. The NRA today held their much-anticipated news conference, just one week after the slaughter of innocents in Connecticut (almost to the hour).

Aside from the weird, paranoid, stream-of-consciousness rant (“..Add another hurricane, terrorist attack, or some other natural of manmade disaster, and you’ve got a recipe for a national nightmare of violence and victimization.”), there was plenty of blame going around—politicians, video game publishers, the news media, Hollywood.

But not once did he address the notion that maybe, just maybe, there is no place in civilized society for military style assault rifles with ammunition magazines that hold 100 rounds and can kill 26 people in ten minutes. (The shooter in Aurora, CO, had such a weapon and magazine; the CT shooter has several magazines of 30 rounds each.). We can ban fireworks, but not high firepower machines designed specifically to destroy life. We can ban Italian chocolate, but not assault weapons.

Mental Illness

Yes, we have a serious problem with mental illness in this country. But is it worse than other countries? The CDC says that 25% of the US population has a mental illness. Compared to other countries (according to the World Health Organization), we don’t spend the most on mental health services as a percentage of our national health expenditures. But neither do we spend the least.

After each of these mass killings, there are always those who come forward to suggest that the shooter was “not right,” or mentally ill or some variation on a theme. The Colorado shooter was under professional psychiatric care. The mother of the Connecticut shooter was living off nearly $300,000 a year of alimony, so she clearly has the resources to seek professional care for her son, and according to reports she was well aware of his problems.

So identification and access are not entirely the problem, as I see it.

That said, the loopholes and state “volunteer reporting” of mental illness and criminal records makes the so-called three-day background check a complete joke. And for some strange reason, Congress has banned US authorities from researching and reporting on the number of gun crimes perpetrated by someone who should have been denied their gun purchase…had the database been useful.

Fire, Ready, Aim

But back to the NRA, whose big contribution to the discussion is that we put our schools in a police state with armed guards. They suggest there are armed guards at grocery stores. Um…where do YOU shop, dude? Yes, there are armed guards at banks. Collectively, US banks made $34.5 BILLION in profits last year. They can afford armed guards.

Our schools can’t.

Is the NRA willing to pay for these guards?

Now, back to reality. Trained officers have an accuracy rate of about 34 percent, depending on the circumstances. In many cases, as in the shooting outside the Empire State Building, innocent bystanders are shot…or the police can not fire on the shooter because of bystander risk. In fact, one witness in the recent Portland, OR mall shooting was carrying a legal, licensed concealed weapon. According to the fantasy scenario of gun advocates, this would have stopped the shooter in his tracks. But instead, this armed witness took cover knowing he was more likely to shoot innocent bystanders than the actual shooter. Go figure.

How do you suppose this would play out in a school of children and teachers scattering in every direction?

The Rambo-like fantasies of the gun lobby need to be checked (see “Mental Illness,” above).

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