When Bad Things Happen – Part 1

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I was up all night last night. Thinking, reading and writing. If you read  my reaction to the Portland mall shooting Tuesday, I am guessing you can figure out why.

One of the things I wrote was a comment responding to a post on Facebook by my friend, “Buddy” (not his real name). I thought I would share it here…

In our posts, we refer to an article about mass stabbings in China yesterday.

I will try to post the link, if I can figure out how to do it quickly enough, but you can also find it here:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/12/14/china-knife-attack-school.html

 

BUDDY:  What happened today is so very tragic as were the past shootings. As much as I would like to see gun laws reformed, it would not have prevented this from happening. Just today in China a similar attack happened, instead of guns being used knives were used. We could put metal detectors and security at every entrance of every school library or public building, shopping mall and theater. We could outright ban guns entirely and not change anything. What we need to do as humankind, as a society, is to address the underlying problems that pushes us as countries, groups or individuals to the point that we feel the only way to achieve results is through fear,violence or someones death. Somehow we as a society have to stop these tragedies from happening.

 

ELYSE:  I agree with you almost completely Buddy, but also think it is noteworthy that the children and woman in China were injured, and have chances to recover. In the U.S. similar perpetrators have semi-automatic guns with high-capacity clips that significantly diminish the opportunity to escape and survive. Bad things are going to happen, but I believe our nation’s tragedies are made profoundly worse by the ease of acquisition of guns. If it is harder to buy “assault” weapons and high-capacity clips, less people own them, and it will be more difficult for potential perpetrators to get them by buying them or stealing them from people they know (as was the case in Portland). Nothing is going to prevent tragedies from EVER happening, but I think there are ways of diminishing the frequency and degree of devastation one person can wreak on those at a school, in a mall, or swimming in a river, in the single or small number of opportunities they tend to get to act.

I believe we need a system that allows those dedicated to being responsible gun owners/users the opportunity to do so, but weed out those acting on more situational or impulsive motivators. It seems to me this could be done by making gun ownership/use of any gun capable of holding more than 10 bullets (or other capacities/firing rates beyond those of hunting rifles, shotguns, or small handguns) require: (1) a prolonged, concerted effort and (2) acceptance of responsibility associated with the power of owning a gun. This could be done by requiring background checks, courses and competency requirements for licensing, public service protection/militia training and registration commensurate with the 2nd amendment right allowing citizens to have said gun, AND requiring potential buyers to pay for and complete background checks, classes, certifications, etc. to get a license allowing them to legally purchase a gun.

Yes, people would still sell guns illegally, which means people could still buy guns illegally, but that does not make anything any different than it is now, or was when the ban on assault weapons was in effect. But those who break laws are criminals, subject to punishment by law. Fees for licensing could include enforcement funding, which could help reduce incentive for generally legitimate gun sellers to circumvent the system. Owning an illegal firearm one can’t justify having simply because they “can” would also be more likely to raise big red flag to those who know a person, and their behavioral propensities.

Since mental health problems tend to “cycle” in intensity, it is not unreasonable to think that the potential side effect of a prolonged process for gun ownership could take the time someone needs to cycle out of a highly violent episode of mental illness, or to register on someone’s radar, and get the help they need. This is just my opinion…or the Facebook part of it, at least.

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