crime / gun control / mental illness and public health / nra / violent behavior

A silversmith’s prized gun craft…RIP

Earlier this year, I visited a jeweler in Lansing, MI and asked to see a gun which I spied on a shelf.  It turns out his father was a silversmith who took great pride in crafting this weapon.  Scanning through old photos today, I rediscovered the timely photo.  Note the RIP — the craftsman’s wry humor.

The incidence of mass shootings in America is clearly an anomaly compared to statistics worldwide. The issue must be addressed holistically from the behavioral/mental health dimension convinced worth regulatory measures.  We could see iy as an issue of supply and demand.

On the demand side,  the United States doesn’t have a favorable track record of public policy relayed to mental health management.  Recall decades ago when thousands of patients essentially became homeless after being released from institutions for financial reasons. There’s also the darndest thing about safeguarding our fundamental commitment to civil liberty.  The Virginia Tech shooter was known to have mental health issues.  We see this pattern repeatedly. By and large, the perpetrators are loose-screwed white males who manifest their disaffected suffering by committing these haenous acts.  They satisfy demand for their selected method of revenge by seeking out weapons.

In comes the supply.  Apart from whatever can be proactively improved to address the base cause which will require probably years of navigating a far denser thicket—one would think—than modifying some aspects of gun regulation,  while safeguarding the 2nd amendment right the bear arms would be at least mechanically more expedient.  Make the supply harder to get and  given required permitting criteria are met, at least legislate some sanity in the types of weapons and ammunition can be sold.

Clearly, gun ownership in other countries is lower. The U.S. leads in highest ownership per capita. Elsewhere around the world, mass shootings are not common and when they do occur, other governments take rapid measures, such as a mass amnesty buy-back as was done in Australia or such tactics to reduce guns in circulation.  (This has been done before in Washington, DC. where actually there’s been an alarming increase in homicides this year.)

Here’s another interesting article “Facts About Gun Control” –a blog post–from the Washington Post in June.  Also this Mother Jones analysis in July, now needs to be updated beyond the 71 mass shootings it has analyzed.  Of the 143 guns (as of July) used by the shooters, 75% were obtained legally.  So, what to do?

I absolutely support gun control.  While President Obama this week cited polling that the majority of Americans favor gun control. I haven’t found those survey results. This surprises me. I thought the general public was progressing on this issue. On the other hand, the increasing influence of the conservative media may be having an impact. As far as Congress passing legislation to limit availability of certain guns, the ever-strengthening holy writ of Political Action Committees will be trained on keeping them from doing so. MORE THAN HALF OF ALL SHOOTERS POSSESSED HIGH-CAPACITY MAGAZINES, ASSAULT WEAPONS OR BOTH.  33% of the cases documented at that time involved weapons that would have been more highly regulated if Senator Diane Feinstein’s (D-CA) proposed law to control these weapons had passed the Senate, but it was defeated.  It would be interesting to specifically pair up the National Rifle Association’s campaign finance contributions with that roll call.  According to one source on the internet, no contributions went to Democrats.  Funding concentrated on Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  A total of $1.4 million dollars were “invested” in other Republican politicians from 2009-2012. Here’s a report on that. 

NRA’s current PAC cash on hand is over $6 million dollars–gearing up.This does not reflect targeted “dark money” for the upcoming election cycle.  Surely many researchers will be focusing on this.

Clearly, the only reason Congress will not act, is pressure from the NRA.  It’s the elephant in the room.  Everyone knows about it–like the old days of big tobacco, but yet–incident by incident, no one has figured out how to fight back and it appears that the increasing prevalence of these mass shootings are increasing demand for guns.  The nature of Democracy is our porous system of influence so more power to those who leverage their influence with congress.  But, there’s got to be some conscience. There’s got to be a reality check somewhere.  One of the NRA’s current website posts is “There’s Never Been a Better Time to Become a Member”…unless of course the reader would prefer to learn about the “Gun of the Week.”

The sad fact is that even if Congress did muster some guts, as miraculously as they did recently, staring down AIPAC, to support the Iran nuclear agreement, (some who voted yes weren’t running for reelection,) that still wouldn’t take care of the cases of these mentally disturbed white males who have access to legal guns and commit mass murders.  That is a conundrum requiring much more complex solutions.

Nicholas Kristof addresses the broader epidemic of gun violence and how the focus needs to go beyond the needed regulatory tightening to addressing the epidemic as we’ve done with prior health risks such as tobacco, with a more comprehensive public health policy in his article today in the New York Times. At least, a beginning step would be to pass the legislation.

Given the increasing coverage of this topic, and to offer an aggregated reference for those interested, here are two other good articles I came across today. One addresses the vexing difficulty of addressing “the angry young men” problem–the other side of the gun control strategy.  The other offers Vox Media’s analysis of global gun violence data and referrals to numerous links.

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