Monday, December 17, 2012

Price paid is too much

One wonders where is the tipping point? Have we reached it? 20 first graders shot, not once, but multiple times (some of them as many as 11 times) by what can only be explained, at the moment, as the acts of a deranged person. The public looks for a reason and mental illness satisfies their immediate need for an answer.

As has been noted - the shooter fits the mass murderer profile, and the school had protective security arrangements, more than any school should ever need. The shooter wasn't deterred - he shot his way in.

The shooter also appears to have obtained the guns from his mother's collection, legally possessed. It is safe to say that he stole his weapons without the need of background checks or a period of waiting time, but that would not have made any difference.

The shooter was just another person who was not on any person's watch list.  Nothing to indicate that he could not have obtained the weapons himself. These were inexplicable acts that defy attempts to find social, political or personal causation factors. There is simply no better way to characterize his actions except as those of a deranged person.

Was he wired wrong? Was there some event that tipped him over the line? The search for answers, especially the easy ones, is on the way. It is always better for the public to be fed answers that intuitively makes sense yet unprovable.

To that end, we will most likely hear from the 'ours is a violent society' group that seeks to connect anything they see as violent as a catalyst for further violence, video games the obvious culprit.

And there are those that accept, inexplicably, that since we live in a violent society, we, therefore, just have to live with it. Of course that is circuitous reasoning.  Once violence is acceptable, the more violence there will be. Violent society is made not born.

One also has to keep in mind that despite what seems to be the constant daily reports of gun violence, used in crimes and between gangs, never results in the intentional murder of children.

But the anti-gun advocates will be doing their best to blame all ills of our society on guns, and they may have a point. But it is irrational and unlikely that guns can be banned in their entirety. Oddly, the fear of a ban increases the sales. [Interesting is that an Oregon background check normally only takes 15 minutes with no other delay in acquisition.]

And to make it worse to find acceptable and reasonable solutions that benefit a civilized society, the gun lobby will be out in force with the 'guns don't kill people, people kill people' banner. Frankly there is a lot of truth to that - but that doesn't mean we need to arm everyone or that the second amendment guarantees an absolute right to arms without regulation.

And there are those that stand at the ready to let the children of others be the price paid to defend a 1791 amendment to the constitution: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." [Second Amendment | U.S. Constitution | LII / Legal Information Institute].
Analysis from the Congressional Research Service [excerpt]: "In spite of extensive recent discussion and much legislative action with respect to regulation of the purchase, possession, and transportation of firearms, as well as proposals to substantially curtail ownership of firearms, there is no definitive resolution by the courts of just what right the Second Amendment protects. The opposing theories, perhaps oversimplified, are an “individual rights” thesis whereby individuals are protected in ownership, possession, and transportation, and a “states’ rights” thesis whereby it is said the purpose of the clause is to protect the States in their authority to maintain formal, organized militia units.  Whatever the Amendment may mean, it is a bar only to federal action, not extending to state  or private restraints."
Surely the United States Constitution doesn't permit mass shootings.

However, the easiest answer that satisfies most is mental illness. It is the go to cause of all things bad. Somehow mental illness evacuates all emotion and reasoning that should lead to outrage. The public seems quite ready to accept mental illness, even if it doesn't come within the legal definition, as a rational explanation.

One might noticed that adults being murdered in what might be called non-criminal situations, i.e., not crimes of passion, robbery, etc., doesn't seem to evoke much concern. Maybe it is because the these shootings can be ascribed to 'mental illness.'

Was this shooter tipped over in his thinking by some event - or had he been planning this for some time? Remember he first killed his mother. Even if so - could he have been stopped outside of a total confession of his intent? But consider that if the autopsy, or maybe later disclosed medical records, determine that he was mentally ill by anyone's definition, the conversation will change.

But - one still has to ask - what could have been in place to stop this shooter? It would appear (I am hoping for reasonable alternatives) that nothing short of a total ban on weapons, or at least those certain weapons like the semi-automatic that did the damage, would have sufficed.

There does though seem to be a connection between the automatic war-like weapons and mass shooters. Even locally in Portland, these automatics are common in the police reports on weapons used or possessed. The strength of the connection needs to be tested.

Isn't it reasonable to ban the domestic manufacture and sale of these weapons in ordinary commerce. And similarly ban the import of these assault weapons. Provisions for legitimate collectors could easily be included.

The sad truth is that after everybody from the president on down has made a pitch for some gun regulations aimed at preventing another Connecticut tragedy - nothing will be done. We can expect a replay along with the concomitant hand-wringing.

After an acceptable waiting period -it will be business as usual. Politicians know (or perceive) that campaign funding and support from the gun lobby is necessary to their political survival.  After all that is what politics is all about, not that the constituents count, it is the money.

In the balance, narrowing an individual's 'right' to own and possess assault weapons and ammunition (designed for maximum damage) like that used in Connecticut must be the price paid to prevent another mass shooting. It is a fair price - isn't it?

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