Sunday, July 22, 2012

More Gun Control?

A tragedy in Colorado Thursday night/Friday morning. Twelve people killed, and 58 or so wounded, most with gunshots as a crazy killer shot up a movie theater during the Dark Night Rises premiere. It's nuts, and I don't know what we do from here. There are any number of complaints about gun control, as well as counter arguments against it, in CO. Our governor in Colorado, who was shaken at a press conference Friday, refuses to call for more gun control laws.

I have to admit I'm somewhat torn here. I don't think that assault weapons are to blame for this. It's the actions of a crazy person. A loner, whose mother wasn't surprised. That alone is a little scary, and it makes me agree with my wife that perhaps we should be de-stigmatizing the idea of mental health counseling, and watching people that are extreme loners or maladjusted and getting them help early on. I'm not sold it would have prevented this, though maybe it would have delayed things. Hard to tell, and I'm not making a judgment until we know more about what happened.

However despite my thoughts that we should not be preventing the sale of guns to people, perhaps we should be examining sales a bit more. I'm a data guy, and I know there are patterns to be found. This guy bought 4 weapons in 60 days (or something like that). I know there are legitimate reasons to do that, but should more than 2 purchases (or even 2) trigger some response from somewhere?

He bought thousands of rounds of ammunition. That along with a large capacity magazine, and the timing, should probably have raised an alarm. I think there are legitimate reasons to need thousands of rounds. I might be stocking up from a sale. I might be buying because I'm taking 50 Scouts camping at a range and they'll be shooting. There might be other reasons, but in no way should I be offended if the local sheriff comes and asks me why. I ought to have a reason, and most of them should satisfy the officer, and we can both go on our ways. If I can't satisfy him, perhaps the sheriff has some right to confiscate things, but there needs to be a clear appeal process, not involving the law enforcement groups, that allows owners to recover their weapons in a timely manner.

But I might be crazy, I might act very strangely. I dislike the idea of being accused of a crime without committing one, but I also dislike the idea of letting violence go because no one wants to intrude on a right to privacy, which I'm not sure applies here.

Weapons are a fact of life. They're listed in our Constitution, and I do think we ought to be able to own, collect, use, and carry them. I don't like the idea of everyone carrying a gun everywhere, but I also think that's not necessarily a bad thing. I do think that the right to bear arms isn't unconditional, and there is a level of responsibility in owning them. If you're responsible, and not a criminal, then any questions about unusual purchases shouldn't be a problem to answer. If you're a criminal, perhaps a small check or red flag might alert police to potential problems.

There's no perfect solution here, and I don't think less guns prevent problems like this, but perhaps a little more intelligence applied to the data can help.


Unknown said...

I agree with your thoughts on considering seriously helping individuals with such conditions as early as possible. This may not be complete solution but will make the dent in loosing innocent lives.

Tim Mitchell said...

Agreed, Steve. A lack of gun laws isn't the problem, and I don't think we need to punish everyone for the actions of a very, very few. It can't be stated strongly enough that criminalization of gun ownership means that only the bad guys have guns.

However, there should be limits. I don't think citizens ever have a legitimate reason to own hand grenades or rocket launchers, and while I don't think automatic weapons are necessarily bad I think they should be tightly controlled. Similarly, if someone is buying 4 guns or a ridiculous amount of ammo in a short period of time, it warrants at least an inquiry as to why.

But even with these protections, bad things will happen. Though I've never gone searching for it, I've heard that it's quite easy to find out how to convert weapons from semiauto to full auto, or to learn how to build explosives in your back yard. The answer is accountability for one's actions - swift and harsh justice for people who are convicted of these crimes.

As to the diagnosis and treatment for mental health issues, I totally agree that there's a social stigma that goes along with that, and as a result some people who need treatment won't seek it. This is a harder thing to police, though. If I believe my weird reclusive neighbor is up to something, he might be thinking the same thing about me. This guy's mother said that she wasn't surprised by her son's actions, but I suspect that there are many thousands of parents (or brothers, or children, or friends) out there who might misunderstand their loved ones' behavior and unfairly say the same thing.

It's a tough subject to work through, and I suspect this event will be used to fuel the argument on both sides for a long time to come.

Tim Mitchell said...
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Tim Mitchell said...
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