Preventing Tragedy Outside The Box

As I watched the tragedy unfold in the news on Friday, I couldn’t help but think of my two daughters. The news was horrifying: a man had walked into a kindergarten class at a Connecticut elementary school, and opened fire. This monster had taken the lives of twenty children and several adults.

Disgustingly, the political reaction was almost immediate, with talking heads, pundits, politicians, and bloggers getting into the gun control debate almost immediately – even before they had finished counting the dead, the NRA, Fox News, and the Republican Party were being blamed for an unspeakable tragedy – just like when a crazed, mentally-unstable wacko shot up Gabrielle Giffords’ town hall meeting, the Left dug up some obscure page on Sarah Palin’s website and used it to blame her – despite a complete lack of evidence.

It was just a few days before the tragedy at Sandy Hook school that I wrote an article titled “Why Gun Bans are Dumb.” Despite the knee-jerk reaction of liberals across America, I still believe that to be true. Even if the US government were to ban guns altogether, that would not fix anything. This is proven by the example set by our cousins across the pond. England has had a gun ban in place for some time. After they banned guns, England saw a rise in violent crimes, as criminals became more brazen. Now, they are considering banning large kitchen knives, even as they are seeing a rise in gun crimes. The typical leftist counter-argument anytime someone points out the fact that areas within the United States with the most restrictive gun laws happen to be the areas with the worst gun violence is that criminals are able to bring guns from areas with less restrictive gun laws. This would not be true in the British Isles, yet they gun crimes are on the rise in that nation regardless.

The moral of the story is, banning things does not work…and in the case of firearms, banning guns creates more danger for the populace, not less. Just look at the areas where the worst mass shootings have occurred: schools, universities, a movie theater – all areas where carrying a gun was prohibited. Even the Fort Hood shooting, which took place on a military base, was perpetrated in an area where soldiers were not allowed to carry weapons. The “gun free zone,” designed with the intention of keeping people safe, just makes it that much easier for those intent on committing mass murder to do so. Creating a zone where people are guaranteed to be defenseless does little more than to turn people into victims.

Focusing on guns after these kinds of tragedies is easy. Blaming the weapon is a simple, straightforward approach that is taken again and again when tragedy strikes. But if gun bans were effective, then they would be…well, they would be effective. But they aren’t.

There are two common threads to the debate on guns: either we should ban guns, or we should arm everyone. The truth is that neither of these extremes holds the answer, but the evidence shows that banning guns will do harm to the law-abiding populace, forcing law abiding citizens to either become defenseless, or to become victims. The old adage still holds true: “when seconds count, the police are just minutes away.” Besides being unconstitutional, disarming the citizenry is the wrong way to go.

But there are two aspects of this that are worth looking into: mental health and gun-free zones. Most of the recent mass shootings have had two things in common: they were committed by people with mental health problems, and they were committed in so-called “gun-free” zones.

Identifying people with serious mental health issues and ensuring that those people get the care that they need is an ongoing challenge, and it is extremely important that states and communities across our nation take a serious look at addressing mental health issues. America does not have a gun problem — millions of Americans own guns, and every year, millions of Americans do not commit crimes with their legally owned guns. But we do seem to have an epidemic of mentally unstable individuals who, having not received proper treatment (or even diagnosis, in some cases), end up acting out violently in these kinds of mass shootings. We should be taking a close look at our mental health programs, and come up with ways that these programs can be modified to more effectively identify, diagnose, and treat people who need help.

We also need to take a close look at the practice of “gun-free” zones. A look at most of the mass-shootings from Columbine to today, most have occurred at schools and universities. Even the recent movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado occurred at a theater where guns were not allowed. What’s more, the theater where the shooting occurred was not the closest theater to the killer’s home…but of the theaters in Aurora that were showing the Batman film, that was the theater that expressly prohibited people from carrying concealed guns. There have been many cases over the years of people who either stopped mass shootings, or were able to prevent shooters from killing more people, because they had a gun nearby. One detail of the recent shooting at the mall in Clackamas, OR was that there was an armed citizen at the mall who was legally carrying a concealed handgun when the shooting started. This man did exactly the right thing — he prepared to take a shot, but decided against it because if he missed he may have hit an innocent person beyond the shooter. Not long after the shooter realized he wasn’t the only person in the area with a gun, he chose to take his own life. Without even firing a shot, this properly trained armed citizen may have saved dozens of lives, just by having his gun with him that day. The man is a hero, yet much of the nation has heard nothing of this aspect of the story.

Perhaps it is time to re-think the concept of gun-free zones. After all, advertising someplace as gun-free is like an invitation to someone intent on committing a mass-shooting. Rather than broadcasting that a place is safe, gun-free zones have turned out to be tantamount to shooting galleries for those evil and/or deranged people seeking to maximize casualties. Banning guns across America will only amplify this effect, leaving law-abiding citizens defenseless

The Second Amendment begins with these words: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…” I have heard some argue that the words “well regulated” here justify restrictive gun laws. But those words could just as well mean “properly trained.” The man who happened to be carrying in the mall at Clackamas was thrust into a high-stress situation, yet he had the proper training, and that training saved lives.

Earlier, I mentioned the adage “when seconds count, police are only minutes away.” Unbeknownst to many Americans, police do not have a constitutional duty to protect. American law enforcement is inherently reactionary: their job is to react once a crime has been committed, but their mandate does not extend to preventing crimes from happening. Given these facts, encouraging law-abiding citizens to get proper training and carry concealed weapons could do immense amounts of good in our society. Just one armed and trained individual could have made a world of difference at Sandy Hook.

The idea that more gun laws would have prevented the Sandy Hook tragedy just does not hold up. Even if the “assault weapons ban” had been in effect, it would not have changed anything. We need to start thinking outside of the political box if we want to implement real solutions that will make a difference and stop mass shootings like what happened in Connecticut last week.

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