I’ve been trying to make sense of the senseless, to comprehend the incomprehensible, and that effort is as futile as you might expect.
Clearly, to quote Hamlet, the time is out of joint, and something must be done. Ignore the self-serving politicians who point fingers and assign blame for their own personal gain. Trump is no more responsible for the recent mass shootings than Bernie Sanders was for the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise, or Elizabeth Warren is for the shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and those who spout that kind of accusatory rhetoric are either ethically unfit or too stupid, or both, to hold public office.
The immediate knee-jerk reaction is a hue and cry to ban semi-automatic rifles. All right, let’s talk about that.
The modern semi-automatic rifle is the most popular firearm in America today, owned by millions of people who use them for recreational shooting, hunting, and home defense with no thought of ever harming anyone. But let’s put that aside and seriously consider punishing the innocent for the atrocities of the guilty.
Anti-gun groups and politicians always claim hard-core Second Amendment supporters—guys like me—are unwilling to make any compromise, but compromise, by definition, means both sides give up something for the greater good, and no anti-gun group or politician has ever offered up anything. If a viable solution to violence is to make innocent gun owners pay for the sins of the criminal, let us indeed compromise and carry that precept further to encompass other civil rights. I have some suggestions.
We’ll start with mental health, and I’ll open the conversation by quoting the first paragraph of an August 4th commentary in the Wall Street Journal by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center and author of American Psychosis:
“Based on the increase in the U.S. population, there are now some one million people with serious mental illness living among the general population who, 60 years ago, would have been treated in state mental hospitals. Multiple studies have reported that, at any given time, between 40% and 50% of them are receiving no treatment for their mental illness. With the best of intentions and the worst of planning, America has emptied out its public psychiatric hospitals without ensuring that the released patients would receive the necessary treatment to control their symptoms. What did we think would happen?”
I’ll vouch for that. The man who shot me had a record of steadily increasing violent behavior, yet he was free to put two bullets in me, and he was/is by no means the most severely mentally ill person out on the streets today. I say “on the streets” meaning unconfined, not homeless, because his father was very wealthy and by no standard could he be considered homeless, but a significant number of the true homeless do have mental issues. Locking them up might be a violation of civil rights, but so too is retroactively making a popular and legal firearm illegal. We’ll compromise.
Consider violent video games and realistically and excessively violent movies and television shows. Much like scientific polls that can be made to show whatever you want them to show, or statistical studies that can be manipulated to prove virtually anything, there are a lot of contradictory studies out there, some claiming a causal relationship—or at the very least a correlation—between watching violence portrayed and acting it out, other studies claiming the opposite. But two purportedly respected and trusted sources, Scientific American and Psychology Today, have both recently carried articles affirming the connection between violent games and shows and subsequent violent behavior for a small percentage (5%-6%) of the children who play such games. Yet a far, far smaller percentage of law-abiding gun owners (in 2016, 0.011%, and an even more minuscule percentage of semi-automatic rifle-owners) use firearms to commit murder, so if we’re going to punish the innocent for the sins of the guilty, we must ban and confiscate all violent videos, video games, movies, and television shows. It may be a violation of civil rights, but we’ll compromise.
Consider hate speech. I read Victor Davis Hanson’s work (http://victorhanson.com/) regularly and from time to time he posts a “Dear Angry Reader” blog where he responds to angry—and usually semi-literate and too often barely coherent—letters. This past August 3, he posted a letter that was so over the top in its illiterate antisemitic raving that I honestly took it for a spoof. Until I looked the writer up on the internet. This is a seriously deranged and hate-filled man who has a website hosted by the same platform that I use (WordPress). Just the titles of his sick and evil blogs turned my stomach, but I forced myself to read one in full. The gentleman in question claims to have been an aerospace engineer, but if so, based on his writing, he clearly flunked every English course he ever took. He also claims to be a Christian, but he clearly flunked Sunday School as well. His blog was the worst hate-filled thing I have ever read.
What is the dividing line between freedom of expression and advocating violence? Is a third-rate comedienne posing with a mock-up of Donald Trump’s decapitated head more or less inciting than a blog calling for the annihilation of an entire people? National security and intelligence experts all agree social media are used to radicalize extremists and encourage violent behavior. It has also been well-documented that alienation from society in general is fed by the internet and social media. The El Paso shooter apparently used social media to post a hate-filled manifesto (I have not, nor do I intend to read such moronic evil; I had a belly-full from the single post on WordPress) so if the innocent must pay for sins of the guilty, clearly we need to tighten the controls on free speech. I could make a very valid argument that such hate speech is both pornographic and an incitement to violence. Supporters of the First Amendment would disagree and will object to any suggestion that right should be curtailed or regulated. We’ll compromise.
Based purely on statistical percentages, banning violent video games and shows and curtailing hate speech will have a far greater impact on national violence than banning semi-automatic rifles. Since law enforcement and sociologists know the vast percentage of violent crimes are committed by a very small percentage of the population, usually within a very small geographical urban area, locking up the mentally ill and violent criminals will also have a far greater impact on national violence. And if it impinges on a small population’s civil rights, well, we’ll compromise.
I’m very serious: something does need to be done. Firearms are tools, not causal factors. Mental illness, hate speech, and graphically violent video games and shows are causal factors. They may only affect a small percentage of the population, but until something is done about causal factors, it is simply nonsense to blame a tool that has only been misused by a minuscule percentage of the population, a percentage that has been affected by unaddressed and unregulated causal factors. Blaming guns while ignoring known causal factors is like painting your house but not repairing the leaks in the roof and ignoring the termite infestation; it may look good and it may even make you feel good, but it won’t solve the problem.