Monday, January 10, 2011

A Modest Proposal for my Conservative Friends

Though I don’t agree, we all have the individual right to keep and bear firearms.  The Supreme Court did say that reasonable limitations of that right are constitutional.

Arizona, and a number of states, let anyone who has reached 21 buy a gun if they check out on an instant background inquiry.

Is it asking too much that governments license people with guns?  That they make you take a test to get the license?  Most states make you take a few hours of classes to get a drivers license – too much to ask to get a gun?  Run-ins with the police disqualify you from getting a gun?

The guy that everyone now agrees is crazy after shooting the people in Tucson bought the gun he used on November 30.  Walked in and walked out.  He’d had a number of incidents involving community college police.  Might he have popped off during a couple of hours of class like he did in college?  Don’t know the answer.  I sure wish we’d have given him the chance screw up small, with consequences, before he had the chance to screw up big.

If I am wrong, tell me how.  None of “that liberals are all alike.”  Rational reasons we shouldn’t have reasonable restrictions that might have saved a few lives on Saturday, and most every week during the year.


Anonymous said...

The Brady Bill, which neither Republicans nor Democrats pushed to renew, banned large-capacity gun clips.

Since he was tackled changing clips, it's safe to assume a smaller capacity clip would have meant fewer dead people.

Hedy said...

I'm a gun owner and an advocate of concealed carry - but I absolutely agree it should be more difficult for the crazies to get guns. A simple background check would've revealed that this guy shouldn't have been able to buy a gun.

Dave said...

I don't know what info the feds have for the instant check, but he got past it. Seems to me we owe a bit more thoroughness to ourselves.

The Curmudgeon said...

Actually, from what I've read, the reason this guy could buy a gun without a problem is that -- despite the run-ins you mention -- his criminal record was absolutely clean.

He'd not been prosecuted.

According to the AP, the Pima Community College police had to come remove him from classes or the library. But no charges were ever pressed. Only after he posted a YouTube video alleging that the college was unconstitutional did the college authorities persuade him to withdraw, promising he could return if he brought a note from a mental health professional saying he did not pose a danger. Meaning, presumably, they thought he posed a danger. But no charges. No attempted commitment.

I've seen blog posts that claim this guy was well known to the county sheriff's office as well, having made death threats against local radio personalities, college officials and bloggers. Supposedly, persons calling to complain were told -- by the Sheriff's office -- that the mental health professionals had a good grip on this guy and pressing charges wouldn't be helpful for that reason and because his mother was a public employee.

Now... you and me excepted, of course... I don't automatically accept blogs as authoritative, but the shooter's mother is/was a county employee according to reliable news sources posted today.

There's an increasingly good case to be made that the problem is not that additional gun control laws are needed but, rather, that persons in a position to observe and act failed to take the steps necessary to get this guy into treatment and/or the criminal justice system (where he might have been compelled to receive treatment, or at least assessment) which would have -- in turn -- prevented his easy acquisition of the gun that he used in this weekend's attack.

It was not, in other words, the laxity of the laws that led to Loughner's rampage but, rather, the failure of those around this guy (willingness to turn a blind eye, pass the buck, etc.) that enabled (word choice very deliberate) Loughner to get to the point he did.

The Curmudgeon said...

I forgot to add -- FIVE TIMES (per the AP) the PCC police were called to pull this guy out of the library or class.

And, still, no charges.

j said...

How may crimes are committed by persons who legally obtained a gun?

What kind of back ground check is there for meth or heroin or crack. Yet some how those that want it can get it.

DC has reportedly the toughest gun laws yet the highest murder rate? A connection - probably not.

Curmudgeon is right.

Hedy - if there were more like you someone in the crowd could have dropped this guy with their own gun.

Dave said...

Well, I've read your comments, and Big Rick's on the link to the post I did on my Facebook page. I respect all of you, you are some pretty smart people.

That said, no one has given me a reason why we shouldn't demand licensing with a more extensive background check, classes and so on to be able to get a gun.

Yeah, people will slip through the cracks. Yeah, people will still die. Counter to my argument J, there are quite a few people killed by legally obtained guns - this guy and the soldier at Ft. Hood come to mind.

I still don't understand how it's a bad idea to make it harder to get a gun and ensure that those that get them have more than a clue about how and how not to use them.

Anecdotally, one of the people who held the Tucson shooter had a gun and came a second away from shooting the guy who had grabbed the shooter's gun. No lessons, he was carrying it in his pocket. He "grew up around guns" he told the reporter. Afterward he felt lucky he hadn't killed the wrong guy and lucky that someone hadn't shot him.

I'd like more than luck going for people that have guns.

Dave said...

For Curmudgeon, from a Dahlia Lithwick piece at

"I am not going to try to diagnose Jared Lee Loughner from my desk today. My only long-distance observation is to say we should be doing a far better job of diagnosing and caring for those with serious mental illnesses, and of making sure that they can't get their hands on guns. And to anyone who claims to know today how much of Loughner's conduct last weekend was rational and how much was pathology, all I ask is this: Please stand by your words if and when Loughner and his experts and lawyers someday opt to make those very same arguments in court."

The Curmudgeon said...

Can't argue with the Lithwick quote.

However, the bit at the end was meant to tweak those who (simultaneously) insist that Loughner was crazy and want him to be put to death for his crimes. Neither you nor I practice in the criminal area but we both recognize that there is a vast difference between mental illness and the very much narrower concept of legal insanity. Some jurisdictions try and set up a middle ground -- guilty but mentally ill -- but I think that's a pretty narrow concept, too.

Meanwhile -- and I think you'll agree with this -- our prisons are chock full of persons who are mentally ill -- that is, full of persons who meet the criteria for one or more mental illnesses as defined by DSM-IV as supplemented. Many of these may have been better served -- and society may have been better served -- if these troubled people had been identified and gotten into appropriate treatment (or, yes, even institutionalization) before they committed the crimes which landed them in the hoosegow.

I have only anecdotal evidence to support it, but I have been given to understand that sometimes the only way someone who is not rolling in long green can get treatment is to get in trouble with Johnny Law and hope like hell that someone will take pity on them and get them into a treatment program instead of a cell.

This terrible event in Tuscon isn't about Sarah Palin or 'hate speech' or gun control -- it's about mental illness.

I got angry this morning when I heard a so-called "expert" say on the radio that he hopes this tragedy doesn't bring more attention to the mentally ill because they are stigmatized enough.

Then I thought about it: Apparently the stigma is so great that one has to open fire in a crowd of people before the reluctance to press for treatment is overcome. Maybe we should look into our -- society's -- attitude toward mental illness.

Dave said...

I don't think for the most part we have many thoughts at all about mental illness, other than a shudder when we see it up close, your wood hut woman, for me, the guy that walks a couple of mile stretch of N. Druid Hills Road that I see most days, and his friends that panhandle from the bus bench at NDH and Buford Highway.

We think of them in the same context we think of criminals - get them out of my neighborhood. Spend money on prevention? You've got be kidding, haven't you heard were in a recession?

J said...

The argument for stricter licensing is at least somewhat refuted by the DC example.

Whack jobs and criminals will always get guns. It is highly unlikely that the ex-con fresh out on parole that killed the guy down the street from me last month bought his gun at Walmart.