Shocking incidents like the Dec. 19, 2012 gun massacre in Newtown, Conn. by 20-year-old Adam Lanza killing 20 children and eight adults, including the shooter, prompted the latest call for more gun control legislation. With the nation reeling from the horror, the tone-deaf 64-year-old National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre hurt his cause telling a national press conference his solution is arming more citizens and stationing police at every school in America. Already racking up big deficits because of the federal Transportation Security Agency [TSA], LaPierre knows there’s no money for a new federal education security bureaucracy. Handing out more weapons hardly qualifies as a common sense fix. Vice President Joe Biden leads the charge on new gun control legislation, knowing the window is short with the “debt ceiling” debate heating up.
Because the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre repeats a common problem seen in recent years, namely, a mentally deranged teenager or post-teenager goes ballistic, the focus of any new gun control legislation must address the salient issues to prevent future incidents. When the facts came out about Lanza’s rampage, his access to weapons was made easy by his mother, Nancy Lanza, a known gun enthusiast. Any new legislation must hold gun owners more accountable when their weapons fall into the hands of ballistic killers. While no parent or individual can prevent a child from going ballistic, it’s possible to keep firearms under lock-and-key, away from mentally ill offenders. Biden’s looking into “universal” background checks, as opposed to the Department of Justice checks currently in place. Biden also wants to track gun sales through a national database.
When you consider the Newtown tragedy, 20-year-old Adam Lanza wouldn’t have committed the crimes had his now deceased mother kept her weapons locked up. If gun owners knew they’d be held accountable for gun violence for failing to secure their weapons, there’d be a lot less gun violence. When 24-year-old Korean Virginia Tech undergraduate student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 students and faculty April 16, 2007, there were good mental health records showing he was unfit to possess firearms. Because mental health checks are not part of current gun laws, it only makes sense that any new legislation would include mental health background checks. While not foolproof, including the Medical Information Bureau [MIB] in standard background checks would at least provide some data on buyers’ mental health status. Any red flags would require more rigorous steps for would be gun buyers.
Tracking weapons through a national database won’t stop mentally deranged offenders from lashing out. Preventing gun or any other type of violence is no easy matter for school or mental health professionals. When records showed that Cho had been treated by Virginia Tech’s chief psychiatrist Dr. Robert C. Miller, it raises more red flags why better preventive systems were not in place. With Biden considering new steps in gun control legislation, patient privacy must be counterbalanced against protecting the public from victimization. Current laws related to violence specifically excuse mental health professionals from privileged communication when it comes to preventing violence. Extending those exemptions to confidential communication would be a positive step forward in any gun control legislation. Mental health folks must be free to report to the authorities any impending dangers.
When the late President Ronald Reagan was shot March 30, 1981 by mentally deranged John Hinckley Jr., it prompted the Brady Bill—named after Reagan’s Press Secretary James Brady who was shot through the head—to get signed into law by former President Bill Clinton Feb. 28, 1994. It banned assault weapons and limited the size of clips to 10 rounds. When the Assault Weapons ban expired in 2004, it opened the door for the 30-round magazines used by Lanza to massacre innocent children. Working with assault weapons retailers like Wal-Mart Inc. should help preserve rights to sales while, at the same time, imposing more restrictions on clip sizes, expanded background checks and new rules to hold gun owners accountable if weapons are not properly secured. Billionaire media mogul New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to help the White House shepherd through new legislation.
Signaling receptivity to new gun control legislation, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kt.) told David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that his Senate colleagues should look carefully at Biden’s recommendations. “There will be plenty of time to take a look at their recommendations once they come forward,” though McConnell insisted that nothing in the way of gun control would get done until Capitol Hill resolved the “debt ceiling” debate. McConnell, who was instrumental with Biden in resolving the “fiscal cliff” late-night Jan. 1, said the GOP is done for the foreseeable future with more taxation. If and when the White House puts forth new gun control proposals, they should respect the Second Amendment while, at the same time, making it more difficult for the mentally ill to get their hands on firearms. In the wake of Sandy Hook, applying common sense might be difficult for gun control enthusiasts.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.