On December 14, 2012, I was working out in a gym when the story of the Sandyhook shooting story broke. At the time I thought this will be the incident that changes the direction of gun legislation – 20 dead children between the ages of six and seven, and another six adults. Wow, was I wrong. Given the most recent event in Las Vegas, it is time to revisit this issue and try to understand why it is we allow dangerous, homicidal killers to have guns. The number of annual gun deaths in the USA is 33,000 or about 90.4 per day. About two-thirds are suicides. The other one-third are mostly homicides.
Until recently federal law prohibited the sale of firearms to certain individuals with a history of mental illness. For a number of years laws required licensed dealers (but not unlicensed sellers, AKA gun show sales) to conduct a background check prior to the transfer of a firearm to screen out these and other prohibited purchasers. However, federal law cannot require states to make information identifying the mentally ill available to the federal or state agencies that perform background checks; and many states fail to voluntarily report the necessary records to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), especially with respect to people prohibited from possessing guns for mental health reasons. As a result, some individuals known to be dangerous can pass background checks and obtain firearms.
US households with guns were 51% in 1978, rose to 53% in 1994, and in June of 2016 had dropped to 36% according to CBS/NYT poll. Different polls produce different results, but the trend is clear, gun ownership dropped about 20% since the mid-1970’s. A 2004 study shows the average gun owner has 6.6 firearms, and the upper 3% of gun owners have about 25 guns each.
A person’s mental health is changeable and it can change quickly. Mental health is dependent on the balance of neurotransmitters in the human brain and when those molecules are not in balance – the person may be mentally unfit. This does not mean they are dangerous to themselves or others, but some are. Anyone can become homicidal – no matter their level of education or training anyone of us can become a killer.
Within his first two months as president, Donald Trump repealed an Obama administration gun regulation that prevented certain individuals with mental health conditions from buying firearms. Prior to Trump’s overturning the rule on February 28, four Democratic senators and an independent that were up for re-election in 2018 had sided with their Republican colleagues by voting to revoke it. The Social Security Administration (SSA) had finalized the standing rule in December of 2016 under President Barack Obama. The regulation required the SSA to identify and report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) individuals who are unable to work because of severe mental impairment and can’t manage their own Social Security financial benefits and therefore were ineligible to buy guns. The thought was that those certain Social Security recipients could pose a danger to themselves or others.
The repeal was a significant step for gun advocates. The GOP-controlled Senate voted in favor of revoking the resolution, 57-43. Democratic Senators Joe Donnelly (Indiana), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Jon Tester (Montana), along with independent Senator Angus King (Maine), voted with the Republicans. Of course, this made the National Rifle Association orgasmic. They had been able to avoid “Obama’s unconstitutional gun grab.”
Now, I would argue that anyone stockpiling guns and ammunition is showing signs of mental illness. At the simplest level, it is an obsessive-compulsive disorder and very possibly paranoia.
Solving this problem – the ready availability guns in society today has a potentially simple solution. Make firearms manufactures completely responsible for how their products are used. This would include all of the guns they have made in the past. But, what about the second amendment? All of those Second Amendment obsessors can have all of the guns they want as long as they represent 18th-century technology. All of the guns in households can stay there until the owners die. At that time their guns can become part of a national recycling program. Of course, the bigger problem is to elect politicians who will support this.
A public shaming campaign for those who make guns, support gun legislation, and constantly whine about their Second Amendment rights is in order. Make no mistake, all of those people who will be telling us in a few days or weeks that guns don’t kill people, people kill people; or tell us guns save lives; or tell us its not a gun issue its a mental health issue are profiting from guns, or they are mentally ill, or both.
With 50+ dead and another 400+ injured, how long will it take before the next crazy guy tries to break this record? Mass-shootings are increasing, it’s time to place the responsibility directly on those responsible: gun manufacturers, gun sellers, and gun owners (any one of which can become the next unbalanced, mass shooter).