Uhlir: More Guns, More Psychiatrists
The Umpqua Community College massacre in Oregon marks the 32nd mass shooting incident since the beginning of the 2015 in which at least four people died. On average, one such shooting has happened every nine days. After adding incidents in which at least four people were shot, but not necessarily killed, the number rockets to at least the 294th shooting — on average more than one incident per day. Given that trends do not change overnight, there will likely be another shooting tomorrow. So the question is — will we do anything to stop that?
If history is any indication, probably not. The last major gun control law was adopted in 1994. That law expired in 2004, and since then, the United States has not seen any solid moves toward stricter federal laws on gun control. On the contrary, the Supreme Court struck down District of Columbia laws restricting possession of firearms in 2008 and expanded on that decision in 2010. It defies logic that in a country where approximately 60 percent of those homicides are caused by firearms and these mass shootings are routine occurrences, gun policy has not changed in more than two decades. The fact that I am not allowed to purchase any alcohol but can order a new semi-automatic rifle online within 30 minutes is telling. Common sense is being ignored.
Probably the most ridiculous of all is the argument that we do not have enough guns. Under this line of thought, removing gun-free zones will prevent shootings by allowing people to carry their weapons in cinemas, schools and all other public spaces. Somehow, we are to believe that a determined gunman would be either subdued before his attack or killed right after he opened fire. In Oregon, it is highly improbable that armed students would have stopped the killer — armed with six weapons and a bullet-proof vest — right at the beginning. It’s understandable that people in shock would hardly be able to stand up against a heavily armored man.
In any other developed country, a mass shooting tragedy would lead most to decide that it is time to limit gun sales. Yet American gun rights activists seem to draw different conclusions, apparently living in a wild west fantasy where selling more guns is the solution. As National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre asserted, “the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”
The idea of “good guy versus bad guy” is so twisted because the world is, surprisingly, not a fairy tale. The bad guy is not a lone wolf in the dark with huge teeth. Unfortunately, it is hard to recognize a “bad guy” until he starts shooting — and then it is too late. He is often someone who was always thought of as a good guy but secretly harbored animosity toward certain people.
On the issue of mental health, gun rights activists state that it is not the gun that kills people, but rather the gunman — often mentally ill — that kills people. Of course, this is true. There is no place in the world where guns voluntarily kill people. The real matter at hand is how to prevent these deaths. For Republican presidential candidates, the answer is mental health care. Donald Trump says it is “another mental health problem.” Ben Carson says “the issue is the mentality of these people.” Marco Rubio talks about a number of “issues,” but never mentions the availability of guns. They all show a willful ignorance, overlooking other countries’ measures — measures that worked.
The ultimate gun rights argument is the U.S. second constitutional amendment. The applicability of the second amendment, though among the shorter provisions in the Bill of Rights, is not so obvious — the Supreme Court’s 5-4 splits for the most recent cases on whether it actually protects individual right to bear arms show just how ambiguous the law is. Two hundred and fifty years after the second amendment was written, it is still not clear how to interpret it.
It is time to recognize that NRA leaders might not be obsessed with freedom or protection. I would suggest a simpler explanation — they just love guns and want to keep them. They will post pictures of guns, they will organize gun shows and they will decorate their walls with new firearm equipment. And while the NRA prints articles on how to “spice up your Ruger 10/22,” another potential shooter will be free to buy guns he can use to commit a massacre.