As much as the Second Amendment debate has heated up in this election year, I often wonder why we’ve made guns the “bad guy.” Guns don’t kill people - people kill people.
Last October, Adacia Chambers plowed her car into a crowd of spectators at an Oklahoma State University homecoming parade, killing three adults and a child. Then in December 2015, Lakeisha Holloway intentially drove onto a Las Vegas Strip sidewalk, killing one person and injuring 37 others. No one proposed to have a ban on cars.
Arin Forrest of Portland, Ore. holds an AR-15 rifle at a pro-gun rally outside the state Capitol in Salem, Ore., on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. Hundreds of armed protestors carried weapons to demonstrate their Second Amendment rights in response to calls for stiffer gun laws in the wake of recent mass shootings. Credit: AP
In simple terms, we could boil the argument down to three kinds of people: law abiding citizens, the mentally ill and criminals.
As a member of group one, I don’t object to having a background check or a waiting period before buying a gun. I do, however, object to registering a gun because a list of gun owners in the wrong hands diminishes the power of having the weapon. It was much easier for the Nazis to round up the Jews because they could identify them. And President Obama's most recent legislation forcing citizens to submit fingerprints and photos to federal authorities when setting up a trust to obtain items such as silencers feels like a slippery slope.
For group two, the mentally ill, too many times after these unfortunate shootings we hear that people had misgivings about the shooter - but didn’t do or say anything ahead of time. We need to swing the pendulum in the other direction and err on the side of over-involvement.
Think back to pre-911. We all thought the right reaction to a hijacker was to comply with his demands. He would land where he wanted and the passengers would be freed. In the post-911 world, passengers on a plane know to take matters into their own hands and aren’t opposed to tackling the offender for the sake of everyone’s safety. We need the same about-face for spotting and dealing with the mentally disturbed.
In addition to being more vigilant as a society, we need to help struggling parents. The Mental Health Crisis Act sponsored by Republican and clinical psychologist Tim Murphy has a carve-out in HIPAA for families dealing with serious mental illness, however, the act has not yet been passed.
And, don’t get me started on these violent video games that reward the player for killing scores of people. In the “Leave It To Beaver” world of yesteryear, kids played outside. They didn’t spend all afternoon on the couch honing their shooting skills.
Finally, there is group three, the criminals. As we all know, no amount of rules, regulations or controls would stop criminals from gaining weapons because they, by their very description, are criminals. Look at the San Bernardino shooters. Other people purchased the guns used in the massacre, skipping the background-check process altogether.
So, as we legislate, I ask our leaders to think about the rules and mandates that will be effective. For example, I’m all for harsher penalties if a crime is committed with an illegal weapon. Let’s put policy in place that punishes the criminals, not the law-abiding citizens.
In this election year, we are witnessing mounting divisiveness in our country. The political rallies appear to be very polarized and intolerant: Democrat vs. Republican, Gun Control vs. NRA, right to life vs. right to choose. However, as I interact with the everyday citizen, no matter his or her viewpoint, I find encouragement that most people are quite reasonable and willing to have a calm, intelligent conversation on what is best for our country.
Liz Lazarus is author of Free of Malice, a psychological, legal thriller loosely based on her personal experience.
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