In the Arena

The Real Gun Violence Discussion

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Pete Wehner, with whom I’ve been known to disagree, has some wise things to say about the facile moral posturing that has attended much of the commentary about the Newtown massacre. We’ve been too focused on the need for gun control and spent too little time talking about the far more difficult part of the problem: mental health.

Let me be clear: I favor gun control. I find the National Rifle Association an abhorrent organization, feeding the wingnut paranoia about President Obama, fattening its coffers with funds donated by uninformed, frightened, gullible sorts in the hinterlands. There is no need for civilians to have semi-automatic weapons. There is no need for clips that contain more than six bullets. There is no need for some of the more exotic and lethal sorts of ammunition, like those used by Adam Lanza. Indeed, I’d favor a very stiff tax on bullets, first proposed by Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

But we can’t be delusional about this. We had a 10-year assault weapons ban; the number of mass shootings went down, but the Columbine massacre also took place during those ten years. We can’t underestimate the ability of a twisted mind to get the resources to do horrific things whether the weapons are legal or not.

And the twisted-mind part of the program is something we’re not talking about nearly enough. As a society, we have abdicated our responsibility to protect ourselves from the violent mentally ill, and also to protect them from themselves. What do most of these recent shootings have in common? The shooter was identified as a potential problem in advance, but nothing was done about it. That was true in Tucson, and Aurora–both shooters were identified by staff psychologists at their schools–and it was true in Newtown, where Nancy Lanza desperately sought help and couldn’t find the sort she needed.

Tonight, across America, there are parents of mentally ill children who live in fear that their son–and yes, it’s a boy problem–will be tomorrow’s Adam Lanza. Their anguish is every bit as heart-rending as the pain felt by the parents of the victims–perhaps more so, because it can seem a never-ending nightmare. The problem is especially intense when the child reaches the age of legal maturity–18 in most places–after which parents have no legal right to monitor their child’s medications, no right to force them to get help or have them restrained in a residential care setting.

Fifty years ago, we put such people in mental hospitals–but that was an inhumane solution and there was great hope that medication could replace restraint, and that more humane halfway houses could replace the hospitals. And medication did make a big difference, but not with a particular type of violent behavior; and no one wanted to have halfway houses for the mentally ill in their neighborhood. And so this problem has festered, and grown with leaps in technology–with the power of semi-automatic weapons, with fantastic video games that smudged the difference between virtual carnage and the real thing.

So what do we do? We can’t put people who “fit the profile” behind bars prospectively. But we can further empower parents, psychologists and law enforcement to make decisions about medication and control if there have been any, especially repeated, instances of violence. Obviously, we need to spend more money on creating a rational mental health system with humane residential settings that are located in sparsely populated areas. We can find that money by reforming the nation’s ridiculous drug laws, reducing our prison population of nonviolent offenders, and spending the money on the violent mentally ill.

Obviously, we have to be very careful about this. We can’t just toss difficult, creative sorts into lockup and throw away the key. We certainly won’t be able to predict every shooter. No doubt, some civil libertarians will oppose any weakening of individual rights–but their slippery slope arguments seem as credible right now as the NRA’s opposition to banning assault weapons and cop-killer bullets. We can find a reasonable middle ground that protects the rights of the mentally ill, but respects the wishes of their families and their communities. I believe the need for public safety in the midst of this plague, and the need to provide relief to the parents of these damaged souls, requires that we make a much greater effort to identify, treat and, if necessary, restrain those who think they can find personal epiphanies in mass slaughter. In the end, that may well be a more important piece of the puzzle than gun control.

Update: If this is true–a necessary caveat, given the amount of false information the media have circulated in this case–it only reinforces the case for giving parents greater support, of all sorts (therapeutic and legal) in these sorts of cases.

101 comments
Crystal73
Crystal73

What difference does it make if there is no immediate"need"? You should look up the definition of inalienable RIGHT. You don't NEED the computer your reading this from. You don't NEED a nice car, nice clothes, an expensive house, credit cards, manicures, cigarettes, booze, birthday cake, or any of the other luxuries and convenience items we use everyday. Every time someone say's we "don't need" to uphold the Constitution just because they are scared that the ugly might touch them sometime, I just like those people to know the the imaginary world where you get to accumulate all the crap you want and the government is going to protect you, is killing us all. Every time you buy plastic, oil, or bottled water, just to name a few, you are contributing to the environmental devastation that is killing indigenous people. Murderers with out a gun! Every time some poor sap is killed by pills, we chalk it up to acceptable risk, even though pills kill more people in 6 months than gun do in a year. Need, I'll tell you what you NEED... a reality check.

wilscombe
wilscombe

The UK experience seems to suggest that strict gun control is the only viable answer.  Carrying a hand gun is a mandatory five-year prison sentence and even getting a shotgun licence is very difficult.  British police recently voted unanimously not to carry lethal weapons.  Some years ago, I put four rifles and two pistols into the crusher.  I was not happy about it but it does mean I can go about my daily life without carrying a weapon.  In passing; carrying any weapon, even a pocket knife, in the UK is a serious offence.  If I lived in the US it is more than likely I would carry a gun.

dontn123
dontn123

Something evil part 2 being played out on the heart strings of the public? Watch this video about Sandy Hook
http://youtu.be/dvq2zABOtL8

CAUGHT red handed  WHY would THEY do this kind of coordinated mass media campaign with bad actors?

Coley
Coley

"Uninformed, frightened, gullible sorts in the hinterlands." While I find the author [in general] to be credible, and his call for improved mental health commendable, this particular quote is insulting, provincial and reeks of the exact sort of elitism that gets all of us barbarians in the "hinterlands" riled up in the first place. Next time Joe, why don't you skip the half-measures and proceed directly to an ad hominem attack. As long as you're engaged in faulty reasoning, you might as well go big or go home. PS: All of you omniscient inhabitants of D.C., NYC and Los Angeles should consider moving to the hinterland so that the unwashed masses might benefit from your superior intellect.

Leftonomous
Leftonomous

I'm glad to see someone start to look at any other issue than guns as the ultimate problem, but then this writer completely discredits himself by breaking almost every tenet of good, balanced journalism. By calling ones who oppose your thoughts wingnuts or misinformed, only leads me to  believe that it is joe klein who is misinformed. I imagine it's a safe assumption this man has never even owned a gun and the same can be said for a lot of the others who would willingly give up their own rights. I can make that assumption because anyone who would propose further taxes on firearms or ammunition obviously hasn't had to pay the already extreme prices for these products. Mental health is admittedly one of the largest factors in these mass shootings. It's hard to think of any other reason how anyone could slaughter innocent children without saying they have serious mental issues. But it is also absurd to think this disturbed man along with the other recent killers could not have committed these same atrocious deeds with handguns, which they all had. Klein and others, stop passing the buck. Quit using your flawed logic to determine your ideas for the needs of others.

Gaffer
Gaffer

My personal belief is that drugs are the problem, not the solution.  After every one of these incidences I waited to hear the results and no one ever said.  I know of one boy in Round Rock that I am just waiting for him to pop.  Their solution?  Just feed him more pills instead of fixing the problem that made him that way.  How typical of Americans to want the easy way out instead of a real solution and it ALWAYS involves controlling what sane, rational people do when they did nothing wrong.  I believe all this control is making the majority of us crazy.  Life is NOT controllable.

kaktus7
kaktus7

Most of the AMOC guys killed themselfs in the ende

.Imagine they had no guns, but only knives, axes or something like that

.I think the wouldnt had...Because killing yourself with a knive needs more guts than just pulling the trigger.Think of it.


Marky_D_Sodd
Marky_D_Sodd

What the Architect of the New America, Obama, has given us for Christmas:  -Highest New Housing starts in 3 years  -Pending Gun Control legislation  -Lowest gas prices in god knows when!  -Revised tax policies to make the top 2% pay their fair share  -Healthcare for all  -4 more years of prosperity  What the NRA-GUN PSYCHOS have given us for Christmas:  -- 26 fresh corpses  -- 20 grieving mothers  -- God knows how many children even more frightened of school than ever  -- An angry nation  -- The assurance of gun controls. 

The 2nd amendment "protection for gun owners" is absurd. It merely allows one to own "ARMS" which, in the time of the writing of the Constitution, applied only to single-load/single-shot muskets, and THEN ONLY for members of a well-ordered militia. Read Army.

By the murder-enabling NRA's logic, the "right to bear arms" would now include the right to bear ANY arms: grenades, bazookas, drones, nuclear warheads.

Guns don't kill people.

NRA-RepubliKKKan-GUN PSYCHOS kill people.

WHY are we listening to these lunatics.Oh, I know – lets ask 52 grieving mothers, fathers, husbands and wives in Connecticut.Maybe they have the answer.

kudazachem
kudazachem

@JoeKleinTIME It's never gonna happen. It's impossible to tell a leftist from a person with mental problems.

TerryClifton
TerryClifton

When it was discovered that our own government allowed over 2,000 guns to be walked into the awaiting hands of the Sinola Drug Cartel in Mexico; the majority of you hypocrites stood by silent or came to the defense of Holder/Obama. There have been well over 200 deaths attributed to these weapons, including a border patrol agent. They did this so they could exploit the carnage of what evil men do with high powered weapons, and it backfired on them. Now they have the perfect scenario because of this latest massacre.  These senseless killings happened because a mother was too stupid to lock up her weapons from her son who was insane. Had she gotten rid of them or kept them away from him, maybe this wouldn't have happened.

jdyer2
jdyer2

While limits on assault weapons may not solve the problem, as President Obama said, at least we have to try.

Another thing- I would love to see all the commentators start referring to the NRA as the NAWA (National Assault Weapon Association).  That would do wonders for their image!

ZenGeiger
ZenGeiger

Like many problems, there is no one "winner take all" solution, each change may help a little and together help a lot.  So, everyone has a list, here's mine: 

1. get rid of semi-automatic weapons with large clips, there is no reason for the average citizen to have them.  

2.Strengthen the mental health system. Parents can do very little once their mentally ill children turn 18, this should change. 

3. Regulate over the top video games that glorify massacres - bar those under 18 from purchasing, tax very highly, register use. 

4. Begin a national conversation about the problem of young males failing to be incorporated into civil society - do we need a mandatory draft - military, WPA, public service - all young males serve in some capacity (military only by choice)?

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

The largest demographic of criminal offenders, violent and not, are males 15 to 25, and all of the recent mass murderers were members.  But identifying who and what to do is another matter lending complexity to the problem.  Adam Lanza did not raise sufficient alarm before the act that any magic mental health intervention would have been triggered.  How many others whose behavior would trigger intervention is unknown.  

Addressing the fact of young male incidence of antisocial behavior would be a logical beginning in finding solutions to the violence.

fitty_three
fitty_three

The idea that "no limits" gun owners want to encourage a vigilante presence in schools sends shivers up my spine.

As rabid as they are, who says they won't decide that they're really there to enforce their ideologies?

TerryClifton
TerryClifton

When evil people mean to do harm, they will stop at nothing to achieve their goal. If anyone thinks that rounding up all the guns will stop violence then they're idiots. Timothy McVeigh killed over 180 people without firing a shot. The terrorists on 9/11 killed over 3,000 without firing a shot. In 1994, Rwandan villagers were hacked to death with machetes and clubs; over 800,000 people lost their lives most without being shot a weapon. If you round up all the guns, then by all means don't stop there: knives, baseball bats, swords, stones, cinder blocks, etc.. will also need to be confiscated by the government. In Britain, they're averaging over 6 stabbings a week, and they have imposed strict bans on knives, swords, and martial arts weapons. They're millions of weapons in this country which will never be pointed at another human being unless it's for personal protection, should those weapons be taken out of some knee jerk reaction to a tragedy? Who will protect our homes, our lives, 9-1-1, the police? Really?

MrObvious
MrObvious

fantastic video games that smudged the difference between virtual carnage and the real thing.

BTW, there's very little if any statistics that shows that video games have anything to do with the overall problems. For most part people who play video games are probably the type of people who are least into real guns and proponents of violence. The few with real mental problems that happen to play a video game are in no way shape and form a semblance of the many that do play all kind of video games and couldn't hurt a fly.

Anyone that trots out this tired and worn out reason probably don't know one thing about the true nature behind gun violence.

MrObvious
MrObvious

NRA by large do not get most of their money from members; it gets most of its money from the weapon industry to push for removal or weakening of the few controls that we have so that anyone can buy and own nearly anything with little or no background checks.

NRAs answer to violence is to add more guns. Their approach is to ensure that sales goes up, not down and it's never in the best interest of regular NRA members.

By large the members have been suckered by the very industry that profits on the members angst and fears.

gysgt213
gysgt213

How about taking the money to pay for mental health from gun sales.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

To make it official, I am not among the one's who's immediately clamoring for stricter gun control laws, but the people who are arguing against them might just change my mind. What a heaping pile of idiocy!

DrinkerOfTheRye
DrinkerOfTheRye

Joe - I like your finding about the abhorant NRA fattening their coffers with funds from the bitter and frustrated folks clinging to their guns and religion. Your ideas on a massive tax on ammo though doesn't seem progressive. Won't it disporportionatley hurt those gullible, hinterland folk while letting the 1%s to keep enjoying their fancy shooting clubs and caterers hunts?

Marky_D_Sodd
Marky_D_Sodd

@kudazachem  

These NRA-enabled and supported murders were not committed by movies, books, cars, alcohol, baseballbats, or frozen apple pie.   They were committed by unnecessary weapons in the hands of a civilian who was not a member of a well-ordered militia.

The time for gun control laws has come, and we ARE going to have it, despite the rationalizations, denials, obfuscations and outright lies of the NRA-gun-nut-psychos.

As we have all observed, the NRA is suddenly silent, except for its paid trolls who come online and whine about “politicizing” the deaths of 20 children.What this means, of course, is that the NRA is frightened of the effect on public attitude when it is reminded, with names/ages/photographs that these NRA-enabled murders are --- well --- NRA –enabled murders committed by a gun-nut who was not a member of a ‘’well-ordered militia”, as the second amendment requires.

There are about to be BIG changes, and the NRA and its associated gun-psychos are now going to find each one of their murders highly publicized, and the public will be reminded, with names photos and ages, that these were human beings who left husbands, wives, children, parents … to grieve for them, needlessly

kaktus7
kaktus7

@TerryClifton  

its easier not having a gun than to hide it.

A gun is not a toy. A gun is a tool made for killing. Like a srewdriver is a tool for ..

Do you realy think, those massacres would had happened, if the guys would had to kill themselves with a knive in the ende?????

fhmadvocat
fhmadvocat

Terry,

You have to wonder about the mother who knew her son had mental health issues and was in the process of having him committed, what was she thinking by having so many weapons to which he had access?

MrObvious
MrObvious

@TerryClifton 

2000 out of HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS.

That's right - you think the current Mexican drug war is fueled by 2000 marked guns when since the 2004 expiration of the ban hundreds of thousands of guns have flooded into Mexico.

And no - there has not been 200 deaths attributed to those specific marked guns. Most of those deaths if not almost all of them are from all the other legally sold weapons along the Mexican border..

MrObvious
MrObvious

@ZenGeiger 

3. Regulate over the top video games that glorify massacres - bar those under 18 from purchasing, tax very highly, register use.

Other nations with supremely lower violence in every category have the same games.

It's really not the issue.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

I add to this the fact that in the current instance, the mother's infatuation with and possession of assault weapons was the primary fault.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@TerryClifton 

Honestly, the only idiots I know of are those that argue that gun control advocates by majority wants to round up all guns.

Once your premise and rant is based on a fallacy the rest can dismissed en mass.

Try to rant about what gun control advocates are actually advocating.

outsider
outsider

@TerryClifton 

If rounding up the guns is such a bad idea, explain why other nations, who don't have such a gun culture, also have less mass killings. 

It's true it still happens - Norway, for example. But it happens considerably less - because they have tighter gun laws. 

It's true, in China they had 1 mass killing with a knife. But how many mass killings in the US, just in the past few years, have been facilitated by assault weapons, and high rate clips?

So - if everyone else is an idiot, explain that fact, pls. 

fitty_three
fitty_three

@TerryClifton  

In the case of assault rifles, I think that it's a good idea to ban them.

Handguns? Required training and certs.  Pass that and screening and you can own one.

Long guns? Traditional hunting weapons. None other than registration and screening.

All guns: Don't sell or give them to someone else without a report of sale to the regulators.  Just like cars.

Screening? Tighten controls, but keep in mind that mental illness isn't the whole story.

Also, the idea that gun laws don't work is ably refuted by the machine gun ban, a law that is 70 years on the books.

outsider
outsider

@La_Randy 

The big push to divert the discussion of guns and gun control into a discussion about mental illness is really beginning in earnest tonight. And unfortunately, many liberals arguing for gun control are falling for the diversion, because yes, mental health care is terrible in America and it does need improvement — but they’re not seeing how the right wing (and watch, this will be a big NRA talking point in their “major press conference”) is using this issue to take the debate in a vague, pointless direction that will end up without touching anyone’s precious guns.

I’ve been watching this “mental illness” talking point gather strength on the right since Friday, and now it looks like the word has been put out to hammer it hard.

For one example out of many, at Breitbart “News:” PSYCHIATRIST: LANZA WAS ‘PSEUDOCOMMANDO’ WITH ‘WOUNDED NARCISSISM’.

The psychiatrist they’re all-caps yelling about is not Adam Lanza’s psychiatrist; it’s another CNN talking head who never met anyone involved in the case, but apparently still considers it ethical to diagnose them on air.Here’s a good piece on the subject by Richard Friedman, M.D. at the New York Times, that makes the same point I made in this post few days ago: A Misguided Focus on Mental Illness in Gun Control Debate.

JimSage
JimSage

@Marky_D_Sodd @kudazachem I disagree. The 20 children who so nobly laid down their lives for our freedom in Newtown were martyrs and heroes, not victims. Their deaths should not be mourned, but celebrated. They were like the 4-year-olds in Iraq and Afghanistan who give their lives to drones and missiles for our freedom.

TerryClifton
TerryClifton

@MrObvious @TerryClifton  

My rant? Actually, I was stating facts, that there are real examples of  mass murders that have never been at the end of a gun. Oh, I forgot one more example. Adolf Hitler was responsible for an estimated 11 million people deaths before and during WWII, most died in concentration camps or in the furnaces.  You want to talking about ranting, some gun control advocates have called for the murder of  the NRA president and members. I'm sure you're ok with that, right?

fitty_three
fitty_three

@outsider2011

The Chinese incident with a knife did not result in any deaths!  They can't even use that one for an argument.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@TerryClifton  

For those who would be affected by the assault weapon ban, I think the government should set aside enough money to pay those who will lose them "fair value" for their weapon.

Those who don't give them up should, upon seizure, be compensated the same way, but only if their weapon was not used in a crime.

That way, at least each side gets a piece of the decision.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@BobSheepleherder

You're only contribution to the gun control debate has been to bring out your stupid.

You simply hate unions and Obama more than you hate seeing 20 kids slaughtered with an assault rifle.

TerryClifton
TerryClifton

@MrObvious @TerryClifton  

Again, the facts just jumped up and spilled your coffee all over your lap..Most anti-gun advocates want to do away with all semi-automatic weapons all together, even though they shoot one round at a time. It's because they are too stupid about the facts, and jump on the bandwagon. There has been a ban in place for fully automatic weapons for as long as I can remember, and for good reason.  Again, if someone wants to harm you, they will stop at nothing to do so, legally sane or otherwise. The government cannot stop a person's intent no matter how many laws they pass. A Glock 9mm is not an assault weapon, nor is a 12 gauge pump shotgun. A "fully automatic" Heckler & Koch HK416 is considered an assault weapon, just so we are clear..Class dismissed....

MrObvious
MrObvious

@TerryClifton @MrObvious 

I stopped reading your rant after you began with a fallacy argument.

If your entire premise is wrong then the rest is rendered worthless.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@outsider2011

You're welcome.  When they cite that incident, it only makes the case clearer from some sort of gun control.

BobSheepleherder
BobSheepleherder

@53_3 @BobSheepleherder  I didn't "open the gun debate" with unions, I responded to a venomous diatribe against the NRA with a comment on unions. You are much too sensitive about the topic of union bosses and money ... must be hitting close to home.

BobSheepleherder
BobSheepleherder

@53_3 @BobSheepleherder Painting your faces with the blood of the innocent and parading around as if you hold the high ground on "empathy" and humanity is hardly a debate. The only thing you've shown me is your hypocritical, self-indulgent diatribes on how someone who doesn't agree 100% with your agenda is an inhuman child murderer. I'm not interested in your uneducated propaganda. When you all decide to have a meaningful and open minded DEBATE, I might decide to participate. In the mean time, you all have fun sit around congratulating yourselves and telling yourselves what wonderful human beings you are. Have a nice day.

BobSheepleherder
BobSheepleherder

@fhmadvocat I actually haven't advocated for 100 round "clips", or 30 or even 10. However, it may interest you to know that the 2nd doesn't make any mention of "protection" or "collecting". It is quite apparent you don't know anything about the 2nd Amendment, the history of it's inclusion or even why it continues to be included in the Bill of Rights despite the hysterical calls to have it removed.

fhmadvocat
fhmadvocat

Bob,

I don't need a semi-automatic weapon.  The only "well-regulated" militia in this country is the National Guard, which upon my joining will give me a semi-automatic weapon with the necessary training.  Personally I don't care if you have a semi-automatic, you may be a legitimate gun collector.  However, you don't need a clip of more than 10 rounds to protect your self from an intruder.  Heck, you are better off with a hand gun and if you are a hunter, a rifle is all you need.  The only people who need semi-automatics with 100 round clips for "protection" are a danger to society and to local law enforcement.

BobSheepleherder
BobSheepleherder

@bobell No you are arguing that YOU, since presumably you would be drafted in the case where a militia were actually organized, want to be sent into the field without the minimum quality of weapons your opponents WILL have. If you can't understand that, you don't know anything about the 2nd Amendment. You are free to try and change it, if you think it's not necessary, that is your prerogative, but until you do, EDUCATE YOURSELF!

bobell
bobell

And who does the regulating of the militia? Themselves?  People walking around with semi-automatic firearms holding 100 cartridges? They get to regulate themselves?  In real life, the closest thing we have to a well-regulated militia is the National Guard, and the state and federal governments regulate them.

And while I'm knocking down straw men, no one's arguing that "well-regulated' has anything to do with requiring modern militias to use flintlocks.  That's plainly illogical. What we are arguing is that the sort of regulation appropriate to an era in which it took approximately a minute between rounds needs reconsideration in an era of multiple rounds per second.

Ahhh, I'm wasting my time.  For that matter, you're wasting yours.  No one who doesn't already agree with you is going to change their position just because you've mastered the standard gun-lovers' talking points. And the same is true for me, mutatis mutandis.

BobSheepleherder
BobSheepleherder

@bobell @BobSheepleherder @DrinkerOfTheRye "Well regulated" means pretty much what you would expect those two words would mean. That the militia will have rules and regulations that will cause them to behave in a predictable manner. It does not mean you send them into the field with weapons from a previous age, nor does it mean you send them into the field without weapons at all. It's really pretty simple and straight forward. Regardless of what you may think of the Founders, they actually knew what they were doing. You are too easily shocked and by being so, you miss a lot of things. For instance, you don't have a clue as to my ability to empathize. I think your lack of understanding is offensive but I would not have told you that if you were a bit more polite.

bobell
bobell

@BobSheepleherder @bobell @DrinkerOfTheRye You shock me by disregarding elementary facts and by having, it appears, zero empathy.  Your opinions are offensive.

You say the Second Amendment is there for a reason.  Isn't it then equally true that the particular words of the amendment are there for a reason?  Okay, please explain what "well-regulated militia" means and how it is intended to affect the possession and use of firearms..