The killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., were perpetrated by a lone gunman in a state with fairly strict gun laws, an act which brought an immediate call from many corners for gun control. The president appointed Vice President Joe Biden to do an in-depth study of the situation and report back to him. He was to consider all options including confiscation. Said VP Biden of his appointed task, "If it saves one life it is worth it." Really, let's look at it.
We have many societal risks. In the area of vehicle safety, drunk or "buzzed" driving kills people. How do we react? Do we say that cars kill? Should we begin universal background checks to qualify people to drive, manufacturers being ordered to modify cars to prohibit "car" killings? If the same reactions were applied to "cars that kill," the entire face of transportation would change, yet what would remain changeless would be that cars don't kill people, people kill people.
We have a constitutional right to own and carry guns. Now the government wants to make it extremely difficult to own guns. Thousands upon thousands of citizens own guns, have "carry permits" and conduct their lives in non-threatening ways. Yet, they retain the means for self protection should the need arise. The government wants to change that. But think of the lady in Loganville, Ga. Were it not for her being an armed household, she and her children might well be dead
The government wants the remedy to include already failed attempts at sweeping gun laws that don't work. Connecticut has tough gun laws that failed to protect the innocent. Have you known of the government having a positive track record of doing things right, well and within budget? Fast and Furious comes to mind, the still unresolved government plan to make guns available to illegal traffickers and then carefully tracing the guns movements. They lost track of the guns and lives were lost. Now the government wants to deny gun ownership to the mentally ill, a laudable goal given the fact that mass murders often have a history of mental illness. But questions arise.
-- What constitutes a mental illness that brings denial of gun ownership?
-- What process and authority will be developed to make such decisions?
-- Will universal background checks not require psychiatric assessments for all applicants?
-- What protections will be in place for those professionals tasked for making decisions since psychiatry, as other fields of medicine, is not infallible?
-- If an individual is denied a permit and is later killed by a perpetrator, who is held responsible?
The administration has floated the ideas of establishing manufacturing restrictions on guns and ammunition, conceivably leading to business losses, shutting down businesses, increasing the unemployment rate and increasing the debt with unemployment claims and lives disrupted. Black markets would likely prosper as people seeking guns outside the law obviously don't observe the laws.
How will law enforcement deal with the increasing need for public protection given the new populations of unprotected people and household? An inmate, interviewed on a morning show said that he would choose people who were unarmed as his targets and leave alone those who were armed.
The presidential committee recently spent "several days" studying this situation and its remedies. The president required of the committee a quick plan so he, the president, could fulfill a promise to deal "quickly with the issue." He announced the plan on TV.
It is my hope that the lack of time spent by the administration in planning responses to this most complex situation does not compromise a constitutionally sound right for a majority of our citizenry to continue to own firearms for recreation, hunting and protection of family and self. Please be wary of the very large risk of the development of "unintended consequences" from too hasty a response.
Allan Russell, of Leesburg, is a retired clinical social worker and therapist with the state of Georgia Mental Health system. He is involved in volunteer work in the metro Albany area.