Within hours of any mass shooting, gun control advocates come out of the woodwork to wag their fingers and shake their heads — clearly, they say, better gun control laws would eliminate these horrible crimes.
Though it’s only human to want to do anything possible to prevent further tragedies, these well-intentioned advocates of gun control have a fatal flaw in their logic — they believe violent criminals obey laws, when the very act of committing such a crime demonstrates a complete disregard for the law.
The laws we already have usually keep guns out of the wrong hands, but guns used in mass shootings are very often obtained illegally. In the recent church shooting in Texas, the shooter had a violent background, but due to a military paperwork snafu (which is a human error, impossible to eliminate), it didn’t impact his ability to purchase a weapon. Fortunately, a law-abiding citizen outside the church with a concealed carry permit chased the shooter off the premises. Had there not been a “good guy with a gun,” the “bad guy with the gun” would likely have inflicted even more damage.
Virtually every mass shooting in recent history has occurred in a gun-free zone — if a shooter knows no one is armed, no one can defend himself. The deterrent effect of police presence and/or a gun-friendly zone will almost always discourage engagement.
Gun ownership is not the problem here. A person who is determined to inflict this type of damage will not be stopped if he doesn’t have access to a gun. Don’t believe it? Ask the people of New York City who were victimized by a terrorist driving a rented truck. Sure, guns can be more efficient weapons, but driving a vehicle into a large crowd would have a catastrophic impact. Ask the people in Boston about the homemade explosive device used by the Boston Marathon bombers — assembled with legal materials.
Remember: guns don’t point and shoot by themselves. Blaming guns, rather than disturbed people, for shootings is like blaming airplanes (instead of terrorists) for the 9/11 attacks or cars (instead of impaired drivers) for drunk driving deaths. The human element cannot be controlled — we simply cannot legislate evil away. We must reinforce accountability by blaming the criminal instead of the weapon.
Mental health is a huge part of the problem in gun violence, but consider this: women are far more likely to be diagnosed with mental illnesses than men, yet virtually every mass killer has been male.
Folks with documented mental health problems can’t legally purchase firearms, but this gets tricky — what if a person is mentally healthy, purchases a gun and years later develops a mental illness that leads him to commit mass murder? There is no foolproof way to predict whether a person will ever develop a mental illness and certainly, the vast majority of people with such illnesses never commit crimes. In a free society, there is simply no way to police the physical, mental and emotional health of every citizen. (That’s why it’s important to be aware and speak up if you see something amiss.)
A common argument gun control advocates use is that the Second Amendment was not written with the knowledge that semi-automatic weapons would someday exist. While true, the logic makes as much sense as saying the First Amendment doesn’t apply to magazines, the internet or television. Our forefathers could not have predicted the technology created centuries after their lifetimes, but we don’t need to update the Constitution every time we have technological progress. Developing society doesn’t render the Second Amendment (or any others) moot.
We must let go of the idea that tighter laws are a cure-all that will end gun violence. Laws already keep most individuals in check, but a person who commits mass murder — besides not being a law-abiding citizen — is likely to be mentally disturbed or simply devoid of any sense of right and wrong.
Common sense needs to be the guiding factor in the ongoing debate about guns. Clearly, we have a problem in our country with violent crime, but guns are not the primary reason. It goes much deeper, and thus more difficult to solve, than just weaponry. Violent criminals disregard the value of human life; no legislation can address that vast moral chasm or change the heart of troubled people. Guns are only a small piece of the puzzle.
Rebecca Horvath of Johnson City is a wife. mother and community volunteers. She can be reached at [email protected]