January 28, 2013

Realities and Reactions of Public Shootings

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After the monstrous shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, gun control was pushed back onto the national stage as the only method to prevent mass shootings. The most discussed proposals include banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. While all shootings differ, most were not spur-of-the-moment massacres. They were cold, calculated attacks, often planned days or weeks in advance. Thus, banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines will not effectively prevent further shootings.

The problem our nation is facing is not an over-abundance of weapons; rather, it is the dilapidated state of mental health and inability of medical and educational professionals to detect the severity of mental afflictions. Knee-jerk reaction bans to assault weapons and high-capacity magazines will not solve this core issue. While these proposals may momentarily stifle the ability of shooters to enact their heinous plans, they are not realistic long-term solutions, nor are they legitimate trade-offs to restrict our consumer freedoms.

For example, James Holmes, the suspected perpetrator of the Aurora shooting on July 6, 2012, purchased his pistol and shotgun in May, semi-automatic rifle in June, second pistol on July 6th, and over 5000 rounds of ammunition throughout the four months preceding the shooting. Furthermore, he booby-trapped his apartment with home-made explosives with the intention to harm the ensuing police officers.

Excluding all other preventative measures, we must ask ourselves, how would a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines have changed the situation in Aurora?

A ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines may have hindered Holmes. However, for a man who painstakingly calculated his attack with shotguns, pistols, rifles and explosives, it is unlikely that the tragedy would have been diminished.

What we do know is that the choices and freedoms of Americans would be severely limited with these proposed measures, with little chance to prevent any harm whatsoever. Proponents of harsh gun control are quick to undermine the rights of law abiding citizens in hopes to assuage the mass-shootings, but by doing so, hurt those citizens and only slightly inconvenience mass-killers.

Restricting freedom for safety, with no guarantee of results, has become a common reaction to American tragedies, and it is a pattern of action we must critically examine.

What are realistic proposals that would promote freedom, ensure safety and solve the public shooting epidemic?

Firstly, what this nation desperately needs is a complete reconstruction of the mental and emotional health system. This is the key issue at hand. The overwhelming majority of perpetrators are middle-class white men with mental afflictions. Why is this specific demographic prone to committing these atrocities? This is not the question currently being addressed.

Instead, the subset of our population with mental illnesses has seemingly been cast without any examination of the underlying reasons for their instability. When another public shooting occurs, those with mental illness are ignored, yet gun control is always reassessed.

Fixing the way we diagnose and treat mental and emotional health is not the easy fix the public wants. However, it is the just solution that will bring long-term results.

Secondly, universal backgrounds checks and similar safety nets are clear necessities. While members of the NRA may not agree with these proposals, they are a rational and necessary compromise to protect our citizens.

James Holmes, and many other mass shooters who legally purchased their weapons, may have been flagged, and hopefully prohibited from buying more weapons, if proper background checks were in place.

Lastly, the concealed carry program must be expanded to give citizens an increased ability to protect one another.  This includes relaxing regulations in may-issue or no-issue states; actively promoting the program to healthy, valiant individuals and restricting the “opt-out” choice in public places. While a distaste of guns in public areas has crippled the program, a concealed weapon in the hands of a trained, responsible citizen has the capability to stop any acts of public violence.

Proposals like these are vital to solving our nation’s mass violence problem while actively protecting our citizens from terror in a way that banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines do not. A new prohibition on a certain type of weapon will not dishearten or dissuade those who choose, or have chosen, to go to great lengths to harm others them.

The disasters our nation has faced are inhuman and almost unimaginable. The only fair and realistic solutions involve stopping the problem at its source through re-evaluating mental health and giving our citizens the ability to physically protect each other.

It is not enough to guarantee the restriction of freedoms with only a mere chance of securing safety.

Original Author: Kyle Ezzedine