Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Misguided Anti-Gun Assumptions

The following article appeared in the American Thinker on February 25th

The psychotic killer of more than a dozen students in Parkland, Florida has set off the usual anti-Second Amendment activists, opportunistic politicos, and press on a predictable campaign seeking the disarmament of the American citizenry.  Unfortunately, virtually every suggested measure for improvement would produce little to no benefit, or actually make this a much more dangerous place.

President Trump expressed interest in improving the effectiveness of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is designed to identify those whose possession of a firearm could be a risk to themselves and others.  The NICS, which requires the completion of an extensive questionnaire and review by federal authorities, seeks to prevent gun sales to convicted felons, fugitives from justice, domestic violence perpetrators, those under indictment, those adjudicated with mental health issues, illegal aliens, those dishonorably discharged from the military, and those who have renounced their U.S. citizenship.
The reason for the 2nd Amendment

However, this safeguard has failed repeatedly – just as it did in Florida.

The Trump administration has identified the longstanding vulnerability.  Just this past September, the Department of Justice inspector general produced a report that identified a serious breakdown in the coordination and communication between state and federal law enforcement agencies.

The Justice Department IG reported that "we found [that] the overall FBI error rate was exceedingly low.  However, our review identified weaknesses in the FBI's system for following up on pending transactions.  As we note in our report, even an isolated NICS process breakdown can have tragic consequences, as evidenced by the June 2015 fatal shooting at a Charleston, South Carolina church where the NICS process lacked timely and accurate data from local agencies that could have prevented the alleged shooter from purchasing the gun he allegedly used."

Nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz, the killer of the 17 victims at Stoneman Douglas High School, should have been identified by the NICS and prevented from purchasing the firearms used in the school slaughter.  Police had been called to Cruz's home 39 times in response to his assorted outbursts; he bragged on social media about killing helpless animals; he had been expelled from school for his out-of-control behavior; he joined radical, violent groups; and he posted on his Facebook account that he planned to be a "professional school shooter."  This was reported to the FBI, but none of this made its way to the NICS database.

In addition to Cruz, Adam Lanza in Newtown; Dylan Roof in Charlotte; Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood; Omar Mateen at Orlando; Devin Kelley at Sutherland Springs, Texas; Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold at Columbine; and others should have set off alarms but did not.

President Trump would serve this nation immeasurably by finally enforcing existing NICS laws to prevent yet another occurrence of such tragedies.  However, other recommended measures invite disaster.

Even putting aside the dictates of the Second Amendment (that's an awful lot to put aside), draconian impulses of many are based on demonstrably false assumptions.  Among those is the notion that removal of all firearms from the hands of the American citizenry will ensure a tranquil, violence-free existence for all.

At the top of the list is the banning of "assault weapons," specifically the AR-15 rifles.  Among the required characteristics of a firearm to be considered an assault weapon is its selective fire capability – the option of switching between semi-automatic and burst or fully automatic fire.  The AR-15 is incapable of that.  The AR-15 is no more dangerous than any other semi-automatic rifle or pistol that presumably would require banishment as well.

The use of these weapons by psychotic copycat killers is tragic, but putting the blame on the semi-automatic rifle itself is an exercise in self-gratification more than a pursuit of a solution.  Each year in this country, approximately half of all murders are committed by persons using handguns.  In about 2.5% of murders, various kinds of rifles are used.  Blunt objects and fists are used in many more murders that are rifles, and being stabbed to death with a knife occurs at least five times more often than being shot by any sort of rifle.

Ill-advised gun control advocates insist that our personal safety relies on the removal of firearms from our society.  However, there is not a shred of evidence that should lead us to believe that this will accomplish anything to protect us.

There is no correlation between the level of private gun ownership in any nation and the violence that nation may experience.  The United States has by far the most privately owned guns in the world but historically has not been among the top 100 most violent countries and homicides here are disproportionately drug- and gang-related crimes committed in our inner cities.  Remarkably, the 25 countries with the lowest private gun ownership rates have a composite intentional homicide rate more than twice that of those 25 nations with the highest per capita gun ownership rates.

So what is the solution for the heartbreaking assault in Parkland?  President Trump's recommendation of closing the gaps in the nation's existing gun purchase background check system is a good start.  Outlawing mechanisms that convert semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic ones is another.  But finally getting serious about effectively protecting our schoolchildren is long overdue.

Federal law prohibits guns in government buildings, schools, and national parks.  However, government facilities are teeming with heavily armed security personnel there to protect our lawmakers and bureaucrats from harm.  But our children are left completely defenseless from insane predators.

Many studies reveal that immaturity among teenagers increases the likelihood of an individual committing criminal acts of violence or aggression.  Far too often, psychologically fragile, isolated, or bullied adolescents impulsively act against those they feel have victimized them.

Almost all school or university shootings of the last couple decades have been committed by students or former students of those facilities.  Many had longstanding, obvious psychological problems that went unaddressed or were absent from NICS review.

Improved measures to identify dangerous potential assailants such as Cruz are needed, but trained and armed security personnel (including selected teachers and staff members) can halt the carnage.  Grief counseling and candlelight vigils may be fine, but they are useful only after all the damage has been done. 

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