My Turn: What’s best for our country when it comes to guns?


Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The headline of the Recorder article “President hears tearful pleas” raised the question in my mind, “But did he really listen?” He is quoted as saying, “Thank you for pouring out your hearts while the world is watching.” It appears from his pre-scripted questions and answers that this was, for him, a photo op too good to pass up, but will it influence his thinking?

His answers to this problem include banning bump stocks. These were designed for the physically handicapped and are used by relatively few people, and the NRA obligingly agreed after the last shooting that this would be OK with them, so that is an easy choice.

Background checks will be looked at. Having an accurate database that is kept up by all pertinent agencies and includes comprehensive information about people with issues related to violent behavior is certainly a good start. There is no mention, however, of extending the requirement for background checks to private or internet sales or gun shows, so it is difficult to see how this will make schools or anyone else safer. Nor is there any mention of where the money for this massive fix will come from, though I hope they will follow through, as it is certainly needed.

The president absolutely (for now) supports raising the age of purchasing semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21, even though the NRA opposes it. I doubt if it matters much to the victim whether the shooter is under or over 21. If this is changed, the difference, it would be negligible.

As for arming school teachers so they can “take down the shooter,” we have seen the effect of having an armed deputy at the school. I wish news reports had said what that deputy armed with. Was he really equipped to take on a military weapon with whatever gun he was carrying? If a teacher were armed with a concealed hand gun, how much more would his students suffer hearing that he had engaged the shooter and been killed? This is not a movie script where James Bond has to survive so they can keep the franchise going.

The president has said that the real issue is mental health, and that is a huge problem in this country. However, mental health did not kill all the victims of gun violence; guns did. There are many mentally ill people in this country, but most of them do not kill people. And a mentally ill person carrying a knife or even a hand gun into a school would not be able to inflict the kind of mass killing that someone armed with an automatic weapon can. People who carry out mass killings are not all mentally ill, unless you count ideological motivation as mental illness. Furthermore, even mental health evaluation and/or treatment cannot predict accurately who will turn to violence, nor is there any guarantee that treatment will prevent it.

Let’s see what the president has done and proposes to do about mental health.

First, he wants to allow insurance companies to sell less comprehensive policies that do not include health care, eliminate the penalty for not purchasing health care (so healthy people will not buy it, increasing costs for those who do), and cut Medicaid, thus insuring that people who need mental health care but can’t afford it won’t get it. Then, he is going to put mental health professionals in schools (and who is going to pay for that? Take it out of Medicare and Medicaid?), where they will not come in contact with students who have been expelled or are no longer in school. This will not protect those in workplaces that are not schools, either.

Finally, this is not a Constitutional question. There is no right to carry automatic weapons of war embedded in the Second Amendment. There has been a ban on automatic rifles that was let lapse. The issue was already decided by the Supreme Court, which ruled that Congress does have the right to regulate these weapons. What’s next, hand grenades and missile launchers?

I don’t like many of the decisions the Supreme Court has made, but there must be a court of last resort, and under the Constitution, the decision of the Supreme Court is final. To deny this fundamental principle is to deny the Constitution and the rule of law which every government official has sworn to uphold. Absence of law is anarchy.

I heard on the news this morning that the White House staff didn’t yet know what to say about all this because they “didn’t know yet where Trump’s heart is.” Follow the money — what is good for his view of the economy? Gun sales. What makes the president look strong and effective? Being tough on crime — love those guns.

Finally, the young survivors ask, “When will this change? How many more of us have to die?” In their heartfelt anguish, the young people set aside their grieving time to meet with the president, but none of them said what I was waiting to hear — “I will be voting this year (or next year, or the year after), and I will not forget what you do now.”

Judith Truesdell lives in Shelburne.