Friday February 8, 2013

Some have requested a "conversation" on the Newtown tragedy. They really want those who care about all our civil rights to just shut up and accept their solution without evaluating the facts. "Never let a crisis go to waste." Bring some kids to the White House to read emotional letters.

They wasted no time exploiting this atrocity while emotions are high. The blood was barely dry before the zealots and demagogues already had the answer -- the NRA has blood on its hands, the NRA wants more dead children.

The quickly offered solution: "Restore the assault weapon ban." It doesn’t matter that Congress let the ban sunset after a 10-year trial (1994 to 2004). A new gun ban will only punish millions of people who now legally own them and who have done nothing wrong. Don’t they have rights, too? NRA members wish as much as anyone to end these shootings, and we offer solutions based on facts, logic, and reason. We really do need a conversation, and thought, not panic. And to consider decades of past research, other causative factors, and other solutions.

* Crimes are way down despite more people and more guns.

* Millions of crimes prevented by civilian guns, most without a shot fired.

* The effects of violence in movies, TV, and video games on civility and mores.

* The futility of large databases of licensed gun owners (much control of good people).

* Lack of enforcement of existing guns laws (little control of bad people).

* The wisdom of gun-free zones.

* Shouldn’t we protect all school kids, not just those of important or wealthy people?

* Mental illness -- we lack knowledge (and control) of dangerous people.

Adam Lanza, the Connecticut shooter, was mentally ill, a common denominator in so many of these tragedies. Similar mental illness related cases include the Colorado movie theater shooting and Tucson, where a congresswoman was wounded and six people killed by a mentally ill shooter, and others. It’s clear that the issue of mental illness needs to be an important area of study.

There were conflicts among (and even within) many reports of what happened in Newtown. The NBC update and a Connecticut State Police report still disagree on how many handguns (2 or 4?) and long guns (AR, shotgun or both?) and where found (inside the school or left outside in Lanza’s car?) These conflicts need to be resolved.

Shouldn’t there be forensics and ballistics reports identifying exactly which guns caused which fatalities? It seems important to whether we blame, and ban, specific types of guns. Does the type matter? In the wrong hands, isn’t one gun or a weapon of any kind, one too many? Shouldn’t we instead, control the bad people? And observe, the killing ended when "good guys with guns" (the police) finally arrived to stop the "bad guy with a gun." Sadly by then the carnage had been multiplied by a "gun free" policy. PETER J. MCBRIDE

Pittsfield