Letters from Members

Bill in AZ wrote—
My point in writing is to commend you for an excellent editorial in the March 2014 eJournal on the issue of the much ignored matter of mental health as it relates to firearms usage. Yes, it began as a book review, but you included some of your own thoughts. I believe what you said was spot on and have myself thought the bulk of the effort to stop some of the carnage is misguided.

To begin, I contend that it’s simply unrealistic and ineffective to push so hard the various aspects of “gun control.” Attempting to control an object that is itself inert until the human equation enters in is, to me, wrongheaded. Why, then, is there not an equivalent demand to outlaw automobiles? After all, 40,000 people a year, give or take, are killed in them each year. I further contend that it’s not logical to expect that all firearm-related tragedies can be avoided.

I agree that a far better approach is to try to go at it from the mental health perspective. Again and again, after-the-fact analysis shows the majority of mass shooting events is committed by persons who have never been adjudicated mentally defective and indeed legally possessed the firearms used in the encounter. Some have recently inched toward pushing for better mental health intervention. The biggest problem, and you raised it, among others, is that mental health is not static. Any therapist of account will agree that it’s virtually impossible to pre-identify each and every threat.

Yet, there must be a way to do better and still account for individual freedom. Usually, persons who have continual contact with a troubled soul are in the best position to bring attention to the person they are concerned about--parents, relatives, close friends, what’s on Facebook, etc. I’m reminded of the brother of the Unabomber who came forward when he recognized familiar phrases in the Unabomber’s manifesto. Had he shied away, one shudders to think how many more bombs might have gone off.

Doing this sort of thing takes tremendous courage, for there will likely be serious repercussions if you’re right, and if you’re wrong. In effect, the person becomes a Whistleblower. Such folks have certain legal protections in the corporate and government arenas, but they usually suffer in a number of ways anyway.

What’s the practical bottom line?

It’s having unwavering courage and a strong desire to do the right thing. I’m neither talking about Big Brother here nor turning us into a nation of spies.

I don’t have all the answers; perhaps none of the answers. I’m convinced a serious dialogue needs to start, though, and right away.

Nick in British Columbia wrote–

Mental illness and character unsuitability are the most problematic areas of gun ownership and are never properly dealt with. Even with our licensing and registration and Gt. Britain’s even more onerous licensing and registration these issues still cause problems. If we look at the gun incidents that have caused the shooting community (never mind the poor victims) the most harm, they stem from persons with persistent mental or behavioral issues. The same applies in Canada and Gt. Britain; family knew, friends knew but the authorities for various reasons didn’t–despite that for us there is supposed to be an investigative vetting process prior to getting licenses.

A Right may (or may not) be granted by God. I will leave that argument to your Supreme Court but not everyone is “equipped” to have a gun (or a car, etc.). You are correct that family and friends should be accountable (if only morally) if they say nothing. We all have a duty to society and a responsibility to our neighbors.

Roy in LA wrote–

I just completed reading the Network eJournal for March 2014. Your mention of fixnics.org in your Editor’s Notebook caused me to recall last week as I was poking around another gun forum, one individual was asking how he could recover his “gun rights” after his felony conviction had been expunged. I would assume (the “need” to recover gun rights) that the conviction is in the NICS database. Apparently it’s easy to get IN the database and difficult to get OUT.

I am in no way against NICS, and I believe that we both agree that NICS is not complete (hence fixnics.org). But I believe that one of the “fixes” that should be addressed should also be a process to remove one’s information or the publication of that process if it exists. In many cases one is put on just because he/she needed some counseling from the Veteran’s Administration after a tour of duty in a war zone or for whatever reason.