I have an admission to make: I like guns. They are fun to fire. They have useful purposes, ranging from hunting to fighting threats. While I do not own one, I do plan on purchasing one and making range visits regularly for the entertainment value and for the potential SHTF (shit hits the fan) moment. (See the previous post – or post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans – for why being prepared for the undesirable and unlikely might be a decent idea. If Boy Scouts taught me one thing, it’s “Be Prepared”. BTW – owning a gun is not properly securing your home.)

That said, I also strongly believe in gun control. While that may seem contradictory to our right-wing readers, I must point out that “control” does not equal “elimination”. I’m loathe to discuss this after last Monday’s tragedy, as I don’t want to demean the loss suffered by the friends and families of both the victims and the shooter, and I don’t want to be seen as being an opportunistic vulture looking to gain political advantage after such a tragedy, but one glaring question jumps out at me.

How does a young man who a court labeled as a danger to himself and others go purchase two handguns after that fact?

Sure, making the sale of guns to the mentally unstable might not prevent another college campus shooting. But it seems that making it more difficult for unstable individuals to acquire firearms can only be a good thing. It most certainly wouldn’t prevent responsible and capable firearm owners from acquiring their weapons. This is what is called “common sense” gun control. Might it still be possible for an unstable individual to acquire an illegal weapon? Of course. But it’ll be harder. That might be enough deterrent.

As for the issue of concealed carry, and claims that if a student or teacher had a firearm they would have been able to limit the deaths at VT… I read once that it takes years of Marine training to make a Marine. A handgun and a CCW license does not mean someone is sufficiently trained to be able to engage an armed opponent in a friendly-rich environment, provided they have time and opportunity to draw and unsafe their weapon, and provided they have the mental wherewithal to do so and calmly engage a threat in a high-adrenaline, high stress situation. Even trained soldiers often fail to act. (Emphasis mine.)

Most men will avoid killing if at all possible. After World War II, S. L. A. Marshall and his team interviewed hundreds of American soldiers. They found, unexpectedly, that only one in five in frontline combat actually fired their rifles. … By reconstructing old battles in which soldiers with muskets fired at each other for hours standing in lines only a few dozen meters apart, analysts have determined that most of them who fired intended to miss (by shooting over the heads of the enemy), leading to very low hit rates. The closer one is to another person, physically and emotionally, the harder it is to kill them, and the greater the psychological trauma from doing so. … Western militaries took notice of Marshall’s findings and used insights from psychology to improve killing rates, as described in Peter Watson’s book War on the Mind. They found that the greatest incentive to kill came not from ideology, hatred of the enemy or fear of being killed, but from loyalty to the immediate fighting group. … After conditioning of this sort, the soldier performs on “automatic pilot” in the actual combat situation. Use of these techniques raised the firing rate of US soldiers from 20% in World War II to over 90% in the Vietnam war.

Even with military training and conditioning, nearly one in ten soldiers still wouldn’t fire. Why would anyone think that a gun owner who fires at the range every weekend would be able to instantly switch from classroom mode to “kill the threat” mode? Most times, concealed weapons are a liability, not an asset, even in trained hands, and drawing a weapon will always result in conflict escalation. (What’s the point of concealed carry anyway? If it’s a deterrent, shouldn’t people know you have a weapon?)

I do not understand why some people think that being a hero requires charging and taking down an armed opponent. Isn’t successfully barricading a door, saving your life and the lives of your classmates also a heroic action? The solution to gun violence is rarely additional gun violence – it’s avoiding the initial conflict as often as possible. And taking reasonable steps towards keeping guns out of the hands of court-labeled psychopaths seems like a good start towards avoiding conflicts.

Proper public mental health care would be nice, too.

Tagged with: