Third Option?

The devotees of guns who insist that the Constitution guarantees them a right to carry automatic weapons are fond of saying that the “cure” for the incredible number of guns deaths in this country — including the latest mass shooting in Oregon — is to lock up the crazies before they start shooting. “It’s not guns that kill people, it’s people that kill people,” or some such nonsense. If there were no guns, of course, there would be no shootings. It’s simple logic.

But the hard-liners are convinced that there are two options, and only two options that face us: either we lock up all those who are likely to shoot random citizens or we continue to live in a state that is rife with domestic terrorism where an “accidental” shooting happens almost daily and there have been 986 mass killings since Sandy Hook; where 4.2% of the world’s population privately own 42% of the weapons. In an interesting article in the web blog “Vox, Policy and Politics” it was noted that Donald Trump, of all people, realizes, perhaps unwittingly, that the first option is not an option at all. As Trump was quoted as saying (pardon the syntax):

you know, oftentimes this happens and the neighborhood’s just, you know, we sort of saw that about him, it really looked like he could be a problem’ but it’s often hard to put someone in an institution for the rest of their lives based on the fact that he looks like he could be a problem.

My goodness, it seems a bit of the truth leaked in there somewhere among the cobwebs that befuddle this man’s consciousness. It is clearly the case that we cannot go around locking up anyone who we (which of us?) think looks like he or she might be on the verge of shooting someone else. This would lead to the worst form of fascist state and even the extreme right wingers don’t want that — I would hope. As the psychiatrist Dr. Paul Appelbaum of Columbia University has noted:

any attempt to predict who is most likely to commit a mass shooting — and therefore prevent it — runs up against the fact that these events are extremely rare, and as a result have only the broadest, least useful risk factors associated with them. […]

The risk factors that are linked to these events — basically, being an angry young man — are so widespread in the population, he explained, and so weakly predictive of an individual actually committing a mass shooting as to be practically useless. “The answer is yes, at least of the most highly publicized, most fear-inducing cases of stranger shootings, by and large they are angry young men,” said Appelbaum. “But that doesn’t get you very far, because there are a lot of angry young men who are angry for all kinds of reasons, and unless one wants to lock them all up or put them all under 24-hour surveillance, it’s really impossible to build on a description that general to come up with effective preventative approaches.”

So, the conclusion that is reached by those who want to marry their guns and continue to shoot first and ask questions later is that things must go on as usual. We simply must put up with it. Better still, we should all go out and buy guns to protect ourselves against the “other” people who are crazy — as though we wouldn’t be certifiably crazy if we were to run out and buy guns just for the sake of protecting ourselves. It’s called “paranoia.”

What’s lost in this discussion, as the Vox article notes is the obvious third option: gun control. But that is not “on the table” in Republican circles and Trump, at the end of his interview, went back to the standard notion that we simply must be more wary. No one should take our guns away from us.  Even though, as I have noted in previous posts, the Second Amendment doesn’t guarantee every Tom, Dick, and Sally the right to carry automatic weapons, or, indeed any weapons of any kind. What it guarantees is the right of the militia to carry weapons in order to guarantee that we would never be a land occupied by armies, our own or others.

But, there’s another one of those “facts” which people like Donald Trump choose to ignore out of a sense of obligation to the weapons manufacturers who provide them with the big bucks they need in order to be elected to high office. Now there’s another of those ugly facts that we would prefer to ignore.