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23 July 2012 @ 03:22 pm
Applying Common Sense  
I get tired of watching all the hand wringing after each mass shooting and then seeing nothing at all change. There is no one solution and we likely can't stop it completely but we could reduce the numbers and limit fatalities with some basic common sense measures.

1. STOP giving out the shooters' names and photos. Is there anyone who doesn't believe that instant and lasting fame is a factor when these guys who feel like failures in their lives for whatever reason decide to engage in a mass shooting? There are some other factors but that is always one major one. We can report about them as "the Aurora shooter" etc. but we don't have to grant them name recognition and also bring up their name every time a NEW shooting occurrs. Just stop. This should be widely announced in advance so that no one living here would be unaware of the change in policy. It woudn't be a law (first amendment) but just as reporters voluntarily observe privacy of rape victims, they should agree to stop using shooters' names.


2. Yes gun control measures. Citizens don't need assault weapons and high load magazines. Not for hunting or home self defense anyway. One should also--in every state--have to take a class, pass a written test and a test for proper use just like you do for a driver's license. Perhaps the written test can have some psych related questions, I don't know, I'm sure this would be controversial. But I think state of mind is important to evaluate. Or maybe that should be part of the purchase process since state of mind can change over time. While people can acquire guns illegally, it is more difficult, more expensive, and it's important to note that most of these shooters bought their guns legally. Sure you can do a mass shooting with a hand gun or two but I bet the number of deaths and injuries would be far lower than it was in the Aurora shooting. I am not for eliminating gun rights or overturning the second amendment at all. I know responsible gun owners and I've enjoyed shooting at a gun range in the same way I've enjoyed archery.

3. Change our mental health laws. We've been talking about this for years now as we have homeless people on the street who've lost touch with reality (I want to be clear I'm not talking about all homeless people here) and violent shooters who family and friends indicate that they had concerns about. In the latest case a gun range owner was even suspicious that there was something wrong with this shooter. We ought to have a way to report our worries and concerns to an agency that makes sure the person is evaluated if they get enough credible feedback from others. As it stands now the person has to actually say they're going to hurt themselves or others before you can bring them in and get them checked out on a 72 hour hold. That isn't sufficient. I know there used to be horrendous abuses in the mental health system but now the pendulum is too far in the other direction and people aren't getting the help they need. Usually they only harm themselves but occasionally you get mass shootings or family murders.

This investigation would include a review of recent purchases. Obviously if a person that family and friends are worried about has bought several guns in a few months prior to the complaint that is a huge red flag that should trigger a longer than 72 hour hold. Family should be invovled in any therapy when possible.

Changing these laws could also help in stalking cases. It is another problem where people know there is something wrong with a person and that it might lead to violence but their hands have been tied.

4. Along with the above, when a person begins buying a number of weapons and ammo and gear in a few month period, it should trigger a thorough investigation by the same agency. This could be computerized and only reported to a human agent when it reaches a certain threshold (to protect privacy). One handgun purchase would not set anything in motion but a few in a month or two might. The exact criteria is up for debate.

The IRS will look into your finances if you deposit large sums of cash. I don't see how this is any different in terms of civil liberty. Red flags like losing a job or dropping out of college added to the above behavior should trigger a very careful look at the person's life and a psych eval.

5. Mental health services should be widely available at little to no cost and especially for students and anyone who has lost a job. Often these shooters had a triggering event in their lives such as family death, loss of job, loss of relationship, or trouble in school that leads to their mental deterioration.

6. End the drug war so we have more resources to focus on violent crimes.