In December 2012, in one of the worst cases of mass murder, Adam Lanza killed his mother and then went to an elementary school and shot 26 first graders and six adults. Lanza had suffered with serious mental health problems through his life.
In June 2015 Dylann Storm Roof, a white man, went to a black church in Charleston, SC, and pretended to pray with the people there for a while and then shot and killed nine church members. He said that he hoped his action would start a race war.
A month later Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazees, a naturalized American citizen who had graduated from high school and college in
Tennessee, went to two military recruiting centers in ,
and shot five military recruiters to death and wounded three more. Chattanooga, TN
That October Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer shot and killed eight of his fellow students and his teacher to death at
. He had struggled with mental issues
since his teenage years. Umpqua Community
The next month Robert Lewis Dear went to a Planned Parenthood Office in
, where he
shot twelve people, including a police officer. Three of his victims died from
the gunshot wounds. Recently he was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial
for his crimes. Colorado
In December of 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook, born in
America and working
for the county Department of Public Health, along with his wife Tashfeen Malik,
went to a holiday party in , where
his coworkers were still celebrating, and killed 14 and wounded 22. San
Then on June 12, 2016 Noor Mateen, also American born, went to a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, where he used an assault rifle to slaughter 49 people and wound over 50 more. He had worked as a security guard, so he must have been investigated before he was hired. Nevertheless, he was an unstable person. His ex-wife stated that Mateen flew into rages and beat her. People who knew him said he was not very religious, yet as he began his assault, he called 911, and claimed allegiance to
His father said that Mateen had once seen two men kissing in the street, and
flew into a rage because of the sight. Yet he had often frequented the club
himself in the past. There is some suggestion that part of Mateen’s anger came
from conflict over his own sexual orientation.
What is the common denominator in these and similar terrible acts of carnage in recent years? You can’t say it is the Muslim religion. Three of the men were Muslims, yet they were all American citizens, two of them born in this country. All three of them seemed to have fit in well with American culture. Abdulazees and Farook were college graduates.
Is the denominator mental health? Dear, Harper-Mercer, and Lanza all had severe mental health problems. Anyone who contemplates such horrific crimes as these of course has serious mental problems. Despite his problems, Harper-Mercer was able to enlist in the army, although he did not make it through basic training. Despite Mateen’s tendency to violence, he was able to function on his job and legally to buy an assault weapon. You can’t keep these weapons out of the hands of mentally unstable people if the weapons are available at all. People can sometimes function pretty well and then suddenly flip out. As Richard Cohen said, in the Washington Post, “We can’t even keep nuts from running for President.” So trying to keep weapons of mass destruction from mentally unstable people but making them available for others will not work.
What all these events have in common is the ease with which unstable people are able to purchase guns. In the events that created the most the shooters were armed with assault rifles. We need to keep these weapons from the hands of EVERYONE. No civilian needs an AK-15. These guns are made to kill a large number of people at once. We don’t need an AK-15 for hunting. We don’t need one for home protection. These are military rifles. They have no place in the hands of individuals.
Don’t say that we need to have such weapons to protect ourselves from the federal government who might take our guns away. Paranoia is a mental illness. Do we want people to be able to have machine guns, mortars and tanks as well?
The only way to keep assault rifles out of the hands of mentally unstable people is to keep them out of the hands of all civilians. Don’t say that if we ban assault rifles from ordinary people, only outlaws will have these guns. Don’t say that the government is trying to take away your guns. It is only trying to take away the kind of guns that no civilian should have any use for.
During prohibition gangsters used tommy guns to fight rival gangs and law enforcement officers. Finally the federal government solved the problem by levying a huge tax on these weapons and sawed-off shotguns. One gangster, Jack Miller, a bank robber, was caught with a sawed-off shotgun. He was charged with having an unregistered weapon, essentially a tax evasion. The case went to the Supreme Court, which decided:
In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a ’shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length’ at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument.
These weapons are no longer in use. There is no reason that the same thing can’t be done with assault rifles.
Except that the National Rifle Association will fight to defeat the re-election of any member of Congress who votes for reasonable gun laws. Haven’t we been intimidated by the NRA long enough? Maybe it is time that sane people mount a campaign to fight the re-election of members of Congress who refuse to create laws that protect our citizens from the crazies who use assault rifles to murder our citizens.