Elliot Rodgers and the Conundrum of Gun Control

Let me start off with my own personal opinion on gun control.

I’m not some crazy person who thinks background checks should be done away with, because I do think that allowing felons to purchase firearms is a bad plan and, therefore, we need to perform background checks to weed them out, because they are criminals and therefore not exactly trustworthy. You can’t expect they are going to follow the law and not buy a gun, they’ve already committed crimes, they clearly don’t care much about the law anyway.

Conversely I don’t appreciate the idea that my name should appear on a registry for the federal or state government (a registry that with one FOIA request could put my address and name out into public view, despite all my social media, I am a fairly private person and I’ve done nothing wrong by owning a firearm) and the idea that I should be required to buy bullets, as one or two senators and left wing pundits have suggested, is insane.

We won’t even get into my feelings on why law abiding citizens should be allowed to own “assault” weapons and have more than 10 bullets in their gun, that’s an entire other can of worms that doesn’t really apply to this situation.

Elliot Rodgers, the disturbed and violent man who murdered 6 people in cold blood last week, did buy his guns legally. California has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States and he was still able to purchase the gun he used to kill two sorority girls and injure a 3rd.

Plenty of people, including the family of the murderer and family of the victims, have used this event to comment on the need for stricter gun laws, so here is the tough question we need to ask.

Would stricter gun laws have prevented this tragedy?

The Right and the Left tend to have knee jerk reactions to a question like this.

The Right shouts “strict gun control just make sure only criminals have guns!” and Left shouts “of course gun control would save people, guns get people killed!”

And while I tend to agree with the Right’s knee jerk reaction, this particular situation with Rodgers is one that is unique and deserves more than a knee jerk reaction.

Would stricter gun control have prevent Rodger’s from murdering 6 people and injuring at least 13 more?

No it would not have.

Rodger’s did not require a gun to commit his murders. In fact, in reading his manifesto (you need a strong stomach for that, let me tell you) his fantasies of killing people revolved more around the more “intimate” forms of murder, things that would connect him to his victims in a personal way.

Knives, decapitation, torture, vehicular manslaughter, those were the things that were mentioned over and over. Only once does he really mention firearms in reference to killing (rather than suicide, which appeared to be his main reason for buying the guns in the first place, to insure he would not go to prison) was in reference to shooting up a house party and if he had not been able to access a firearm I have no doubt, based on his intense homicidal fantasies and delusions, he would have simply committed his murders in another manner.

Gun control would not have stopped Elliot Rodgers and it’s a dishonest, unhelpful, and rather callous thing for people to turn this event into a political issue by pretending that gun control would have saved all these lives and prevented Rodgers fantasies from coming to fruition. The only thing, in my opinion, that would have stopped him from carrying out his plans was death or involuntary commitment for his and others safety.

Now in the general sense, do I think that people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia should be able to buy guns? Probably not, especially not if they refuse to take their medication. That’s a complex issue, one that affects only 1.1% of the population, and should not affect gun laws as they apply to the other 98.9% of the population. It’s an issue that should make us question our mental health system in the United States, consider scalpel precise restrictions (based on assessments from mental health professionals) on gun ownership, and revisit the issue of involuntary commitment and all of the legal issues that it might cause.

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Categorised in: Gun Control, Politics

4 Responses »

  1. On an otherwise great post, I have a couple of quibbles.

    because I do think that allowing felons to purchase firearms is a bad plan and, therefore, we need to perform background checks to weed them out, because they are criminals and therefore not exactly trustworthy.

    First not all ‘felons are untrustworthy. Some are people convicted of importing seafood in the wrong bag for example. There is a book out that suggests the average person commits 3 felonies a day. Hard to think that the average person isn’t trustworthy.

    Next — the idea that ‘background checks’ are keeping criminals from obtaining firearms is completely inane. The primary method for obtaining a firearm is the ‘secondary market’; firearms bought from friends or family who legally obtain them. Or stolen firearms.

    Now in the general sense, do I think that people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia should be able to buy guns? Probably not, especially not if they refuse to take their medication. That’s a complex issue, one that affects only 1.1% of the population, and should not affect gun laws as they apply to the other 98.9% of the population

    I think a broader approach to this would indicate the real scope of the problem. First, when does society have a right to deprive people of their rights based on their medical/mental condition?

    Not just their 2nd Amendment rights but all of them. Postpartum depression has been cited in several cases where moms have killed their children; does that mean every mother suffering from it should be separated from their children?
    No….same with other illnesses. We have to come up with a way to identify those likely — significantly likely – to harm themselves or others and react.

    • Cases like the importing sea food that you bring up are by far the exception not the rule, just fyi.

      I’d have to see numbers on that being the primary way to obtain a firearm firstly, secondly the person providing a felon with a firearm would be breaking the law and should no better in the first place…if they don’t then they are an idiot.

      As I said, I’m talking about a VERY specific type of mental issue. Schizophrenia, with delusions and paranoia and violent outbursts that go with it are obviously something we need to consider more than postpartum depression. PPD is not incredibly long lasting and, to my knowledge, is much easier to treat than schizophrenia…for which there is no “cure” just treatments that work to varying degrees.
      That’s why I was discussing Schizophrenia specifically, not all mental health issues in general.

      • This is from a memo produced in Jan. 2013 by the National Institute of Justice

        To understand the value of background checks it is essential to understand the source of crime guns. Several sporadic attempts have been made to learn how criminals acquire guns. For example, a 2000 study by the ATF found the following distribution of sources

        Source Percentage
        Straw purchase 47%
        Stolen 26%
        Store14%
        Residence10%
        Common carrier 2%
        Unregulated private seller 20%
        Gun shows/flea markets 13%
        Retail diversion 8%

        secondly the person providing a felon with a firearm would be breaking the law and should no better in the first place…if they don’t then they are an idiot.

        I agree with the statement they are breaking the law but it doesn’t change 2 points of reality; it is very easy for a felon to get a firearm and not all felons should be denied their right to keep and bear arms.

        I find it amazing we provide criminals with so many second chances; some of the richly deserved and well used to become productive members of society but “oh no, can’t have a firearm because 30 years ago, you had an aggravated assault case”.
        Or you lied on your taxes 10 years ago…..if we are going to defend the right to keep and bear arms on the basis of self defense; should deny people that right so easily?

        Perhaps if we want to keep firearms out of the hands of the violent felons; we should lock them up when they prove unable to follow societies rules?

        • Perhaps there should be a sunset clause on certain types of felonies, but that’s a separate debate from whether or not we need gun control.

          Lastly, of course criminals tend to get guns in illegal ways…because we have background checks on the legal means of purchase. Just sayin’.

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