Guns are not the real danger

Risk-taking is part of life, and we tend to focus on the risks most publicized by the media. Trouble is, that’s usually a poor way to gauge actual danger.

Take gun violence, for example. Most of the media coverage is focused on guns and new laws to control them – we don’t want another Newtown, Conn., school shooting, after all – but are guns the real danger? And are new laws the real solution?

No, of course not. The real danger is the madness, or what goes on in someone’s head just before the violence. Liberals don’t want to talk about that. They’d rather marginalize the Second Amendment. It’s easier.

Consider: The deadliest mass murder in a school in the United States occurred on May 18, 1927, in Bath Township, Mich.

The 55-year-old treasurer of the local school board, upset because he had lost an election for township clerk the previous year, murdered his wife by hitting her on the head with a blunt object. Then he went to the Bath Consolidated School and detonated explosives he had planted under the building.

A total of 38 elementary school children and six adults were killed; 58 other people were injured. The perpetrator killed himself by detonating dynamite inside his truck. The school superintendent and several other people also died in that explosion.

No one was killed with a gun.

On April 20, 1999, two Columbine, Colo., high school seniors with a history of behavioral disorders went on a shooting rampage. A total of 12 students and one teacher were murdered, and 21 other students and three other people were wounded.

Seldom mentioned is that the two seniors had planted and armed two 20-pound propane bombs in the school cafeteria prior to the shootings. Thankfully, the bombs failed to detonate. Had they exploded, authorities believe, all 488 students in the cafeteria would have been killed or seriously injured. The ceiling also might have collapsed, with the library dropping into the cafeteria. More dead and injured.

How can we stop the violence by guns, bombs or other means? We need to stop the madness.

A good first step would be to make sure people who exhibit serious abnormal behaviors receive adequate care and treatment. This would not be easy, and it might not be supported by liberals who tend to view psychiatry as a science and who still support deinstitutionalization (a major cause of the homeless problem today). Our attitudes toward mental illness would have to change, and new laws might be needed.

A good second step would be making sure that all individuals identified as having mental health or drug abuse problems are reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Many states do not share their mental health and drug abuser records with NICS, and so a deranged individual or a drug addict in those states could be cleared for gun ownership. (In West Virginia, the latest available information indicates that mental health records are forwarded to NICS by the courts. Drug abuser records are not sent to NICS.)

A good third step: Law enforcement agencies, especially at the federal level, could do a much better job of enforcing the gun laws already on the books. (One could reasonably ask: If current laws are not enforced, how could new laws help?)

Another idea: We, meaning society, could do a better job of controlling our appetite for violence (“As a person thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7.). We could, for example, turn our backs on violent “entertainment” – especially videos, movies, TV programs and music that involve violence toward people. Our attitudes and behavior could improve over time.

We also could do a better job of teaching Judeo-Christian values to our young people in our churches, synagogues and schools, private and public. And while we’re at it, we could do a better job of teaching proper parenting skills to our young people.

Lastly, we could stop letting the mainstream media (especially TV and magazines) select our role models. The media are no better at picking role models than they are at identifying risks.

New gun control laws are not a solution. Stopping the madness is.

George Moore is a retired journalist. Positions he’s held during his 35-year career include newspaper reporter, editor and publisher and executive director of the Montana Newspaper Association. He and his wife, Marilyn, reside in Randolph County.