The tragedy of Newtown Connecticut may lead us to ponder not just gun control but also the intersection of gun control and mental illness. Here is a clip from David Berreby:
One consequence of mass killings like this week’s horror in Newtown, according to reporting by Kristina Fiore, is this: Involuntary commitments of mentally ill men will increase for a while. To which I can only say: Terrific. I hope they triple. Yes, it’s obvious that we need to reduce unstable men’s access to guns (because guns greatly amplify the damage that a killer can inflict in a few seconds or minutes). But it’s also obvious that we should be trying to reduce their access topeople, and increase their access to serious help. Because even if we can get a handle on assault weapons and military pistols, there will still be knives, fertilizer and poison.
MYTH #1: More guns don’t lead to more murders.
MYTH #2: The Second Amendment prohibits strict gun control.
MYTH #3: State-level gun controls haven’t worked.
MYTH #4: We only need better enforcement of the laws we have, not new laws.
MYTH #5: Sensible gun regulation is prohibitively unpopular.
And from Emily Bazelon at Slate:
So I wonder: Could this shooting be the one that shakes us out of our deadly paralysis about the twin problems of limitless access to guns and untreated mental illness? Or could this, in combination with the shootings at the Aurora, Colo. movie theater last summer, and Arizona spree that seriously injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, finally change how Americans think and legislators act about guns? I single those tragedies out because we know that James Holmes, the alleged Aurora shooter, and Jared Loughner, convicted and sentenced to life for the mass deaths in Arizona, were schizophrenic men in their early 20s who weren’t in treatment and who had easy access to semi-automatic weapons and rapid-fire ammunition. Also on this list,Seung-Hui Cho, who massacred 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007 while he was a student there. Now we’re hearing about the reclusive 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who kept to himself so much in high school, his former classmates say, that they kind of overlooked what some of them thought was Asperger’s syndrome, and which may turn out to be another disorder. “I think he went so unnoticed that people didn’t even stop to realize that maybe there’s actually something else going on here—that maybe he needs to be talking or getting some kind of mental help,” one former classmate told the New York Times.
The cost of this definition of freedom is too high: That’s the point advocates for gun control make, over and over again. If this lesson sunk in, maybe we’d take seriously the results in Australia, where a massacre of 35 people led to a 1996 ban on semi-automatic and automatic rifles and shotguns. (Adam Lanza had the first, according to reports.) Australia also started a mandatory buy-back program for the weapons it banned. A drop in the firearm homicide rate and the firearm suicide rate followed, according to some research. There are other, smaller fixes, a by now familiar list: Bring back the ban on assault weapons, which Congress allowed to expire in 2004. Ban the sale of rapid-fire ammunition. Quit letting people buy weapons at gun shows without background checks. That alone could help keep guns out of the hands of some people who are mentally ill and not getting treated.