Something?

So yesterday we discussed the chorus of vapid calls for Washington to “Do something!” in the wake of a demented murderers actions in Newtown.  It’s expected from the usual suspects and I should have expected it when I clicked the link, but under his non-football thoughts in his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column Sports Illustrated writer Peter King had this to say:

b. I don’t have an intelligent solution to the gun violence in this country, the violence that can allow an unstable man to murder 20 children with between three and 11 shots apiece from a semi-automatic weapon firing terroristic hollow-point bullets designed to inflict the most damage possible. But smarter people than I must have ideas what to do, while protecting the right of law-abiding Americans to bear arms.

We have to stop cowering to those opposed to meaningful gun reform, to those who blindly and obediently say, “Gun don’t kill; people kill.” That’s a nice slogan. It’s also ridiculously and cruelly blind to the events of recent months in America, where a movie theater, shopping mall and idyllic New England elementary school have been shot up by sick people — and, in the case of the Newton shootings, a sick person with access to the kinds of guns used in war zones.

c. Having said that, it’s obvious too that we have to address the mental health aspect of this, and to care better for those on society’s fringes. When our politicians are cutting budgets, as they certainly are on the eve of the fiscal cliff talks, they’d better be careful about slashing public funding for mental health in this country.

d. Your moves, President Obama, and leaders of the House and Senate, on both sides of the aisle. Be leaders. Do the right thing. Do something.

I say I should have expected it because, after reading his column a few times, King seems to be a doctrinaire liberal like most other media folks.  As far as NFL news goes he seems pretty plugged in.  I don’t really follow NFL news much anymore.  It’s pretty much just become a platform for endless advertising and players self-aggrandizing after every routine play.  I’m a much bigger college football fan than pro – for now, college football seems to be going the same route as the NFL when it comes to greed and superfluous celebrations – but do skim through his MMQB column occassionally.

At least he’s honest enough to admit he doesn’t have an intelligent solution.  Which is good because he doesn’t seem to have a real intelligent grasp on what government at any level is capable of actually achieving with regards to gun violence.  Mexico has far, far stricter gun control laws than the US (there’s only one gun store in the entire country) yet they have a much higher incidence of mass shootings.  How is that possible?

Being in Texas, I’ve heard a lot of stories about people crossing the border into Mexico who unknowingly have a couple of stray cartridges loose in the trunk of their car or under their truck seat.  These otherwise law-abiding and non-violent people are immediately arrested and thrown into jail for violating Mexico’s strict firearm laws.  Such arrests do nothing to reduce the staggering gun violence in Mexico, but they’re regularly carried out and draconian penalties meted out under the guise of public safety.

We must stop cowering to those opposed to meaningful gun reform.  I’m curious how King defines “meaningful.”  It satisfies the sensibilities of people on the gun control side of the debate?  It targets certain classes of firearm?  Certain types of ammunition?

Does Chicago have meaningful gun control laws in place?  Does California have meaningful gun control laws in place, they’re the strictest in the nation?  Connecticut’s gun laws are also among the strictest in the nation.  Does that make them more meaningful?

Meaningful is not a synonym for effective.

No law is going to stop a person who is determined to kill innocent, unarmed victims from killing.  As I mentioned yesterday, cocaine and heroin are prohibited by federal and state laws and have been for over a century.  Yet somehow both are readily available to anyone who wants them.  How would a ban on so-called assault weapons or large capacity magazines or hollow-point bullets be any more effective?

From there King elides to mental deficiency, which is the key factor in pretty much every mass shooting of innocent strangers we’ve seen in the US.  The courts have ruled that people cannot be held against their will unless they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others, so it is now very difficult even for families to institutionalize someone who isn’t wired correctly.  The answer isn’t more money as he recommends.  Is there any indication that lack of funding had anything to do with the murderer in Newtown?  Or Aurora?  Both came from well-to-do families who were fully aware of their child’s issues.

Besides mental health spending has to be reduced so we can ensure a steady supply of birth control and morning-after pills for affluent working-age females.  Priorities.

You can lead a crazy to psychiatric help, but you can’t make him medicate.  So sayeth the courts.  Privacy laws prevent sharing of information on people who voluntarily seek psychiatric help.  Until the courts decide that anyone showing unusual behavior should be stripped of their rights there is no possible legislative solution to treating the potentially violent mentally ill people in the US.

King ends with a plea, “Be leaders.  Do the right thing.  Do something.”  He’s offered no suggestions as to what the right thing is other than “something.”  Will “something” prevent another mass shooting?  It doesn’t matter.  Something must be done.

Without specifics, I assume he means spend more money on some federal program that will have no demonstrable effect on gun violence and eliminate some degree of freedom for the millions of Americans who would never even contemplate shooting an innocent human being.

Tragedy spawns the very worst sorts of laws in response.  The tragedy of methamphetamine use?  Treat everyone with a runny nose like a potential criminal.  September 11?  Another level of bureaucracy known as the Department of Homeland Security and, of course, treating every airline passenger like a potential criminal.  Punish the law-abiding in response to the twisted actions of a miniscule few.

What happened in Newtown obviously creates a visceral, emotional response in rational human beings.  However, emotional people tend to make very poor decisions.  The fact, the actual truth, of the matter is that these types of crimes are exceedingly rare and becoming rarer.  Yeah, it’s sickening that any human being could walk into an elementary school and methodically shoot 20 children.  If I’d been there I’d be one of the bodies on the floor.  Normal, rational, sane people put their own lives at risk to protect children from harm.

“Do something!” is the easy, predictable response.  And “do something” they will to much back-patting and preening.  It won’t work and they’ll “do something” else the next time.  Then heed calls to “do something” the next time as well.  Absent a total police state there’s no way to prevent an abnormal, irrational, insane person from killing.  But even a police state like the Soviet Union had its Andrei Chikatilo.

Stacking additional laws on top of our already very clear prohibition on murder isn’t the answer.  All we can do is pray for the innocent victims in Newtown and as individuals remain ever vigilant.

Update:  Good stuff from Ronald Bailey over at Reason Magazine.

I agree with President Barack Obama that “meaningful action” should be taken prevent future schoolhouse carnage. Meaningful action in this case would be fashioning schools that respect all of their students; protect them from bullying; foster enough mutual trust to curtail “no snitch” teenage culture; and offer students proactive counseling on how to handle their emotional challenges. But that’s a whole lot harder than grandstanding about banning assault rifles or violent video games.

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