Dec 312012

Americans are now arguably at the height of post-Newtown gun control frenzy. But the latest Gallup poll on firearms shows a slim majority of 51% still opposing outlawing “assault rifles,” the very popular semi-automatic rifles more properly called modern sporting rifles. Ominously, they are leaning toward more restrictions on firearm purchases and outlawing “high-capacity ammunition clips that can contain more than 10 bullets.” But a record majority (74%) still opposes a broad ban on handguns, and the 24% in favor of a ban is the lowest recorded since Gallup began asking the question in 1959.

The entire poll is a quick read and is very informative. It gives us some guidance about what we need to do to educate the public in the coming months. We can expect gun control fervor to fade as reality replaces emotion. As always, our job is education of the public about guns and gun owners. They have come a long way in understanding the real issues over the last 20 years. Let’s continue the trend.

 Posted by at 7:15 pm
Dec 222012

After a week of the nastiest barrage of media abuse in recent memory, gun owners have reason to look up. The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and the Second Amendment Foundation have already called for a national commission to investigate media violence including violent video games, lapses in mental health care, and false reliance on “gun-free zones” as contributing factors in mass shootings.

Today, after a week of respectful silence, the National Rifle Association’s Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre addressed the media. His strong message stands out as a beacon of hope from the hateful and accusatory anti-gun rants of not only media types but prominent politicians over the last week. You can read it yourself, but Wayne’s standout message is his offer of the NRA’s vast resources and experience to assist every school in America in deploying a robust security plan. He calls it the National School Shield Program, and it will be headed by former Arkansas congressman, U.S. Attorney, DEA chief, and Department of Homeland Security official Asa Hutchinson.

While the haters hate, gun owners build. And we are serious about protecting the most precious things in the world, our children.

 Posted by at 1:27 am

Sober As a Judge?

 DRGO News  Comments Off
Dec 212012

The Los Angeles Times, like all the other mainstream media, is beating the drum and jumping up and down, trying to instigate drastic action against America’s 80 to 100 million gun owners. We are the target of choice for their undifferentiated rage in the wake of the Newtown school shooting. This is understandable coming from the press corps, many of whom have a long and scandalous history of obfuscation, rabble-rousing, and bloody shirt-waving when guns are discussed. We expect judges, however, to refrain from the heat of emotion and to assure that the rule of law is followed.

But the December 20th issue of the Los Angeles Times opinion page contains an amazing repudiation of that duty by a judge who, of all people, should know better. The author of this astonishing article is federal district court Judge Larry Alan Burns, who sentenced Jared Lee Loughner to prison for the Tucson mass shooting. Judge Burns renders these observations on gun owners:

“To guarantee that there would never be another Tucson or Sandy Hook, we would probably have to make it a capital offense to so much as look at a gun. And that would create serious 2nd Amendment, 8th Amendment and logistical problems.”

We’re sorry to disappoint you, your honor, but you’re right—you can’t frog-march 80 to 100 million American gun owners to the death chamber. The Second and Eighth Amendments were adopted to restrain tyrants, but who knew they would ever find application to a federal judge?

“Ban the manufacture, importation, sale, transfer and possession of both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Don’t let people who already have them keep them. Don’t let ones that have already been manufactured stay on the market. I don’t care whether it’s called gun control or a gun ban. I’m for it.”

Judge Burns would apparently send teams of armed police out with lists of residences where the owners are known to have guns. This would be made possible thanks to long-established gun registration, a favorite gun control mechanism of anti-gun rights activists. Those selfsame anti-gunners have always ridiculed gun owners for being wary of gun registration schemes for just that reason. And how would Judge Burns fund the deployment of millions of police to do his tyrannical bidding, assuming he could scrape together enough sworn officers to act as domestic soldiers against their own neighbors and friends?

The aftermath of Newtown has seen vitriol, ridicule, baseless accusations, and even death threats against defenders of the right to keep and bear arms. We knew that was coming.  But forced gun confiscation recommended by a federal judge? Seriously?

Those gun rights defenders have shown remarkable restraint and dignity in the face of outrageous abuse over the last week. It’s time for gun rights defenders to finally speak up. All 80 to 100 million of us. It’s about to begin.

 Posted by at 12:29 am
Dec 172012

The predictable flurry of accusatory op-eds, name-calling, and general bad feeling began before the dead were counted in Newtown, Connecticut this week.  One of them was the work of Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez.  You can always tell the pundits who know little or nothing about guns and gun owners.  They obsess over the instrument itself, marveling in horror over technical wonders they find foreign and scary—high capacity magazines, black, military-looking rifles.  Sometimes politicians get carried away with the emotion of it all, too.  Lopez laments the recent failure of California state Sen. Leland Yee.  Earlier this year Yee tried to pass a law making criminals out of thousands of Californians who own modern sporting rifles, still misleadingly called “assault weapons” by gun control activists.  These are the black rifles modeled after military rifles but not capable of machine-gun fire.  They are immensely popular among Americans for sport, hunting, and home defense.  Of course Yee’s attempt to demonize these Californians met with determined opposition, and his bill went nowhere, even in gun control-crazy California.

If he were some fresh-faced reporter new to the gun debate in America, Lopez might be forgiven for his snippy article, in which he marvels at a sporting goods store’s customers taking numbers “like you do at a deli.”  An inexperienced reporter might even be cut some slack for the last sentence of the article, in which Lopez slurs California gun owners: “When I left the gun shop in Pasadena, I noticed that right next door is a place called My Gym, a children’s fitness center.”

We’re left with the not-so-subtle implication that any of the shoppers in the store could grab a gun, run next door, and mow down little children.  Lopez has been around long enough to know better than to write nasty stuff like this.  But logic and facts don’t register with people amped up on adrenaline after a very public disaster like a school mass shooting.  People can say and write vicious things when emotion clouds their ability to think clearly.

With all the furor over guns, most observers have overlooked the obvious—mental illness in the shooters.  The typical mass shooter is a young male in his early twenties with psychological problems that were evident before the shooting.  Virtually all suffer from severe psychological imbalance and social maladjustment, and some are overtly psychotic.  They follow an arc of psychopathology well known to mental health professionals.  And in all cases, efforts to get psychiatric treatment for them fail, if they were made at all.

It remains a zealously defended principle of law that psychotic people must be allowed their freedom at all costs.  The only exceptions are spectacularly insane people who pose an immediate threat to safety, and the law allows only for 72 hour detention at most.  The garden variety chronic schizophrenics and bipolar-afflicted are left to roam free on our skid rows or wherever they can find a niche on the streets.  We allow them the freedom to be terrorized by their own delusions, as well as victimized by street criminals.

Young men like Adam Lanza, Jared Loughner, James Holmes, and other mass shooters are of the age when schizophrenia has its onset.  The last two have been shown to be floridly psychotic at the time of their mass killings.  Increasingly it appears the Newtown killer was similarly unhinged.  Young lives are derailed just as they are reaching adulthood, often as careers, relationships, and dreams are being launched.  Some die at an early age of their disease, which robs them of the ability to see the world as it is and to deal with it appropriately.  Some are looked after by their families.  But families can do only so much when their disastrously sick loved ones are allowed by law to follow their delusions to the mean streets, to prison, and all too often to an early grave.

We must look to the source of the problem of mass shootings to effectively deal with it.  And the source of the problem is not the 80 million Americans who own guns.  It’s time to reexamine our views about severe mental illness and what constitutes humane treatment.  Early identification and aggressive treatment of budding schizophrenia must once again become the standard of care.  And that care must include the power to hold obviously disturbed people against their will when necessary to prevent injury to themselves or others.

But trying to blame sane and responsible gun owners again, expecting different results, is itself one definition of insanity.

Timothy Wheeler, MD is director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a project of the Second Amendment Foundation

 Posted by at 6:41 pm
Dec 152012

Today the mass shooting was at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The latest report puts the death toll at an unthinkable 20 young children and six adults. The solution for what happened today is the same solution many of us proposed with the last mass shooting disaster—and the one before that, and the one before that.