Arizona tragedy: real solution is for people to come forward early

by Ken Ewing

Zachary Roth wrote a piece today in The Lookout that asked “Could tighter gun laws have saved lives in Tucson?” None of the other articles I’ve seen mentioned this level of anti-gun sentiment, even NPR, which (surprisingly) gave a very neutral treatment of the topic on the report I heard this morning.

In the immediacy of the tragedy, this topic is difficult to address. For example, it’s statistically correct that rampage shootings like this are in fact rare.  But would the public perceive this to be true?  Not likely.

The call for a renewed “assault weapon ban” is a red herring.  If you have two 15-round magazines or three 10-round magazines, it’s the same number of shots and they can be fired in effectively the same (small) amount of time.  Magazine restrictions would NOT limit rampage shooters like this.

The mental health issue is the hardest one to deal with.  We all want to restrict guns from mentally unstable people.

A very telling book on this subject is “No Right to Remain Silent: The Tragedy at Virginia Tech” written by Lucinda Roy, former chair of Virginia Tech’s English department.  Lucinda worked one-on-one with Seung-Hui Cho, the 2007 Virginia Tech shooter.  The book describes how institutional politics conspired to deny the obvious problems that Cho had.  The real key to addressing these terrible events is to have people who know the perpetrator come forward early when they see problems.  These things do not just happen out of the blue.

There are warning signs, usually big ones over a long period of time.  We just live in a society that would rather deny the obvious than face reality.

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Posted by at 07:08 | Posted in 2nd Amendment | 36 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Founding Fathers

    “Magazine restrictions would NOT limit rampage shooters like this.”

    Is that really true? It seems that reloading is what stopped this shooter. If he had 10-round magazines, he would likely have gotten off 10, or maybe 20, shots. That likely would have saved lives, and reduced the number of injured.

    • valley person

      Bullets fired from semi automatic handguns don’t kill and maim people. Crazy lunatics who can walk into a store, buy a semi automatic and a lot of rounds with no questions asked kill and maim people.

      Is this a great country or what? Something like this can only happen in America.

      • Anonymous

        Da. Dis can never happen in my homeland, CCCP. Vee have dee AK-47, ver the shooter would have killed 35, vis 50 wounded.

        But then vee would have killed him, not give him happy life in US prison.

        He would get Gulag in Siberia for hard work, the bullet in head.

        • Reper

          Me confused over your comment

    • Rupert in Springfield

      >Is that really true?

      Of course its true.

      Seriously, where have you been on this issue?

      We had the Clinton gun ban. There were magazine restrictions.

      Guess what? The magazines were everywhere. They were hardly unobtainable, were more widely available and in a lot of cases were cheaper than before the ban.

      Why? Because when they put in the ban all that happened was manufacturers flooded the market prior to it going into effect. There are millions of them out there now. What once was a somewhat esoteric item became ubiquitous. Where once only a few manufacturers made them, they were and are now widely made. Even the police got into the act, buying guns with high capacity magazines, selling the magazines back to civilians, and then getting new magazines. Thats how popular the Clinton ban made high capacity magazines.

      Education time – The Glock the shooter used once used a very expensive magazine. Pre Clinton ban, a stock replacment magazine for a Glock would set you back $60-$80. After the Clinton ban went into effect, Glock magazines were half that. Why? Because everyone and their brother started making knock off high capacity and extended magazines for the gun where once only Glock made them.

      A magazine restriction wouldn’t have done jack because there are so many of them out there now.

      I mean seriously – what are you thinking here? If there magazines were banned they would all of a sudden cease to exist? Why not just make Glocks disappear if we all of a sudden had this magical power to make things vanish through a ban?

      Actually, why not just ban crazy lunatics, why just ban the magazines they use?

      After all, if you can ban something and make it disappear, it would seem to me easear to ban a few hundred lunatics than several million magazines.

      • Founding Fathers

        Rupert,

        Your argument is that laws that limit magazine size don’t actually limit magazine size. But that’s not what I was responding to, I was responding to the claim in the article that if Loughner had had magazines that held 10 or 15 rounds, rather than 30, the carnage would have been the same. And that’s just ridiculous, since he was stopped as he was attempting to reload.

  • Founding Fathers

    Lars keeps saying that the way to prevent mass shootings is to have more people armed.

    Yet, few states in the U.S. have more people walking around with guns than Arizona, where you don’t need a permit to carry a concealed weapon, and the shooter was not stopped by an armed citizen using a gun.

    In fact, if someone else had opened fire, chances are the carnage would have been even worse. Thank God that Lars wasn’t there to make a horrific situation even worse.

    • kingston

      I agree. I am not sure that most people feel comfortable taking another stranger’s life in a split second. I think most people would rather just feel protected.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      Maybe if you checked your facts a bit before making this sort of statement you would realize the folly of it.

      First of all, I dont think Lars or any second amendment advocate has ever claimed that concealed carry would prevent every mass shooting. So get your facts straight on that one first of all.

      Second, has concealed carry prevented some mass shooting? Sure, we had a few stopped back during the spate of school shootings that were stopped by citizens with CCL’s.

      Third, has lack of CCL made mass shootings worse in some cases? Sure, we had the infamous Luby’s restaurant case where lack of CCL lead directly to increased fatalities.

      Were liberals wrong on CCL expansion? Obviously. In the early 90’s liberals were apoplectic about “blood in the streets” should CCL’s expand nationwide. Well, that turned out to be totally untrue. Crime went down, not up as liberals had predicted.

      OK – So you probably haven’t followed the issue very carefully.

      Even still, just a moments thought would have prevented the senseless tragedy of this ill thought out post.

      After all – Arizona has plenty of police walking around with guns – yet that didnt stop the shooter. So does that in your mind make arming the police pointless?

      Please – Stop – Think – Avoid making things up – Then comment.

      Thanks

  • valley person

    “The mental health issue is the hardest one to deal with. We all want to restrict guns from mentally unstable people.”

    We do? It seems to me that one side, the pro gun control side, wants this. The other side doesn’t, or at least does not want to allow anything meaningful to allow the big bad government to impede someone from buying weapons. Even the background check, which is of limited use, was fought against by the NRA.

    Look, you can’t operate a motor vehicle unless you pass a test. If we had a test one had to pass to gain a license to own weapons, that would do a lot to keep crazy people away from them. How about starting with the right to bear arms as long as you are not batshit crazy? And if you sell a weapon to someone later found out to be crazy, you are liable for the damage they do. That would be a start.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      >Even the background check, which is of limited use, was fought against by the NRA.

      No it wasn’t you complete and utter boob. NRA fought the Brady waiting period, not the background check.

      >Look, you can’t operate a motor vehicle unless you pass a test.

      Yes you can you idiot

      I know of no state in the country where you are not allowed to buy, own and drive a car unless you pass a test.

      This is utter nonsense.

      You have to pass a test to drive a car on public roads.

      If you want to operate a motor vehicle of any kind on your own land, you do not need to pass any sort of test.

      >If we had a test one had to pass to gain a license to own weapons, that would do a lot to keep crazy people away from them.

      Unfortunately the evidence directly contradicts this.

      Places with such requirements have no shortage of crazy people getting guns. Plenty of crazy people in NYC, which has the strictest gun laws in the country. Plenty of shootings by nuts there.

      Please, this is ridiculous, you obviously don’t know about about the issue, have some bizarre notions about licensing regarding motor vehicles and seem utterly confused on the issue of background checks versus waiting periods.

      • valley person

        “If you want to operate a motor vehicle of any kind on your own land, you do not need to pass any sort of test.”

        Oh, well fine then Mr loophole. How about you can have your guns only on your own property then? Are you ok with that?

        A city trying to control guns is a bit difficult when it is surrounded by a sea of gun shops in jurisdictions with lesser rules.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    I think the thing to remember here is people did come forward early. This guy had people in his classes at community college saying they were scared to death of him because they thought he was a mass shooter. One even said he seemed exactly the type to come in and shoot up the whole school

    This is hardly a failure of anyone to come forward, its a failure to treat lunatics seriously.

    Like the Virginia Tech shooter, this guy was clearly identifiable, had prior run ins with the law, had overnight stays in psych wards and had issued death threats.

    There is no coming forward that needed to happen here.

    What needed to happen was to listen to those who did come forward and get a little less Nancy pants about treating psych problems with a little less kidd glove treatment.

    In other words – when you have people telling you this guy is nuts, when he is so clearly a nut he has had overnight stays in the looney bin in combination with arrests and death threats – maybe the first thing to do would be to go nuts over his damn privacy rights. Maybe the first thing to do would be to note on his record “this guy is a nut, when the gun store calls for the background check, dont sell it to him”

    Dig deep enough and you will find that would have gone a long way here.

    Dig deep enough and I bet you find some lame law protecting the privacy right of every Manson lunatic out there.

    Ninny Alert – Yes, yes, we all know, because I support maybe taking a closer look at how we treat the insane you will then go on to say that means I support locking anyone who has a bad day up in the tower of London for all of eternity. Yawn.

    • valley person

      The streets are filled with certifiably crazy people. If they haven’t broken any laws and have not actually been certified as crazy, they can buy semi-automatics. Thank the NRA for this.

      As an unemployed 22 year old he would likely have no health insurance and no real access to diagnosis or care in any case. There are a lot of crazy seeming people around, including some who post regularly right here on Catalyst. Any of them can walk into a store and buy a semi automatic with a few hundred rounds and walk out the door and start spraying lead. That would seem to be where the real problem lies. Easy access to deadly force.

      We would be treating this seriously if we had some sort of phsych test before anyone could buy a weapon, but then that would be violating our God given rights to be armed to the teeth, so we can’t go there.

      How would you have “treated” this kid Rupert? Assuming someone called someone (I’m not even sure who they would call) and said, hey, he is talking a bit loony, then what? Who would pay for his evaluation? Who would pay for his meds? What would prevent him from arming himself? Can’t have the government doing this right?

      Mental illness is not easy to diagnose, and even if it is diagnosed, tendency towards violence is another matter. As far as we know this guy never committed a violent act against anyone until a few days ago.

      Representative King is introducing a bill to prevent people from having guns within xxx distance of a political gathering. How would this help? Well I suppose we could have charged this guy with violating that as well as 6 counts of murder. Unbelievable.

      • valley person

        Here is a good follow up press report.

        “In the past year, Pima County, Ariz., where Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others were shot Saturday, has seen more than 45 percent of its mental health services recipients forced off the public rolls. The deep cuts in treatment were protested strongly at the time, with opponents warning that they would result in a spike in suicide attempts, public disturbances, hospitalizations and brushes with the police. But according to Clarke Romans, executive director for southern Arizona’s branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the state government ignored requests for relief, citing the need to implement strict budget controls.”

        So we see a consequence of budget cutting. Even if someone had said this guy is nuts, the government had no resources to do anything about it.

        • Steve Plunk

          The kid was never in a program that got cut so there are no such consequences. We also don’t know if he would not have gotten treatment. The budget was cut but there was still a program in place.

      • valley person

        Here is a good follow up press report.

        “In the past year, Pima County, Ariz., where Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others were shot Saturday, has seen more than 45 percent of its mental health services recipients forced off the public rolls. The deep cuts in treatment were protested strongly at the time, with opponents warning that they would result in a spike in suicide attempts, public disturbances, hospitalizations and brushes with the police. But according to Clarke Romans, executive director for southern Arizona’s branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the state government ignored requests for relief, citing the need to implement strict budget controls.”

        So we see a consequence of budget cutting. Even if someone had said this guy is nuts, the government had no resources to do anything about it.

      • Steve Plunk

        If a person hasn’t broken any laws and hasn’t been certified as insane how on earth can you claim they are crazy? Who makes that decision? What if an official of the government decides to incarcerate that lawful, un-certified citizen? You’re talking about taking away the rights of someone who hasn’t been given due process, you realize that don’t you?

        That 22 year old has been a known nut case for years yet his parents and even the sheriff did nothing. His mother was a government employee who likely had health insurance coverage for him through college. Don’t go blaming the health care system for this idiot.

        In a country of over 300 million these sorts of crimes will take place regardless of whatever laws we pass. Without a gun he could have easily drove a car into the crowd and killed as many or more. Before insulting Catalyst contributors with made up stories of buying guns and spraying lead keep in mind this kid was describe as a radical liberal. That’s more likely you than any of the conservatives here.

        The responsibility lies with the kid himself and his parents who failed to provide the help he needed.

        • valley person

          “Before insulting Catalyst contributors with made up stories of buying guns and spraying lead keep in mind this kid was describe as a radical liberal. ”

          Yes, I think Glenn Beck did describe him that way.

          I made up him buying a gun and spraying lead? Interesting. I thought those were incontestable facts in this case. You apparently think otherwise. Please explain.

          Why would his parents be responsible? He is 22.

          I’ll ask you what I asked Rupert. Assuming he had no health insurance, who should have paid for his diagnosis and treatment?

          I’ll also ask you this. Should an erratic person who has not been diagnosed mentally ill be able to simply walk into a gun shop and buy whatever he wants? No questions asked?

          • Steve Plunk

            You listen to Glen Beck? I don’t. I got my information from print outlets online services. You didn’t make up the kid doing what he did but you did say there were crazy people posting here and they could walk in and buy a gun…. Don’t start denying what you said.

            The parents have responsibility for a number of reasons. They knew he had mental issues for years and didn’t try and help him or get him help. They were the closest people to him as he lived with them. As a parent myself I assume that responsibility for my child and always will.

            The question of who would have paid for diagnosis and treatment is moot since he never attempted either. The county mental health program was still around albeit with a smaller budget. Those cuts are not prima facia evidence that he would have been turned away.

            No diagnosed mentally ill person should be able to buy a gun. With that said we should now figure out how to stop them without violating the Constitution or the rights of the rest of the citizens who want to buy a gun.

            Liberals just can’t seem to get their heads around the idea we can’t make the world perfectly safe. Cars will crash, kids will choke, and nuts will kill people. The law of diminishing returns has already kicked in with liberal attempts to make everyone safe so maybe we shouldn’t do anything other than mourn those who were killed.

          • valley person

            Well, maybe you haven’t noticed the few crazy appearing people who post here. I have. And I have noticed you accusing people of wearing tin foil hats now and then, so what is that all about?

            How do you know the parents did not try and get help? How do you know what they knew or didn’t know? So if your kid whacks out, goes and buys a gun and kills a bunch of people, you yourself are going to take responsibility? In what way? You will offer to pay compensation? Go to jail? I suspect you are using responsibility here in a sense that has no particular meaning.

            The question about diagnosis and treatment is not moot. If you want to prevent this sort of thing in the future, you need a health care system that is accessible and does not ration based on ability to pay. Of course no one can prove he would have been turned away. But if they dropped 50% of the participants from the rolls, then you do the math. If he had applied for help, he would not likely have gotten any due to lack of funding. Cutting government has consequences.

            So you agree that a person who is diagnosed as mentally ill should not be able to buy a gun. How do you propose to stop them? And, what about a person who is going off the rails, like this dude, but has not been diagnosed? That was my question? If I am drunk in a bar and order another drink, and the bartender gives me one, that establishment is liable if I get in a wreck. Why do we exempt gun makers and dealers from liability if a crazy acting person walks into a gun store and is sold a weapon and ammo, and walks right out the door and kills 20 people?

            You may have a constitutional right to own a gun. Does that mean you have a constitutional right to not be asked to take a phsych exam before you are sold one? Does it mean the seller should not give a rip who he sells to? If we had a 1 year liability clause on weapons sales covering illegal use, you can bet he would be careful who he sold to.

            “Liberals just can’t seem to get their heads around the idea we can’t make the world perfectly safe.”

            Nonsense. First of all, it is conservatives who freak out about terrorism and condone torture to make us safer. It is conservatives who made a stink (no pun intended) about the underwear bomber getting through security. Second, taking reasonable measures to keep guns out of the hands of crazy people is not asking for a perfectly safe world. You are engaged in the same reductio ad absurdem you like to accuse others of.

            We are a long way from the law of diminishing returns on gun ownership. We have the highest gun death rate in the world by a huge factor. We don’t have to walk away from this as not a solvable problem. Others have solved it, and they are still free people.

            Doing nothing other than mourning is a choice.

          • Steve Plunk

            Valley P, your inability to apply reason and logic continues to amaze me. Someone makes a incredulous statement and I ask where they buy their tinfoil and you equate that with your speculation contributors to the catalyst are a threat to buy a gun and kill people. That’s a liberal’s way of thinking.

            Twist the facts, twist the meaning of words, and spin this tragedy into something it is not. Like most of those on your side of the political aisle you are using this to promote your agenda and I find it distasteful on many levels. Seriously? Comparing it to Islamic terrorism? And please look up the definition of reductio ad absurdum. You never have gotten that one right.

          • valley person

            Well, rather than respond to my points you skip over them and avoid the discussion. I’ll try again.

            Mental health evaluation and care. Who should pay, assuming this young man had no insurance? Obamacare includes funds to pay for this by the way.

            Buying a gun and high capacity clips. Should a deranged person be able to buy a gun and ammunition with no demonstration of his or her capacity to manage a weapon and be responsible? We license motor vehicle operation, why not gun operation?

            Should gun manufacturers and dealers have no responsibility for the misues of their product? A bar keeper is responsible for the behavior of a drunken patron.

            Easy questions. You can answer yes or no, and you can elaborate or not.

            Yes, I’m using this event to make a case for what I think is good public policy. Just like you use events (i.e. poor choice of highway spending) to make your case for public policy. There is nothing wrong with either of us doing this.

      • Steve Plunk

        If a person hasn’t broken any laws and hasn’t been certified as insane how on earth can you claim they are crazy? Who makes that decision? What if an official of the government decides to incarcerate that lawful, un-certified citizen? You’re talking about taking away the rights of someone who hasn’t been given due process, you realize that don’t you?

        That 22 year old has been a known nut case for years yet his parents and even the sheriff did nothing. His mother was a government employee who likely had health insurance coverage for him through college. Don’t go blaming the health care system for this idiot.

        In a country of over 300 million these sorts of crimes will take place regardless of whatever laws we pass. Without a gun he could have easily drove a car into the crowd and killed as many or more. Before insulting Catalyst contributors with made up stories of buying guns and spraying lead keep in mind this kid was describe as a radical liberal. That’s more likely you than any of the conservatives here.

        The responsibility lies with the kid himself and his parents who failed to provide the help he needed.

  • arele

    Looks like the Wall Street Journal agrees with Mr. Ewing on this. If instructors required police protection and police to feel safe from this young man, and police requested back-up when delivering a notice of suspension to him at his home, I think there were warning signs. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703889204576078331279621622.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories

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