Column: Drugs, background checks and deterrence root of gun control
Abrogating a right guaranteed by the Constitution (yes, I hear the same tired argument coming from those who refuse to accept the framers’ intent for the Second Amendment) is not the answer. It is a slippery slope into a wallow of unintended (or not) consequences history tells us nearly always accrue to a disarmed citizenry.
The issue is not the gun, an inanimate object, but the hands that hold it. Every firearms owner I know (and that’s just about everyone I know) supports comprehensive background checks and desires firearms not be available to unstable, criminally minded, or dangerous people. (It’s not the mentally stable, law-abiding citizen who is perpetrating these horrific crimes.) So how do we ensure unbalanced or evil people are kept away from firearms? We can’t with 100 percent accuracy, but we can ratchet down on existing regulations and processes used for checking a person’s background, especially where it involves mental illness and drug use (legal or otherwise).
The pervasiveness of drugs in our culture has destroyed lives and cost taxpayers untold billions of dollars since the “Turn on, Tune out, and Drop out” generation “normalized” drug abuse 50 years ago. The devastation caused by drugs is incalculable and continues with little sign of slowing. And thanks to the slick perseverance and political influence of pharmaceutical manufacturers, our American culture has come to accept that every issue, illness, discomfort, disappointment, and disillusionment has a pharmaceutical solution. You can’t watch 30 minutes of television without being told several times that there is a drug-answer to every issue affecting quality of life. I believe drugs and our dependence upon them for every little malady are at the core of “gun violence” and nearly every other societal ill. Most of the mass murderers in the past 20 years were prescribed and used psychiatric drugs. There is, at a minimum, a relationship between the use of these drugs by some people and their willingness to do the unspeakable. To what degree this is a correlation I don’t know, but there should at least be a willingness to investigate a possible connection ... without the use of pharmaceutical company money or data.
Getting to the bottom of mass shootings is not as simple as eliminating firearms – which, thank God and the framers of our Constitution, isn’t simple – keeping long-guns out of the hands of people younger than 21 (a typical Sen. Jeff Flake moronity), arming teachers (though I agree those who wish to be armed have a right to be) or by eliminating prescriptive drugs that, in many cases, actually do add quality to a person’s life in a responsible way. Getting to the bottom of mass shootings will require a comprehensive approach; one that, if effective, will likely reduce violent crime overall. I see this in three-areas:
1 – I believe the solution relies on a modern approach to
what the framers called a “well-regulated militia.” “Regulated” in that sense meaning that gun owners meet certain standards of mental and moral (non-criminal) capacity established by the state. It is not the right of the state to deny our right to keep and bear arms but is its responsibility to ensure those who desire to do so are not a danger to themselves or others, that’s the purpose of background checks and ATF Form 4473. But we need to improve the quality and accuracy of background checks pursuant to completing Form 4473, particularly in the areas of mental health and drug use. This will require better coordination between government at all levels and a gut-level discussion about the expectation of privacy (not a right to privacy) under HIPAA vs. public safety.
2 – Examine the relationship between the use of psychiatric drugs and conscienceless actions. Act on the findings within the certification and firearms ownership permitting process.
3 – Deterrent is a key element of prevention. To some the fact that having more armed citizens is a deterrent to “gun violence” is an oxymoron, but it is never-the-less a fact that criminals will not go where they believe they may be effectively resisted. To this end: a) Harden vulnerable targets – eliminate gun-free zones. Not only employ LEOs to provide security, but encourage and train willing teachers, medical professionals, etc. to carry firearms to defend themselves and those relying on them for their safety. b) Encourage concealed carry of firearms among law-abiding Americans everywhere. Standardize screening, firearms use and deadly force decision-making skills-training and concealed weapons permitting processes across the country. Establish nation-wide CCW reciprocity. c) Reconsider and reduce locations where lawfully permitted individuals are not allowed to carry concealed weapons.
Mr. Hollenshead is retired from the Prescott National Forest as a Staff Officer for Fire, Aviation and Natural Resources. He lives in Prescott Valley.