To the Editor:
In Dunblane, England, in 1996, a man who possesses six registered and legally obtained firearms kills 16 elementary school children. The media and public outcry is huge and in 1997, under the pretense of increasing public safety, Tony Blair and his Labor government pass the strictest gun laws of any Western democracy. Pretty much every firearm in British households except grandpa’s old bird gun gets confiscated by the government.
The result was skyrocketing violent crime. The numbers for murder, rape, assault, armed robbery and burglary rise immediately and substantially as criminals no longer have to fear resistance from their potential victims.
Imitating the British response to the 1996 school shooting would amount to a public safety disaster for the US. Even just a renewed ban of the misnamed “assault rifle” would be nothing but legal cosmetics to satisfy government politics of fear mongering. Clinton’s assault weapon ban did not prevent the Columbine massacre and several more mass shootings.
Another aspect of US mass shootings that can no longer be ignored is the fact that most perpetrators of such cowardly acts are on psychotropic medication. The careless ease with which potentially dangerous drugs are prescribed without adequate therapeutic backing is frightening and solely benefits the pharmaceutical industry.
I also blame a lack of character education in families and schools for a decaying sense of responsibility and self-discipline in too many young people.
Hollywood’s glorification of senseless violence doesn’t help the cause of reason either. Parking kids in front of mind numbing TV or a violent video game will, in the long run, destroy lives, if not literally then figuratively.
If we really want to counter violence and other societal ills, those are the places to investigate and put our effort into, but that would require a personal effort, unlike demanding easy fixes from the government.
In response to last week’s letter from Mal Gormley (“Gun ownership: an earned privilege?”) I have this to say: Our country is a Republic, i.e. a nation of laws. Our supreme law, the US Constitution, protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. It does not, for good reasons, mention a right of the people to fly airplanes. A comparison of the two makes no logical sense.
Unlike the privilege to drive a car or fly an airplane, the natural right of a free man or woman to be armed is a factor of political balance and must not be tampered with unless we want to discard the amazingly savvy mechanisms that have kept the oldest continuous republic of this planet alive for the past 236 years.
Our system is not flawless but its only long term alternative is a descent into mob rule, where an emotion-controlled majority leads the country into disaster.
Ralph Hassenpflug, Bristol