Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The ambush/shooting in Webster, NY - and some ideas

William Spengler -- a 62 year old ex-con who had murdered his grandmother with a hammer, and served 17 years in prison for that 1980 murder -- decides to kill his sister, burn down his neighborhood, and take out the first responders by ambush.  He leaves a note saying he's doing what he likes best:  "killing people".  He was armed with a pump shotgun,  Bushmaster rifle,  and .38 revolver.   As a convicted felon -- it was a felony (with a mandatory prison sentence) for him to possess any of these weapons -- and yet he had them, anyway.

Can we learn anything from this?

Well . . .  I guess the first thing is:   it doesn't matter what the law prohibits -- because psycho's like Spengler are gonna get whatever they want -- and do whatever they want -- unless they are intercepted before they blow.  Gun prohibitions just disarm those most responsible -- and leave the rest of us without a means of defense.   However . . .  I will go a step further . . .   and perhaps incur the wrath of the NRA, and the ACLU on some proposals of my own -- which are at least worth discussing:

1.   Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to extend the instant criminal check to private sales of firearms.  It won't catch everyone -- but it might help.   It would be a simple matter to require FFL's to run such a check for a private sale for a specified fee.

2.   I think that once a violent felon is released from prison -- authorities should have the right to run a weapons search on them at least twice a year.  I know that runs afoul of what many would consider a civil liberties issue -- but I think it is a reasonable thing to legislate.

3.  We need laws that allow a confidential but mandatory mental health evaluation of anyone who makes a threat of harming others or themselves,  or where there is reasonable cause to believe such person might be planning such an endeavor.   The initial evaluation need not be in a hospital or confinement setting -- but someone who is skilled in this type of evaluation should make an initial determination whether further evaluation or inquiry is required.   Of course,  protections have to be written into such a law so it cannot be used as harrassment by some disgruntled neighbor -- but -- such a law could intercept a serious problem.

4.   There needs to be an entire change in the mental health system that sets up free group counseling  at local centers that are easy to get to,  access to prompt skilled emergency assistance,  and provides for free medication for those who do not have the funds to pay for it themselves.  While many will argue the cost will be too great -- my experience is that such a system would actually save money by keeping these people out of the criminal justice system.

5.   We need a national hot-line where people can report situations where they have an honest belief that another person may be homicidal or suicidal.  And -- we then need a confidential, non-intrusive way to check these reports out.  Again,  this is more difficult than it sounds because responders will need training, and there has to be a system to prevent abuses and harrassment.

6.  I think that (in Florida)  -- we need to allow schools -- especially private schools -- to hire armed security guards.  As of now -- only a law enforcement officer may be armed on school grounds.  This is absurd!  Likewise,  we should allow approved volunteers to be armed at private schools -- especially as applied to "church schools"  and daycare.  

7.  I likewise think that teachers and administrators who volunteer,  have special training,  and pass a psychological  evaluation -- should be allowed to carry concealed on school grounds.   Obama's kids are at a school with over 11 armed security guards.   That's really what it takes to truly protect a school -- not just one armed police officer.  In Israel -- it is common for teachers to be armed.  No big deal!   So -- let's get over our aversion to common-sense,  and allow it.

8.  I think we need to allow students who are 18 years of age to be allowed to carry Taser type weapons on the campus of any school above the high school level.  These are "one shot" purely non-lethal defensive weapons.  They are not likely to be used in an offensive manner -- have a built-in flashlight -- and would allow students to have some minimal protection from criminal attack -- especially females.  Likewise,  I would remove the ability of a school to prohibit weapons in parked vehicles on campus (except as to their students in high school and below) as long as such weapons were securely encased,  not open to view, and were in a locked compartment, or fully locked vehicle,  if the vehicle was unattended.


Anyway -- those are just some ideas to toss around.   All of them likely need refinement.   Some might not work,  some might be better than others.  But . . .  the one thing I know is a total crock are more "assault weapons bans",  or bans of large capacity magazines.  Not only are all these weapons and magazines already out there and available no matter what  - but no nut case is gonna be dissuaded because he has to carry an extra clip, or can't have a rifle with a forward grip.  That's just pure liberal political crap!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Massacre Shootings -- What do we do?

Massacre Shootings -- What do we do?
jon gutmacher  --  12/14/2012

Just days after the Portland, Oregon mall shooting -- an even deeper tragedy strikes.  A lone gunman takes the lives of 26 teachers and elementary school children in Newton, Connecticut.   How can something like this happen, and is there anything we can do to stop it?  Will the banning of all firearms,  certain firearms,  large ammunition clips -- or anything else prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again?

My answer is an emphatic and unfortunate "no".   And,  I'll tell you why.

Banning firearms,  ammo,  or large capacity ammo clips are not a deterrent to those so mentally imbalanced that they are willing to take the lives of one, or many.  They either are incapable of rationalizing the result -- life imprisonment,  the death penalty,  death by law enforcement response,  or suicide -- or have already accepted that fact -- and may even be looking forward to it.  They can get the firearms -- no matter what laws are passed -- because they really are not concerned with the penalties involved for breaking those laws.  

Only honest,  rational folks -- the ones who aren't gonna do it --  are concerned about that.  Quite frankly -- we're really lucky these maniacs haven't gone one easier step further -- and obtained or manufactured their own explosives.   These can be easily assembled with common chemicals.

What you have to understand is that this is not a "firearms" problem.   It is a "mental health" problem.  And,  it is far more complex than we are probably all willing to accept.

Why?

Well . . .  for one thing -- movies, television, video games -- are all extremely violent.   A large portion of the subject matter that is portrayed as "entertainment" is absolutely abhorrent, and gratifies violence, disrespect,  outrageousness,   and other anti-social behavior.   While we downplay the overall effect this has on society, we watch it, anyway.   Films today have largely forgotten how to script great dialogue -- instead it's action,   killing, blowing up stuff,  horrendous crimes,  and more action.   Tell me that doesn't affect your kids,  people with mental issues -- and even you -- and I'll tell you -- you're crazy!   Plus -- since the First Amendment protects us from most censorship -- we don't even have the ability to stop it -- unless we,  as a nation,  boycott it on a personal level.   And . . .  unfortunately . . .  that's not gonna happen.

From a mental health standpoint --  the problem with having a mental issue is that it tends to ostracize and isolate you from others.  Your thinking is obviously altered, and adversely affected,  and these individuals may harbor deep seated resentment or anger because of their situation.  They may want to strike back.  They may want to get even.  They may want to get the attention they can't get otherwise -- in any way possible.  The combinations are myriad.  Plus -- they don't like taking the medications needed to stabilize them.  The medications many times have unacceptable side effects -- and if your thinking is suicidal, or even homicidal,  then there is no "wrong" -- it is just a question of when the fuse will finally blow, and whether you're just taking yourself out -- or taking others with you.

So -- how do we find out which of these individuals are about to go off the deep end?

Well . . .  if they have friends,  family members, co-workers, or internet buddies -- any hint of their about to go "off the cliff" should cause an immediate confidential alert to a nationwide "800" number -- where there is a method for immediate, confidential follow-up. In many instances -- that's been the one thing that has been able to prevent tragedy.  It's when those closest are reluctant, or when warning signs are ignored -- that tragedy strikes.

On the other hand -- my philosophy has always been -- why aren't teachers and administrators allowed to be armed?   At least that would give them a chance!   Disarming those unlikely to commit crimes only makes it easier for those who are looking to commit crimes.  Likewise -- schools are often the target.   How does it make sense in passing laws that restrict these people from defending themselves and their students?  Certainly,  these laws don't restrict those who intend to break the law -- because they're gonna do it anyway!  It just means that the poor slob who is at the wrong place at the wrong time -- is gonna have zero to protect himself,  herself, their students, or their families with.  And,  while the anti-gunners think reducing clip capacity on firearms is the answer -- do they actually think making anything over an eight or ten round clip illegal is really gonna accomplish anything?   Can they be so warped as to think a criminal or mentally unbalanced person will forego a crime or killing because they'll have to reload after killing only eight people?   Get real!

And so -- tragedy has once again happened.   Gun haters will do their best to use it to their advantage.  Many politicians will do the same.  The answer to them will always be "more laws" to restrict those who care least about the restrictions -- and disenfranchise those who would act responsibly.  The press will have a field day -- because for them -- it's all ratings.  But for the rest of us -- gun owners or not -- the problem persists.  These things will keep on happening unless we can figure out the "mental health" side of the question.  And,  until then -- I'm packing as much as possible -- just in case.  Cause I guarantee you one absolute thing -- I'm not the guy who's gonna be causing any trouble.  I'm the guy who will pull that firearm out only if it means saving my life --or someone else's.

end/

post script -- December 18, 2012

I'm glad to see the focus on television seems to be on the mental health issue rather than firearms.  As a criminal trial attorney I have seen individuals with mental health issues repeatedly in the criminal system because they had no real treatment options.  No place to get medication.  No available follow-up.  No way to have practical out-patient supervision.  No jobs.  No way to end their individual isolation.  If they had families -- the families had mostly given up as they had no way to deal with these difficult situations.  Talk to anyone in the criminal justice system and you'll find it is the repository of a failed (and mostly non-existent ) mental health system.  Plus -- it costs significantly more to have these people in jails, courts, etc -- than by funding proper out-patient and group home alternatives.  They need a place where someone makes sure they take their medication.   They need a place where they can get moral support for the problems they face daily.  They need someone who has the training to recognize when issues are getting worse.  And,  they need a place where they can interact with others, rather than be isolated.  But, the government has largely ignored these needs even when we had the money to fund such.  Today -- most of the programs have been cut -- making the situation even more dire.  So -- until everyone recognizes that unless we spend the money on mental health instead of more jails  -- these people will continue having their issues -- and our society will continue paying the price of ignoring them.