The Status is Not Quo

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bipolar-cartoon-2(Sorry, title is a shameless rip from a web video)

By now, if you read any of my previous gun control posts, you can probably tell I am opposed to any manner of gun or magazine bans. I have explained why magazine bans are silly, discussed real crime statistics and the lack of impact made by gun bans both here and abroad, and I have explained why an AR-15 (or similar rifle) is actually an ideal weapon for home defense.

At this point, if I were talking with (insert your favorite liberal broadcaster, cough: Piers Morgan), this is where they would proclaim that I am “clearly for the status quo and I am clearly okay with the senseless murder of innocent children”. That of course would be completely untrue, but they like to use that every time someone disagrees with the idea of gun bans. You may even be asking yourself, if we are against gun control, and are against the wholesale slaughtering of innocents and the murder of thousands of people annually, then what do we do?

It is really not all that complicated. First, let’s separate the two different types of gun violence we experience here in the United States. First, and FAR more prevalent, is use/possession of firearms by criminals for furthering their criminal ventures (ie: drug dealing, robbery, burglary, rape, murder, etc.), and second, and far less common, is the possession and use of firearms by mentally unstable individuals bent on mass murder. I want to split them because they are very different problems and require very different solutions.

Criminals
Let me get this out of the way first off, persons convicted of any felony, and certain specifically listed misdemeanors, are already prevented from legally possessing firearms. When they are convicted, their name is sent to the Department of Justice who is responsible for adding them to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, which is run and maintained by the FBI. It is already a felony for those persons to possess a firearm, and in most states, possess ammunition. However, what we (any intelligent person) already knows is that criminals do not really care about following the law, hence the term criminal, so what else can we do?

Here is where it gets crazy! I have an idea, one that society used to understand but as time has gone by, and thanks to groups such as the ACLU and other “prisoner’s rights” groups, we seem to have forgotten: we should actually punish criminals for committing crimes. I know, crazy! It has been a very long time since people sent to prison actually served their full sentences. Today, they are lucky to serve half of them. District attorney’s plea bargain criminal’s out on far lesser crimes than what they committed. Many of them never see the inside of a jail or prison, but get probation instead. The reasons for this are varied, but maybe it is time we address that instead of disarming law abiding people who have done nothing wrong.

During Vice President Biden’s recent “Task Force” to address gun violence, the NRA proposed tougher enforcement of existing laws in regards to illegal gun purchases, to which Biden responded: “regarding the lack of prosecutions on lying on Form 4473s, we simply don’t have the time or manpower to prosecute everybody who lies on a form, that checks a wrong box, that answers a question inaccurately.” Gee Joe, if we don’t have the time or manpower to enforce the laws already in existence, how is adding more laws going to help?

It is time to start enforcing the plethora of laws already on the books. We need to demand that the courts and district attorneys actually prosecute weapons violations. No plea bargaining them out, no shorter sentences; full term prison time for any firearm crime. Call or write you’re representatives in local, state and federal government. Tell them rather than passing more laws that infringe on the rights of the law abiding, how about punishing the criminals the way the law is already set up to do. The laws already exist, let’s use them!

Mentally Unstable
This area is a little touchier, because you have to start weighing people’s rights against society’s security. Mentally unstable people do scary things with weapons on a daily basis in this country, but it is quite the anomaly when they do things like what occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary. Still, it is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Currently, there are people who are already legally prevented from possessing firearms based on psychiatric conditions. In California, those people fall under Welfare and Institutions Code section 5150, and the cops are required to remove any known firearms from a person’s possession when that person is placed on a WI5150 hold. If they are further adjudicated by a court to be a danger to themselves or others, then their name is to be reported to the Department of Justice so that their name can be added to NICS. While this is a good start, I would argue that it is both under-utilized and likely under-reported, and unfortunately only comes into play if someone is trying to make a legal gun purchase.

In my experience, most people placed on a WI5150 hold are suicidal. It is the rare occasion that someone is placed on a hold because they want to hurt others, and those people, the homicidal people are the people that we need to be concerned with here. Another group that does not fall into the WI5150 category, but personally concern me greatly, are people who suffer from Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia. Those two disorders often make people unpredictable and I would argue those diagnosed with those disorders should be prevented from possessing firearms.

I am by no means a psychiatrist or psychologist, and make no claims at being an expert on mental disorders. There could be additional disorders that should be included, but I list bipolar and schizophrenia because in my experience on the streets, those are often the disorders I find associated with people causing problems that come to the attention of law enforcement. This is clearly a topic that would require significant discussion from people far more versed on the topic than I.

We (lawmakers, law enforcement and mental health professionals) need to sit down and discuss the various mental disorders, and whether people with those disorders should be legally prevented from possessing firearms. It would be a simple matter for doctors to report persons diagnosed with specific mental disorders, without violating HIPA, to the Department of Justice and have the names added to the NICS list.

Am I good with the status quo? No. Do I think gun bans are the answer? Hell No! Something does need to be done, but I think we should try something that will save many lives, not “just one life” as Obama and Biden keep saying.

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