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Posted on Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 8 a.m.

Mental health screenings for gun purchases could be a slippery slope

By Guest Column

I believe that, here in the US, we have a violence problem not a gun problem. Media spin skews gun violence statistics by including individual suicides to arrive at their figure of 30,000 annual gun-related deaths. More than half of these (51 to 55 percent) consist of suicide by self-inflicted gunshot wounds. Crime and accidents account for the other half (45 to 49 percent)

Though statistically on the decline in recent years, violent crime has become so widely reported in our society that we are rarely surprised by its occurrence (whether or not a firearm is involved). The 24-hour-a-day news cycle ensures that even lesser incidents are publicized.


Courtesy of MLive

Most of us spend our entire lives avoiding people and places that may put our personal safety in jeopardy. Does someone make you nervous? You avoid them and attempt to keep them away from your sphere of influence. Do you visit the convenience store late at night for a gallon of milk? Though you might, it’s not a good idea due to potential risk.

Avoiding violent crime as an individual is far simpler than addressing and correcting its root causes. However, a discussion of those root causes - and what realistically can be done about them - is essential to the current, ongoing debate over Second Amendment rights.

I believe the larger mental health issue also must be central to that discussion. It’s become clear that our health care system allows many troubled individuals to drop through the cracks; lack of insurance coverage for mental health care, lack of funding for state facilities, and lingering stigma are all to blame.

I’ve found that there is little help available for people with mental health issues unless one has extremely good health-care insurance. Even then, it’s a constant fight to get coverage approval. That coverage is usually adequate for early diagnosis of noncritical cases and some initial medical treatment. However, critical cases quickly can result in violent episodes, criminal behavior, or suicide before proper treatment can be fully established.

Emotionally distressed persons remain among the most difficult threats to assess. Their contribution to violent crime statistics is equally difficult to determine. It has been suggested that a mental health database be added to firearm purchase requirements. This sounds like a good idea until you think about its implementation. How do you compile it? What level of incident places one on this list and for how long? Will this database and the potential stigma associated with it discourage individuals from seeking treatment?

I believe that if we add mental health screening to firearm purchase requirements, the benefits will be minimal because the mentally ill will find a way around this via theft or fraudulent purchase. Criminals already do so.

The proposed mental health database is a slippery slope for a variety of reasons and has potential for misapplication in other areas once it’s compiled, for example in job applicant screening.

The intersection of mental illness with violent crime is a dilemma that won’t be easily solved. However, awareness is the first step toward solving any problem. It’s time for all of us to take a realistic look at the prevalence of violence of all forms in our everyday lives. We can no longer afford to look the other way.

Alvin Walsh is a resident of Tecumseh, Michigan.


Alvin Walsh

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 11:03 p.m.

My thanks to all who posted comments on these subjects. My apologies for arriving late to the discussions. It was only today that I knew this was published. Respectful, civil discussion is an excellent start to slowing the rate of violence. We need to affect the motivation of the mentally ill and criminals without restricting the freedom of law abiding citizens. Best regards... Alvin


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:15 a.m.

What would be the limits of this 'screening?' Any condition?


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 2:29 a.m.

"Unless we institute background checks for gun shows and private sales, nothing will change. This is a no-brainer......" So explain how background checks at gun shows would have prevented the New Town murders. ....yea, you can' brainer. We have two branches of government ruled by such brainless. ...but keep clinging to government as the solution to all of our problem - a road to certain success as March 1st will demonstrate very well! LOL


Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 3:55 a.m.

Unless we institute background checks for gun shows and private sales, nothing will change. This is a no-brainer. Many good points were made in this opinion piece, including the lack of health insurance for many individuals who need mental health care (will Obamacare change this, and if so, to what extent). However, I believe that there are even larger societal issues at work here: Jared Loughner's parents, for example, were told to get him a mental health evaluation or not to send him back to the community college he was attending because his behavior was so disturbing. Three months later, he slaughtered 6 people and shot Gabrielle Giffords. However, parents who suspect their child might have a major mental illness face an array of emotional and bureaucratic hurdles, from their own fears to strict laws that limit involuntary commitment to severe cuts in services. For many, the battle for intervention and treatment is a never-ending nightmare. It's unclear what the Loughners did, if anything, to get their son help after the meeting with campus police and it's also unclear if the college reported his bizarre behavior to local authorities who faced more obstacles such as civil rights and due process issues. Also, many state services have been dramatically cut in recent years: In Arizona over the past two years, for example, 14,000 mentally ill patients have had all services cut except for their medications. The cuts include counseling, case management, psychiatric care, transportation and peer support groups that often prevent patients from reaching a crisis stage where they could commit a violent act. Many many hurdles remain for identifying and supporting mentally ill individuals in the US, coupled with a culture that glorifies violence through the media, movies, video games, etc. I also agree with the writer that a database could be a slippery slope for all the reasons outlined. Much greater support for mental illness is what is needed.

P. J. Murphy

Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 3:41 a.m.

What has been lost in this largely polarized discussion is the original author's point, which is a very valid one. Despite the fact that both gun bearers, and gun haters find a rare point of agreement on the need to deny gun ownership to people with mental problems, the reality is that actually implementing this concept in the real world will be exceedingly difficult. Whether the range of people included in this disenfranchisement is broad (Have you ever been treated for a mental disability?) or narrow (Do you have actual intentions to hurt yourself or others?), the overwhelming likelihood is that few truly dangerous people will really be inhibited from purchasing weapons, and many innocent people will be stigmatized once again for totally common mental aberrations. The true insanity surrounding this issue is that both sides of the issue are propelled by organizations, and individuals whose power and influence in society is derived by their ability to stoke fear in the hearts of their followers. The NRA was once a respectable and supportive organization of gun owners, but that was decades ago. Today they are hucksters stoking paranoia and sales for their gun manufacturing patrons. Newtown wasn't a tragedy for them, it was a marketing opportunity. The response among many seeking stricter controls also are also generally misguided, albeit perhaps a tad less cynical. Most of the measures they propose will be largely irrelevant to curbing gun deaths. That said, it's hard to argue with the logic of at least minimal restrictions on personal ownership of extremely lethal firearms. I mean really. Less regulation of guns than automobiles? That's just stupid.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 6:38 p.m.

The more we I discus this topic the more I realize that the response of anti gun regulation group is driven by mistrust and a paranoia that the world is out to take all their guns away. All I can say is It's not true we just want to be as safe as we can. There are far too many hunters and gun owners in this country to even consider a no gun policy. I just want to be as safe as we can a few laws could reduce gun violence.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 9:26 p.m.

Like I said.....


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 8:22 p.m.

dsponini, To you point - I think both sides have been misrepresenting the facts lately. The GOP has been trying to convince everyone that the Sandy Hook shooter didn't use an AR. But the Piers Morgan is also to blame here. Trying to ban rifles that account for less than 200 gun crimes every year because of their physical characteristics. A logical debate is not happening. As I mentioned above, the anti-gun crowd is seriously trying to pass this arbitrary "10 round" magazine ban based on the hope that a criminal has to fumble a magazine while reloading. Why 10 rounds? Why not 11? Why not 9? Guns don't naturally come with 10 round magazines, so where did they get this random number and why have people latched onto it like it's some sort of magic bullet? The fact is, you have people arguing against firearms that truly have no idea what they're talking about. People should learn the difference between a magazine and a clip or a semi-auto rifle and an "assault rifle" before arguing about what needs to be banned.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 8:15 p.m.

Tim, that's absolutely the end game here (or close to it). It has, and always has been, a tactic of essentially taking what you can get. You can't get a total gun ban, so ban automatic weapons. You can't get a total gun ban, so let's make this firearm owners protection act. Can't get guns banned but we can go after magazine size and this random definition of "assault weapons". It's been happening for 100 years. Every time gun legislation passed, shockingly, it just wasn't enough. So they wait ten or twenty years and go after something else. Next they'll just go after all semi-autos. Will we ever get a complete ban, probably not, but getting to the point where Australia or the UK is at is certainly possible. Hunters, only with strict licensing, can get a gun. And can I just point out, I'm mostly liberal on subjects. I just happen to swing the other way on gun control. I don't think banning types of weapons (especially for physical characteristics and not functional characteristics) or any of these meaningless pieces of legislation will do anything to prevent gun violence, or violence in general. Hoping a thug fumbles a magazine while he's shooting up a crowd is not exactly logical reasoning for a law. Banning a bayonet lug on a rifle is not logical legislation for a law. When was the last time you heard of someone getting stabbed by a rifle bayonet?


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 7:26 p.m.

@Tim.....FOX News and AM Radio, think Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh et al have turned a segment of our population into government hating drones. Every day there is a new conspiracy theory about disarming the population or Sandy Hook shooting was hoax by government in order to take our guns away etc... That kind of outright false journalism should be outlawed. It exploits the ignorant and is causing harm to our country.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 6:48 p.m.

Not true eh? You haven't been paying attention. When their guard is down many politicians have clearly stated that a total ban and confiscation is the end goal. Guess you never heard of Dianne "turn them all in" Feinstein for one.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 3:14 p.m.

Guns should be denied to anyone who has been taking certain mental health drugs within say, the previous year. I leave the details up to the politicians. Since medical records are digital and accessable, a gun purchase applicant should be screened for taking drugs that have known psychotropic side effects. Too many people take too many drugs anyway, and they are too casually prescribed.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 4:47 p.m.

" Since medical records are digital and accessable" Really? You've not heard of HIPAA I take it? "I leave the details up to the politicians." Comforting...I'd rather if we left medical issues to medical professionals..


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 2:53 p.m.

As usual a discussion about gun violence without a mention of the volume of guns manufactured and sold in this country, including guns that only military and police should have access to. That`s the slippery slope on this isuue and we`re already well down the slope. So it doesn`t matter who`s do the shooting, a suicider, a mentally ill person, an angry spouse, or a criminal... there`s just too damn many guns !!


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 8:06 p.m.

Gun violence has been declining since the mid 80's which kind of disproves your assertion that more guns = more gun crime. What difference does it make if an individual has 5 guns instead of 1?


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 4:42 p.m.

If you're referring to automatic weapons that are used in the military and law enforcement, they're already illegal for civilian use. There's a big difference between a semiautomatic AR-15 and a selectable fire fully auto m4. But like most people on the anti-gun side of the issue, there is no difference at all because they both look scary.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:56 p.m.

Ask yourself....Are these the people we want making the gun laws in our country?


Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 4:32 p.m.

I don't think a bully lobbying group who's only purpose is to $ell more Gun$ should be making any laws. The NRA does not represent the majority of Americans, only a small minority.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 11:37 p.m.

who do you suggest do it?


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 5:14 a.m.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 4:54 a.m.

But, how many people have not been diagnosed as mentally ill, who are, because they are not willing to recognize and seek treatment for the real reasons behind their issues, and who have had caregivers and loved ones who are in denial? Those who have been able to skirt the system and getting good treatmet or who weren't seen as "bad" enough to need the treatment necessary to help them? Those are the people that I worry about. More than those who would be in a database of the mentally ill.

Alvin Walsh

Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 12:20 a.m.

Sadly, this will always be the case.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 2:18 a.m.

According to the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, only 2 percent of guns used in crimes were purchased at Gun Shows.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 7:34 a.m.

This "only 2% of guns used in crimes come from gun shows" meme is an idea passed around by the gun lobby that started with an incorrect interpretation of a government report. From 2004 to 2006 the ATF did surveillance at 2% of gun shows and found huge numbers of criminals buying guns. The idea that the Bushmaster was not used in the Sandy Hook shootings is a similar false notion spread around the Net by the gun advocates.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 3:03 a.m.

Wonder how the liberal anti gun folks are going to react to that? First no bushmaster was used at Sandy Hook and now another lie has been exposed.

Julia Herbst

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:51 a.m.

I was just having a conversation on this topic with my dad the other day. (Who is a NRA instructor). I was expressing my opinions about how I believe there should be some sort of mental background check to HELP prevent mentally ill people from having firearms. I want to highly support this, but than theres this... How many citizens of this country have seeked the help of counselling, after losing a loved one, losing their job, etc. This would attack the right to bare arms to people who have reached out for help with depression after these always happeneing life events. How far into someones history will they go? Would this stop me from owning a pistol because I was forced through therapy at 11 years old for anger management and depression, because I was abused by my mother, and my parents were divorcing? I have no problems with either issue now, BUT would this effect my rights? Just as if your child was placed on ridelin, or ADHD drugs in their childhood, this could prevent them from exercising their rights as they become adults. All of these people pushing for more laws, more laws. They dont think about the simple things that happen in our lives that could prevent us from exercising our rights, All they care about is STRIPPING us of our rights.

Alvin Walsh

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 6:51 p.m.

Thanks for sharing Julia. I agree with your comments.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 5:22 a.m.

Very good points, Julia.

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 12:29 a.m.

Al this hyperbole is giving me a headache. Look, here is the bottom line: We need a universal background check system that is national and institute a logical and cohesive system whereby Federal and State agencies can track an individuals driving, public education records, and any other pertinent records such as a history of violence or mental illness. Most of us have nothing to hide, sop what's the big deal? Furthermore, all records that I mentioned above are already being tracked, but what we desperately need is a system that can aggregate these records into a sensible network, so that if an individual applies to purchase an AR-15 Bushmaster, Federal and State agencies can do a "real" and background check. Let's support President Obama and protect our kids.

Alvin Walsh

Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 12:05 a.m.

I'd prefer to protect our kids with effective measures such as limited "hardening" of school access and adding school resource officers. This should be done on a local level as they see fit to suit their needs. One-size-fits-all national legislation probably will not work for all. How is the proposed Universal Background Check an improvement on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)? Relying on a database to protect schools is a poor choice. BTW, most don't realize the adjudicated mentally ill are included in the NICS. The key is timely State & Local communication with NICS. This system is already in place.

Alvin Walsh

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 6:43 p.m.

This may better explain a part of my concern. It was edited out for brevity: The proposed mental health database is a slippery slope for a variety of reasons and has potential for misapplication in other areas once it's compiled, for example in job applicant screening. Some employers already check credit scores and ask for social media passwords. Why not check mental health records too? The line between public safety and personal privacy quickly becomes blurry.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 11:39 a.m.

If you implement a universal background check it will do absolutely nothing. The reason being, the government does not know who owns what. Because of this, they also won't know who recently purchased a firearm or not. Once it leaves an FFL dealer, there is rarely paperwork on the firearm. If you have "nothing to hide" why don't you allow the police to randomly search your house? How about we strip away that freedom? How many people could be saved every year if cops were just allowed to search whatever they wanted? Or could it be that you value your freedom more than you value this quest for the greater good? I may not have something to hide, but that doesn't mean I'm going to give up my freedoms.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 9:03 p.m.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading cause of violence-related injury deaths in the U.S. is from motor vehicles. In 2010 motor vehicles accounted for 33,687 fatalities. Homicides from firearms accounted for 11,078 fatalities. Since there are far more deaths from automobiles than firearms in this country, is it safe to say that those of you advocating for mental health screening for firearm purchases also agree that there should be similar mental heath screening for people buying cars? If not, then why not? At least be consistent in your arguments.

Alvin Walsh

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 11:50 p.m.

tim stated: "Cars are made to drive --- guns are made to kill --can't you see the difference? You could argue that two by fours could be used for killing someone but that's not what they are made for. I don't see how your argument holds up--guns should not me sold to unstable people period. Look at the guy at Virginia Tech --nobody should have sold this guy a gun." 1.Firearms have many uses, criminal violence is the far smaller statistic than the law abiding uses such as self defense and shooting sports. 2. Blunt objects (clubs, hammers, etc.) were used to kill 496 times in 2011 vs. 323 with all types of rifles. Should we ban hammers even when they are used constructively 99.9% of the time? Let's not restrict tools or equipment because a small majority misuse them. 3. The Virginia Tech shooter's firearm purchase loophole has been resolved. Adjudicated mentally ill are now included in the NICS firearm purchase check. (2) (3)

Alvin Walsh

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 11:20 p.m.

Sry Tim: "I haven't heard of anyone driving their car into a class of second graders on purpose have you?" 13 injured after Chinese man drives car with makeshift-explosives into students:


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 7:21 a.m.

Yes, tens of thousands of people die annually in car crashes, many of them related to drunk driving. No, we do not make cars illegal and we do not have mental health screening. But we have had national campaigns, for decades, to make cars safer, to reduce drunk driving, and we regulate many aspects about the types of cars we drive (seatbetls, air bags, crash tests, etc.). And those efforts have resulted in HUGE reductions in deaths per mile driven over the last 40 years. So the country did NOT just say, "yep, people die in car crashes...but what are you going to do?" This is the same simple reaction that those of us who advocate for gun control want to see here.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 3:59 a.m.

Again Tim I ask you, do you think the victim of a fatal car crash or the victim of a gunshot cares one way or the other what its intended purpose is? Dead is dead. You can dance around the issue all you want, but the bottom line is if you want menal health screening for gun owners because of the number of deaths caused by those guns, then if you really are intellectually honest you'd want the same screenings for car owners since they kill far more people. The fact that you disagree with this premise tells me that your mental health argument is just a red herring and that your true objective is a complete ban on guns for all law abiding citizens. Nice try though


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:12 a.m.

There already are laws on the books in regards to mental illness and firearms purchases. And yes there have been many cases of vehicular homicide that out number mass shooting incidents


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:12 a.m.

Cars are made to drive --- guns are made to kill --can't you see the difference? You could argue that two by fours could be used for killing someone but that's not what they are made for. I don't see how your argument holds up--guns should not me sold to unstable people period. Look at the guy at Virginia Tech --nobody should have sold this guy a gun.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:03 a.m.

To answer your question yes, I have read several articles about mentally disturbed individuals mowing down innocent people in their cars. But really, does it matter what the intent is? The victims are just as dead. Do they not count? And I could also produce a long list of mentally ill individuals that I'm sure you wouldn't want behind the wheel of a car either. So what's your point? If you think there should be mandatory mental health screening for people to buy guns then you should also support mental health screening for people to buy cars which kill far more people every year. The point is I shouldn't have to prove my (very subjective) mental health status to some bureaucrat to buy a car when I've never demonstrated a reason for the intrusion. Neither should I have to prove the same when buying a gun.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 12:11 a.m.

I haven't heard of anyone driving their car into a class of second graders on purpose have you? It's hard to believe in light of current events that anyone would be against mental health screenings in order to purchase firearms. Do you really want anyone and everyone to be able to go buy a gun? I could produce a long list of mentally ill individuals that I'm sure you wouldn't want to own guns.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 6:24 p.m.

...and what percentage of those dead by suicide would still be alive if they didn't have access to a gun?

Alvin Walsh

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 6:36 p.m.

I'll concede that a 1st time suicide attempt is usually more successful with a firearm, but the RATE of successful suicide does not change. If one wants to die, they'll find a way. For example, Japan has a suicide twice the rate of ours and private firearm ownership is virtually non-existent.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:57 a.m.

Tim, no. Because there's no evidence to suggest that it would prevent the person from killing themselves. They could just as easily climb to the top of the tallest building in the city and jump off. You're suggesting that the event won't happen if they couldn't get their hand on a gun and it's just not true, as evidence by the suicide rates in countries with strict gun control.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:07 a.m.

So when i go to purchase a gun, how are you going to know that i am depressed and suicidal? This whole debate centers around the thinking that laws are going to circumvent individual behavior that often cant be predicted or controled. Its folly to think a law is going to stop homicidal maniacs, or see them coming. I have the right to protect myself and family with a legal firearm, and taking away that right, or limiting how many bullets i can have does not make me safer.

Bruce W

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 12:33 a.m.

Tim, do you want victims of violence that get a PPO against someone to wait a month or 2 before they can purchase a gun to protect themselves? The criminal will be out on bond before that 1st month is over and might go try to kill them the day he/she gets out, should the victim hold up the PPO paperwork and expect that paper to stop a knife or a bullet.....maybe you think the victim can talk the criminal into waiting to kill them until after the police get there, or maybe you think the police will wait at the house for the criminal to show up again. If 2 homes get broken into by armed criminals and 1 homeowner runs to call 911 while the other runs to get their gun I'd bet the one with the phone is about 500% more likely to be shot than the one with their own gun. Criminals are more likely to run from a homeowner with a gun than one with a phone.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 10:11 p.m.

hail2-- If someone is depressed and wants to commit suicide don't you think it would be smart to at least make them wait a month or two before they purchase a gun? The suicidal thought may have been temporary--- if a gun is available when the suicidal thought is there the chances are 500% better that they will kill themselves than if the gun is not there.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 8:03 p.m.

Tim, what you're still failing to realize is that it doesn't matter. People use firearms because they know there's a high chance of succeeding. What you fail to acknowledge is that there's nothing the proves these people would not commit suicide using another method if a gun wasn't in the home. As I already pointed out, the US has about the same, or better, suicide rate as most of the 1st world countries around the world. Gun control or not, a certain percentage of people will commit suicide. The UK has a 11.8 suicide rate and the US had a 12. Hardly anything to prove what you're trying to assume: IE - we could lower our suicide rate by banning guns (or making them harder to get).


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 6:51 p.m.

In USA homes with guns the rate of suicide is 500% greater than in homes without guns. Only one in ten of people that have unsuccessfully attempted suicide will attempt it again--- which means if there are guns around a suicidal person is much more likely to be successful and not have the opportunity to reexamine their decision.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 6:34 p.m.

There's no possible way you could know that nor is it justification to take away, or limit, the rights of millions. You can't do something like that based on a hunch. Our suicide rate is similar to most 1st world countries (with or without firearms). For instance: Countries by suicide rate (Per 100,000 people): Japan: 21.9 France: 15.0 US: 12.0 UK: 11.8 Canada: 11.5 Germany: 9.9 Mexico: 4.0 As you can see, the difference is minimal between countries with strict, or relaxed, gun control.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 6:03 p.m.

Amusing to see how far all these posters run away from the point and claims that murders like Lanza must be stopped. Virtually NOTHING written here relates to that case at all, let alone would have influenced him in the least. Here's a quiz for all you kids who think you've been well schooled by the national media: In response to the New Town killings, there have been cries by obama and his democrat henchmen to ban all law abiding Americans from buying AR-15 style rifles: How many children did Lanza kill with his mom's AR-15 "assault rifle"? Now you finally know who is running the United States.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 4:58 p.m.

Certainly it was reported because it fit the pre determined democrat narrative by a press that picks and chooses what it reports based on the daily White House narrative or as directed by Media Matters. don't get too impressed with yourself sonny - for the foreseeable future the national press will remain a bunch of bubble gum chewing fools goose stepping along with the government spewing pabulum custom made for the low information voters who elected them.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 3:37 p.m.

Yes, in the first day after the shooting it was incorrectly reported that the Bushmaster was found unused in the shooter's trunk. But this was corrected a few days later and has been widely reported as such ever since. The false story that the AR-15 was unused has been propagated by gun advocates for two months, just like you did here. The only person killed by anything OTHER than the Bushmaster was the gunman himself.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 2:29 p.m.

It turns out, we're both wrong! LOL All of the killing was done by a derranged adult using both hand guns and his mom's AR-15. I stand partially corrected. Still sad and still a democrat stooge power grab by any measure. The Washington Post incorrectly reported that the killer, Adam Lanza, had left a Bushmaster rifle in a car parked outside the school. Incorrect information was provided by law enforcement officials speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was in its initial stages. Police said they found a Bushmaster .223-caliber model XM15-E with high capacity 30-round clips, a Glock 10mm handgun and a Sauer P226 9mm handgun inside the school. Police also searched Lanza's car, which was in the parking lot, and found an Izhmash Canta-12 12-gauge shotgun.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 7:13 a.m.

How many were killed with the AR-15? All of them.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:31 a.m.

Either no one wants to say the real number or they want every one believe that the dreaded "assault rifle" to be the big bad wolf


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 4:56 p.m.

" in the US, we have a violence problem not a gun problem." No, it's a gun problem - when weapons are involved, a gun is the weapon of choice. ( And since when is suicide by firearm not a gun death? This statistic is not "skewed"; its right to include such cases in the number gun-related deaths. The NRA has lobbied for years for looser gun restrictions. The concealed carry law in Michigan was signed to law by a compliant John Engler in a lame duck legislative session. Lawmakers added an appropriation to the bill to prevent the people of Michigan from deciding the matter via referendum. They've used the same tactics in other state legislatures. The NRA has largely gotten its way - many states that we're "may issue" states are now "shall issue" states. Terrorist have been able to arm themselves thanks to lax American gun laws. ( The only "slippery slope" we've been on is the easing of gun restrictions backed by the NRA.

Alvin Walsh

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 10:51 p.m.

" And since when is suicide by firearm not a gun death? " I consider this more importantly a mental health issue. Suicide statistics don't blend well with criminal firearm use as far as remedy for either because they have far different root causes. We need to affect the motivation of the mentally ill and criminals without restricting the freedom of law abiding citizens.

Alvin Walsh

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 6:17 p.m.

picabia, I think you'll find conceal carry permit holders become more responsible gun owners as a result of additional training and background checks. The community is safer as a result. FWIW, this is more firearm legislation, not less. It's effective firearm law in contrast to weapon bans that have proven to be of little value to public safety.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:33 a.m.

"Yes it may have reduced the authority of local gun boards but that might not be all bad either..." It's bad alright. If the goal is to keep firearms out of the hands of people who are mentally ill, gutting the authority of gun boards makes that more likely to occur, not less. It's time we stopped listening to the NRA, a group that is nothing more than the lobbying arm of the US weapons industry, a group that abandoned a sports-and-conservation agenda long ago for an extremist agenda on the fringe.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 12:13 a.m.

Both the action of New York and Michigan was legal but may not reflect the will of the people as they have no vote but it is system of government we have. Yes it may have reduced the authority of local gun boards but that might not be all bad either if no short cuts are taken and what would have been denied by either group is the same.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 11:35 p.m.

" I suspect you are ok with that action by the governor of New York." That action by the governor of New York was not done during in a lame duck session as Engler's action was. Furthermore, in New York "both the GOP-controlled Senate and Democrat-dominated Assembly approved the measure by overwhelming margins" ( In other words, there was bi-partisan support, which was lacking in Engler's legislative equivalent of a midnight backseat tryst. "Are you trying to link the concealed carry laws of the "shall issue" states to terrorists purchasing guns via gun shows?" No, I am merely pointing out that terrorist groups from the IRA to al-Qaeda know that guns are easily acquired in the US. The lame duck passage of CCW in Michigan weakened the authority of local gun boards, an action that the NRA supported. Rather than the slippery slope scenario envisioned by Walsh, we've been on an NRA-sponsored slippery slope for years.

Steven Taylor

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 7:13 p.m.

By your logic Picabia, we ought to roll back the permissiveness of the Internet, that can be used to assault free speech and instill violence (used for coordinating mob actions etc). We also need you to register your computers, telephones and televisions and pay for permitting such items in your homes as they are dangerous in untrained hands.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 5:54 p.m.

You cannot have a gun problem without also having a violence problem. The crimes may be worse with a gun involved, but that doesn't mean that the crimes won't happen at all.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 5:23 p.m.

The people of New York State didn't vote on the latest gun magazine laws either but I suspect you are ok with that action by the governor of New York. Are you trying to link the concealed carry laws of the "shall issue" states to terrorists purchasing guns via gun shows? That is a pretty long stretch. Estimates of deaths by or related to alcohol are twice the gun deaths in the US. And yet there is not a outcry to ban alcohol. One in five deaths are related to tobacco, we should ban that also.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 4:33 p.m.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution gives US Citizens the RIGHT to own guns so all you dreaming about disarming US Voters can forget it. What confuses so many low information voters writing here is that there is no safety problem. We see massive systemic ignorance in this country when it comes to evaluating threats and their related statistics. The fact that someone violent and mentally ill murders school children once or twice a decade in a country with 141,000 schools and 300,000,000 people is NOT a safety threat. Such a rare occurrence by definition cannot be fixed in a free society. In North Korea – maybe. These killers are NOT A SAFETY THREAT any more then lightning is a safety threat, so also by definition, all claims of these phony "solutions" will be hatched by politicians hungry for more control over slow witted citizens. They are pure power grabs that without exception would NOT HAVE PREVENTED the New Town murders – a fact they will sweep aside as irreverent when cornered. ….and of course that will never be the point as more lies tumble form obama's mouth and his stooges continue the fight for even more government control over the Americans they rule. If the Constitution needs to be changed, it's the First Amendment that long ago failed to include penalties for a corrupt national press shamelessly in the tank for the worst president in a century.

gerald brennan

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 12:01 p.m.

A small correction -- the Second Amendment to the Constitution DOES NOT give US Citizens the RIGHT to own guns . We have that right because we are human beings. The feds give us NOTHING. The 2nd A simply acknowledges that we possess that right, we are not GIVEN it.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 4:29 p.m.

We surrender certain "freedoms" in order to maintain a safer society. We allow the TSA to go through our belongings before we get on a plane. How hard is it to accept allowing a doctor to certify that there are no obvious red flags in your mental health? It's not a slippery slope. If you are deemed unfit, you could always appeal. What if this check saved a few lives every year? Would it be worth it? Ask someone who has lost a loved one to gun violence.

Alvin Walsh

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 6:08 p.m.

Medical professional will be reluctant to "Certify" an individual as "fit" to possess a firearm. The professional will be liable for the certification for the life of its applicability. FWIW, my father committed suicide by handgun many years ago. He would have passed any certification you can envision. That's the nature of some mental illness. It may not be known until a criminal act occurs. I advocate a better, more accessible mental health care system.

Bruce W

Sat, Mar 2, 2013 : 9:37 p.m.

What Dr. will people have to go to, the same one you have to go see to get a medical marijuana card? Those so called Doctors don't care about anything but collecting money, so if you pay the doctor enough he will say you are OK to get a gun, the ONLY people that what you are talking about would help are doctors that would sit back and collect the cash, everyone else would just have less money.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 7:49 p.m.

Ridiculous analogy. That simple is it? Why don't you ask those who are on the TSA lists for no good reason if it is that simple to dispute it. Sen Kennedy was on it. It took him, his staff and his connections 3 weeks to be removed. How that work for the little people? Like 18 month olds?

Steven Taylor

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 7:15 p.m.

Sorry, you don't have permission to infringe on MY right when I've done nothing wrong. Should we limit your access to motor vehicles, because someone drove drunk.. Or limited your right to free speech cause someone like the Westboro Baptist Church assholes picket someones funeral?


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 6:01 p.m.

That's just not true at all. You don't have a right to ride an airplane. You volunteer surrender yourself to a search by choosing to fly. Giving an individual (a doctor) the ability to strip someone of their 2nd Amendment rights is scary to many. It could also discourage the people who need help from visiting a doctor. You could just as easily reverse your justification and say, what if this law prevented "a few people" from having a firearm who got robbed, raped or killed because they weren't able to protect themselves?

Bill Wilson

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 4:09 p.m.

Alvin, I'll demonstrate the problem with my own family. My father passed away in 2007: pancreatic cancer. Among the things I inherited were two rifles: a Winchester .22 and a Ruger Mini-30 semi-automatic. The Ruger is an amazing rifle; it's not automatic (so it's not an assault rifle), but it's called the American version of the AK47. It's such a gun, high-powered rifle, that many police departments use it. Now, I'm not a gun-nut. It would take a real life/death situation to make me fire it at another human being. And I would try desperately to talk my way out of the situation, before using it. BUT... both these guns are not registered with any federal or local policing agency, and they are not required to be. And they are not unique: there are literally millions of unregistered rifles in peoples homes across America. So, how to you regulate weapons or owners who are completely off the grid? Answer: you can't. And here's the real stickler: even if you could regulate them, a gun and the ammunition can be easily made by a minimally talented machinist. Take away guns, and criminals will make their own.

Alvin Walsh

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 5:52 p.m.

Mr. Wilson, you bring up good points here. I'd like to add that registration doesn't often add to law enforcement efforts because gun bores, breeches, and firing pins wear over use. Bullets often fragment combined with the previous make them less easy to match to a specific weapon. According to FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, via the Data Online data analysis tool on the website of the Bureau of Justice Statistics. California has had handgun registration since 1909 and it has not any impact of violent crime rate.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 6:46 p.m.

Bill, you're thinking too small! The endgame is FILES! 3D printing is here, that will be to fabricating as the internet was to information.

Bill Wilson

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 6:34 p.m.

Forgot: They may account for only 1-2 %. But that's only because guns are so common and easy to obtain. Most everyone has that old rifle of Dad's or Grampa's in the closet. But that's not the point: if you take away Grampa's gun, it's easy to make one. What's next... are you going to outlaw lathes?

Bill Wilson

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 6:29 p.m.

ex734, The types made now are called "zip" guns. They're single-shot and often made from wood They're easy to make.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 4:32 p.m.

ex734 - there are very few countries where firearms are completely illegal. Almost all countries allow for antique firearms or hunting firearms (with strict regulations). So it's hard to say how often it happens. On the other hand, criminals often take the path of least resistance. So they'd likely just use a knife or a bat to commit the crime vs. a firearm. You can make a fully automatic firearm but people don't because it's easier to use what is available.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 4:23 p.m.

What? How often do criminals make their own guns? You are grasping at straws here. How many home made guns are used to kill people in countries where guns are illegal? I'll bet you your guns that the number of homemade guns used to kill by criminals is less than 1%.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 3:45 p.m.

Brad, you ask what makes sense in terms of all or nothing checks, and registrations and whatever. However, I argue that it makes no difference. Having a registration system is ok because it provides a measure of responsibility that will be followed by law-abiding citizens. But, all that does is make sure those people have some training and knowledge on safe use of guns. It does NOT stop crime nor does it stop those who, for whatever reason, intentionally seek to use a weapon to harm others. I'll remind you that Adam Lanza took the guns from his mother's home and they were legally registered weapons. He had access and training on the use of legally-registered guns. Using the car analogy again, many vehicles aren't required to be registered by state registration laws. That's only if you intend to operate the vehicle. All vehicles need title, but even that falls when the vehicle ID plate is altered or the vehicle declared as salvage. My point to you is that gun registration may be a useful tool for some types of problems, but is not the solution to deadly violence and won't bring it to an end. The worst domestic killing that ever took place in the US wasn't precipitated by guns. It was a truck filled with ammonium nitrate and fuel oil parked in front of a federal building in Oklahoma. The problem you seek to ameliorate requires a different solution a societal one that reinvigorates morality, self-responsibility, and a sense of duty to others to re-establish a respect for life. I don't have it and it's not easy or we'd have it in place. That's my point.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

Currently, if someone is adjudicated as a danger to self or others, if they are ordered by a court to involuntary commitment or out patient treatment for mental illness, then they are by law not allowed to purchase or possess a firearm. Problem: the courts do not always submit the information into the NICS database. While Michigan is one of the better states with compliance, it still is far from perfect. Once someone is placed in the system, removing them form it is almost impossible, even though the law was amended a few years ago to require states to have a relief process. The Feds and States have been working on improving the reporting in this area but it is a very slow process. No swipe of a magic pen or new law will correct this. It is a very complex issue, that will not be solved overnight. The first step nationally, is to get compliance on current laws before complicating the issue with new additional requirements.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 3:25 p.m.

Couple of points: 1. Swimming pools kill more children (not gang members, but young children) that guns do. Check the statistics. Why is there no outcry in the news about the dangers of pools??? 2. Why are the news outlets only putting out any negative they find about the use of guns? They are used fairly often (as unreported it is hard to tell how often), to scare away home invaders and rapists. 3. The second amendment is about having free people keeping the ability to defend themselves, the country and those they care about. The police do not even pretend to be available until after a crime is committed and do not even guarantee to show up then. Just the facts, they do not have the resources to be everywhere all the time. 4. The ""thought" to make bullets unavailable is pathetic. Same logic could be used to think alcohol can be controlled by making bottles and cans illegal. Only thing you will accomplish is to create a black market and make criminals rich. Think differently, look at the war on drugs - they are more available now than ever before and criminals have come close to owning countries because there is so much money to be made. 5. Hard to tell from the quality reporting on the shootings that the news is blaring on about, but believe there is a pretty good chance many of those who committed them are on psychiatric drugs already. Are these drugs a good part of the problem???


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 9:11 p.m.

I love the way people just pull random statistics out of thin air in order to justify their arguments. So for your edification ChrisW, the CDC has repeatedly found year after year that swimming pool drowning are the leading cause of accidental death for children. Also I'm not sure where you pull that 3,000 child deaths from firearms statistic, but again according to the CDC (not exactly a bastion of gun rights opinions) in 2010 there were a total of 288 gun fatalities for the age groups of 1-15. That's 208 homicides and 80 suicides. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions on this issue, but you're not entitled to just make up facts.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

There are less than 1000 total drownings a year in the US compared to 3000 child gun deaths per year. Even assuming half of the gun deaths are suicide, your numbers are wrong.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

Kay, the Supreme Court disagrees with you. "The significance attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. 'A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline.' And further, that ordinarily when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time."


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 3:14 p.m.

Suicide should be counted as gun violence. There was a discussion on this topic on NPR last week-- The guest/researcher suggested that there would be less suicides if a gun were not available in a persons home. A gun suicide is quick with no recourse-not like pills where there is a good chance someone will find you before you die. Research also shows that less than 10% of people that attempt suicide but fail will reattempt it again.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 7:55 p.m.

Tim, I just gave you the stats. You're just wrong. Someone in france is more likely to commit suicide than someone in the US. That's a fact. It doesn't matter that the US has 3x as many suicides because we have almost 7x the population.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 7:34 p.m.

South Korea has strict gun control policies, but among the highest rates of suicide in the world @ 31 in 100,000. Same with Japan - 21 in 100,000. The U.S.? 12 in 100,000. The Utopia to the North? 11.5 per 100,000. So, I'd say the answer to your idea is "No."


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 6:42 p.m.

Homes in the USA that have guns are 5 times more likely to have someone in that home to commit suicide. Look it up.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 4:27 p.m.

Tim, you do realize that suicide rate is different than total number of suicides. France has 65 million people, the US had 350 million people. France has 14.6 suicides per 100,000 people. The US has 10.1. Mexico, who's gun problem is through the roof, has only 4.4 suicides per 100,000 people. It's hard to say, based on the numbers, that there's any correlation with the availability of firearms and the suicide rate of the country (like you're trying to claim).


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

Japan has a much higher suicide rate than the US and far fewer guns.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 3:55 p.m.

Not true--- France has less than one suicide for every three committed in the USA and far less that one third of gun violence crimes committed per capita.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 3:47 p.m.

There are plenty of other countries, including France, with strict gun control laws yet a higher suicide rate.

Jon Wax

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

it's funny that this story is right below the "ypsi schools need more parent involvment". the background checks are legit, except: 1. they presume an element of guilt before innocence. "we think you are dirty, you claim not to be, let's do a background check". not sure that's really a solid foundation 2. in some states welfare recipients pay for drug tests before qualifying for welfare. if they pass the test, they get the money back for their test. i think the same should be done here: if you pass your background check, you should be reimbursed for it. 3. none of the folks from the burbs are going to feel this. same with the rural areas. it's the urban areas with high rates of gun crime, ie detroit, chicago, etc. that WILL be feeling the full brunt. "thug life" is ending. it's been the cause of property values dropping since the mid 80s. once the regs are in place, it'll give em legal clearence to go "hard" on the thug lifers out there. 2013, not a good year to be a thug. 4. this is also a missed opportunity: we have no constitutional right to own bullets. we do for guns. not bullets though. so a. micro etch serial numbers on each batch of rounds. on the slug & jacket. chemical tag on the gunpowder. b. database all bullets purchased by lot number tied to serial numbers. c. possession of a single round of illegally posssessed ammo = 10 years. a full mag in an illegal glock? heck we won't even charge you with the gun. the mag though? that's 100 years, son. seeee ya! d. trace all gun crimes back to bullet purchaser. purchaser does the same amount of time as the shooter.between the chem tag on the powder, the slug and jacket... shouldn't be that hard to find someone to charge. oh well... we couldn't find the shooter. the buyer does the time for the shooter. e raise the price of bullets to about 750 bucks per box: store gets the usual 30 bucks or so, the rest goes to child safety program. Peace Wax


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 6:22 p.m.

Jon, I'm not sure if you're serious about #4 either. In response to each: 4 - Bullets are easy to make. They may not be fancy, but all you really need is lead and a mold. You can't ban lead and a mold is seriously easy to make - especially with a previous bullet to work with. A - this would do nothing. Bullets are shattered and destroyed (even when they hit something soft like a human body). Even if there was something left of the bullet it would be a random part the lead is so soft it would destroy any serial number etched in. I'm not even sure what you mean by chemically tagging the gunpowder. Once it's burnt in the firing process, anything unique would likely go out the window. B - again, this wouldn't work for the reason in A. You can't serialize a bullet. C - ever heard of cruel and unusual punishment? Or are you going to argue we don't need another one of our constitutional rights? D - again, won't work for reasons in A/B E - all this would do is make people create their own ammunition. In addition, the federal government does not have power to control commerce. That's left up to the states. And while the government could put a tax on ammunition, this would be about as hard to pass in Congress as banning firearms all together. Certainly no tax could add an additional $735 to a box of ammo.

Steven Taylor

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 3:01 p.m.

Wax, I can't tell if you are serious or not about 4. So lets break it down for you.. A.. Micro etching is a joke. a bullet is disposable recyclable material.. The whole micro stamping idea is a joke, they don't have the funds/manpower and the knowledge to run our current system let alone add another step. I know people who make their own casings for bullets out of copper tubing purchased from an home supply store. B. database all bullets... Again, see part a. C. You've got to be pullin' my leg.. (Even though essentially NYstate has made 8 rounds illegal. with their 7 round limit, so stupid can become law). D. I think you've been watching too much Chris Rock... But nice try..


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

Mr. Walsh's column brings up many good points about mental health screenings for gun purchase requirements. There is so much talk going on about mental illness and gun violence, but virtually none about substance abuse and gun violence. We all want a simple, quick solution to this problem. Unfortunately, it's complex and will take a long time, if ever, for this country to get it right.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

I think you make valid points- psychological health is also subject to changes a difficult thing to validate for-ever. I also would make the point and one people overlook is Hollywood's influence. The amount of violence in movies has increased substantially in the last 20 years. Hero's in these movies committing mass murder are aimed at the 15 - 40 year old crowd.

Alvin Walsh

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 5:34 p.m.

I am not condemning video games or movies with the above opinion, merely stating how they may affect the mentally ill. Mental illness recognition and lack of comprehensive treatment are the root of our domestic mass shootings, not any single aspect of how one arrives at or the tools used in abhorrent violent action.

Alvin Walsh

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 5:33 p.m.

Apply the above paragraph to sporting activity and consider how many times have you fantasized about hitting that long ball, sinking a difficult shot under pressure, or some other game winning move? If you often think about being successful, you are more likely to become so. Similarly, if you constantly rehearse the taking of a human life in your mind, you are apt to be successful in that attempt in real life – should a legitimate need arise. But one's own judgment is critical to determining whether taking a life is right or wrong in any given set of circumstances. The problem I'm worried about is the unhealthy mind that has difficulty determining right from wrong after exposure to violence in any form. For people with certain forms of severe mental illness, devaluing human life can be a short leap under the "right" circumstances. When a mentally ill person decides to devalue human life, often he will devalue his own first -- for example, with suicide -- and the violence stops there. Less frequently this angst is directed outward to punish with "domestic violence", make a statement via mass violence, or both.

Alvin Walsh

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 5:32 p.m.

Agreed B2Pilot. Here's an unpublished piece I wrote on the subject (2? parts): Violent video games and movies desensitize us to real world violence. For a normal, healthy mind, it is an unnatural act to take a human life. One must be brought to the point of taking a life by conscious reasoning often assisted by some type of desensitization. Desensitization can be in the form of training, abuse, neglect, or fear for one's life. In law enforcement and military training, one spends much time learning about following orders, rules of engagement, and use of deadly force. This training often uses human silhouette and/or photos of bad guy(s) for shooting targets. Used for accuracy training, these targets also help with the desensitization process by being a representation of a human being. In advanced organizations, computer generated scenarios on life size screens are used along with weapon simulators to learn good decision making, timing, and accuracy. Optimum mind and body performance related to an activity is enhanced by repeated mental performance of an action or actions then practicing muscle memory related to that activity. This is used in business, sports, and yes, law enforcement and warfare. In business, one decides on a goal such as say giving a good presentation. That person compiles the presentation then prepares himself mentally by studying the materials, and mentally rehearsing the presentation repeatedly. Additionally physical practice in the form of speech delivery and media presentation further enhances this performance.

Alvin Walsh

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 5:23 p.m.

Mr. Murrow's Ghost, Many other countries also have a greater familial cohesion overall than we do here. It is a cultural issue.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 11:54 a.m.

So Ed, we not only care about "gun violence?" What about all the other violence? Esp in those other countries...


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 5:53 p.m.

True but American movies are not as popular overseas or outside of our borders as you think. Thus the number of viewers is vastly lower. They also don't have the gang violence that America has. Is that a result of illegal immigration, drugs, failed education system, broken homes?

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.

Europe and Canada watch the same movies and TV shows, play the same video games, and listen to the same music. Their rates of gun violence much lower than ours. And upon that rock the ship of "Violent Culture" crashes and sinks every time. GN&GL

Atlas Shrugged

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

What a well written, thoughtful letter, Mr. Walsh. You laid out a cogent argument, expressing your opinions in a clear way, without resorting to the all-too-common practice of including the often gratuitous and illogical rants against the left or right. The low yields from mental health screening are, I believe, just as you say and for the reasons you state. I also agree that there are risks from abuse of any such data base. I'll add, as I think you know clearly but probably didn't explicitly state, that meaningful mental health screenings, done in cursory fashion, are not likely to reveal any but the most serious and obvious mental health problems. Most docs, except perhaps some psychiatrists or other mental health specialists, are ill equipped (poorly trained) to make a proper diagnosis of mental health problem, and even less qualified to assess (let alone predict) short- or long-term risks. So, to me, that asks the question "who will do those proper screenings?" The answer, I think, is that there simply aren't the resources. The related question is "what past or current aspects of mental illness would disqualify someone from purchasing a gun? Frank sociopathy, or course. Homicidal or suicidal behavior? Sure. But then we get on the slippery slope, as you described it, with other and more common psychiatric diagnoses such as episodes of mild depression and the like. Where does it end? What's the cut-off? Who makes the decision. as you say, it's a dilemma.

Alvin Walsh

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 5:20 p.m.

Thanks for the kind comments. Agreed we do not have the resources to meet the proposed Administrative Actions, nor enforcement of current proposals. Our mental health programs are much less than they used to be because of Federal intervention. E. Fuller Torrey: Fifty Years of Failing America's Mentally Ill :

C.C. Ingersoll

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 7:32 p.m.

I forgot to add: not all states require their physicians to add patient names to this list -- which is why the current laws need to be updated and not simply 'enforced in place' of new laws dealing with this problem.

C.C. Ingersoll

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 7:30 p.m.

The mental health screening used for a gun background check does NOT mean that every person that buys a gun has to go see a psychologist first. When conducting a background check the database consults the lists of mentally ill people that doctors have referred to said list because in their professional opinion they'd hurt themselves or others.

Atlas Shrugged

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 4:34 p.m.

JimmyD. No, the current status is not acceptable to me. We already have laws on the books. Enforce them. Don't tolerate the courts giving slaps on the wrist to people convicted of violating current laws (we've seen one glaring example of this reported on within the last couple of weeks). I don't know what the magic solution is -- if there is one or several -- but I don't think passing more laws with regard to low-yield results (ie, mental health screenings) or impractical methods is the answer.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

Atlas - so what should we do to reduce the violence? Or is the current status acceptable to you?


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 2:06 p.m.

Thanks for your thoughtful post.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

Violence seems the correct response when people are desperate because their needs aren't being met. Either they believe they're due something (entitlement), they are actually in need of something (food/shelter), they're not loved or they have some addiction that's driving them. All of these issues can be addressed through support in society but in this world of "what can I get for myself" it's not on the radar in any meaningful priority or financial commitment, if required. Just like everything else that should be a priority, but isn't, due to selfishness, corruption and special interests. We live in a self imposed caste system with acceptable losses.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 1:26 p.m.

I love the "we shouldn't pass a law because criminals won't follow it" argument. Criminals, by definition, don't follow laws. That's what makes them criminals. Using the same logic, murder shouldn't be illegal because murderers will still kill people.

Alvin Walsh

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 5:13 p.m.

We must pass effective legislation. Since the majority of firearms used in crimes are unlawfully possessed, perhaps we should look into better mental health programs and stricter enforcement of existing law.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 8:36 p.m.

Well stated. You pointed out the issue when law is applied to inanimate objects rather than to voluntary actions - the laws become redundant. If you obtain a gun illegally, there isn't a siren that goes off. SO most likely you won't get caught until you commit another crime (ie. murder someone with the gun). In which case, the first law broken is quite pointless.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 7:22 p.m.

Then since there are already plenty of laws against murder as well as illegal guns, would you agree that more laws for those activities would be pointless? Being logical and all...


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 4:02 p.m.

Congratulations, Northside. You've laid bare the ridiculousness of one of the death lobby's most fundamental arguments. And that none of them are yet to offer a rejoinder is ample proof they cannot.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

"because the mentally ill will find a way around this via theft or fraudulent purchase. Criminals already do so." One of the reasons "criminals already do so" is because it is incredibly easy for them to do so due to the gaping "private sales" loophole. If we treated cars the same way you'd only need to register your car if you bought it from a dealer. That makes no sense at all. None.

Alvin Walsh

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

According to a 1986 DOJ report, Armed and Considered Dangerous, 71% of firearms used by career criminals are stolen. I don't not have the statistic for firearm criminal use by the mentally ill, but suspect a high level. Illegal purchase or theft is my point here. We must affect the motivation of the violent individual as they usually find a way to create havoc.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 12:12 p.m.

None of these mass murders is a result of the "loophole" you mention. The criminals could also steal a gun and do harm. We already have laws against stealing and doing harm to others. The loop hole allows private citizens to sell guns to each other without having to become a dealer and pay a fee to the growing government bureacracy. Criminals will always find a way to get a gun. They can just wait for some idiot news publisher to list the names of gun owners and pick a place to steal one..................


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

@Brad, The problem I have with a universal background check is not the background check itself but what must be done to make the background check effective. We're talking complete registration of all firearms, fines for those who don't comply and maybe even fines to 1. sell your private firearm and 2. fines/taxes associated with registering your firearm. Furthermore, what if insurance companies, or worse, criminals get a hold of this data that lists out every single gun owner in the US, state or county? Insurance companies could use it to levy strict, and expensive, insurance charges on home owners insurance. Criminals could use it to find, and potentially, rob people with large collections or simply and expensive firearm. The problem is not the background check for me, the problem is that it's an "in" to force other gun control measures on legal gun owners, like myself, who have done nothing wrong. I shouldn't have to go into the equivalent of the Secretary of State and wait in line for an hour just to register my firearm, or worse, sell my firearm. I shouldn't have to pay a processing fee to do so either. The problem is that gun owners will foot the bill for this legislation one way or another....and for what? So your average criminal will just have to find someone to either steal a firearm from or get to buy them a firearm illegally?'s just not worth it IMO. Statistics show that criminals get their firearms almost exclusively from a family member or friend, not from a private sale at a gun show (or elsewhere).


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

@atlas - so you'd do away with background checks entirely? Because no matter what you think I can't see how you would think what we're doing now makes sense.

Atlas Shrugged

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

I disagree that the private sales "loophole" is a "gaping" issue, nor as you imply in other ways. Close that loophole, I opine, and it will have negligible impact on purchases of handguns by people who, under current background checks, would be prohibited from buying them. The majority of handgun transfers under what you call a loophole is between dealers at large and well-regulated gun shows, and from private owners who are, in other respects, "legitimate" and honest citizens. Those who buy from them likewise are, in the majority, otherwise, "legitimate." Those bent on crime don't obtain their guns by those routes. They steal them, buy them from fellow criminals (ie, people who already have some sort of criminal record), and get them from other routes that won't be affected a bit by closing the "loophole."


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 2:21 p.m.

OK, how about we forget about the analogy and address the actual question about "private sales"? What's your preferred solution? -The status quo of 60% of sales undergoing checks and 40% not -Some other arbitrary combination where checks are easily avoided -100% undergoing checks -100% not undergoing checks What makes the most sense?


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 1:55 p.m.

You're analogy was good until you think of all the cars stolen and that are often used in crimes or illegally resold for illicit uses. The registration system doesn't do a lot to stop thefts and resales if the police can't or won't enforce it. How much more difficult with guns? You can't put a Lojack on a gun or a device that prevents its use. Even if you could, the first thing to go would be that device. In other words, the gun availability problem and the violence problem and the mental health problem in this nation each, individually, presents its own level of intractability. When you combine them in any way, that intractability increases synergistically. Knee-jerk solutions to the confluence of these problems outside of the context of a measured and reasoned analysis will have a significant probability of either failing, having unintended negative consequences or both. It makes for good press and good political rhetoric, but this type of problem needs a comprehensive and measured multi-faceted societal approach that respects constitutional and inherent rights while promoting the dignity and respect for life including those who may suffer from mental infirmities. If you conclude that doing so isn't easy and won't be quick, you are right.