Sat
Dec 15 2012
09:14 am
By: R. Neal  shortURL

A while back I was watching some episodes of National Geographic's "Doomsday Preppers" show, including one entitled "I Hope I am Crazy" that featured a guy from Tennessee. Most people on the show maintain arsenals of high-powered weapons. Some also exhibit signs of paranoid delusions, and most structure their lives around obsessive-compulsive behavior in the form of hoarding supplies and building elaborate fortifications. (Exhibit A: The guy from Tennessee.)

In a national conversation about gun violence, an obvious question is whether people who exhibit such signs of mental instability should have firearms. As the law stands today, there's nothing to prevent it.

In general, federal law prohibits purchase or possession of firearms by anyone who has been convicted of a felony, is a fugitive from justice, an unlawful user of controlled substances, has been adjudicated as a mental defective or admitted to a mental institution, is an illegal alien, has been dishonorably discharged from the military, has renounced their citizenship, or is subject to a restraining order. All of this is spelled out on ATF form 4473 which must be signed under penalty of perjury when purchasing a firearm.

The people featured on the Doomsday Prepper show don't fall under any of these categories (presumably), so they can buy as many assault rifles as they want despite being what some might view as a little bit crazy.

And what about others? Such as people who post anonymous threats of violence against defense lawyers on newspaper websites in response to articles about high-profile murder trials? Or those who advocate for "2nd Amendment remedies" to political disagreements? Or candidates for public office who threaten armed confrontation with the President at the state line if he comes to take our guns? Or an elected official who is arrested for DUI and found to be in possession of a loaded handgun? Or an elected official who allegedly threatened his wife with a gun? Or those who post comments on gun fetishist websites saying that the liberal teachers in Connecticut with their anti-gun beliefs are to blame for the tragedy in Newtown and not the psychopath who had easy access to legally purchased personal weapons of mass murder?

All of this occurred locally or in our state. And, as the law stands today, none of this behavior would prevent someone from legally purchasing firearms at any gun store in the state. Even if it did, there are no restrictions on private sales between individuals, even at gun shows.

And even with all these restrictions in the law, mentally unstable people slip through the cracks. Such as a local man who shot school officials in retaliation for being fired. And the Virginia Tech shooter. And the Tuscon shooter. And the Aurora shooter. And now, apparently, the Newtown shooter. All of them, except the Newtown shooter (we don't know yet) were able to legally purchase the weapons used to act out their violent fantasies. And in in every case except Newtown (so far), the shooter had a known history of mental illness.

I don't know the answer. What we're doing now, though, clearly isn't working. Should we require psychological testing to purchase a firearm? This would likely not pass Supreme Court muster. Should people report gun owners with suspected mental problems? That is ripe for abuse and still wouldn't prevent senseless gun violence because law enforcement couldn't act on it under current law. The policies we have now can only deal with gun violence after the fact when it's too late.

And by the way, it's also illegal to possess a firearm in a school zone. But psychopaths (and criminals) don't care about the law, except the law that allows them to legally purchase their weapons of mass mayhem.

As a footnote, the guy from Tennessee featured on Doomsday Preppers was in fact declared mentally defective stemming from a confrontation with his doctor during which he refused treatment for serious (and obvious) health problems. He was subsequently denied when he tried to purchase another handgun. Now he's a hero of the prepper and Second Amendment conspiracy nuts.

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R. Neal's picture

See also, Left Wing Cracker:

fischbobber's picture

Overview

Good over view of the situation.

The way the U.S. Constitution is written, gun regulation has to occur at the federal, state and local level to work. It also is dependent upon the general agreement and co-operation of our citizens.

God help us all.

What have we become?

WhitesCreek's picture

Making the conversation about

Making the conversation about guns plays into the hands of the people who think the answer to gun violence is more gun violence. Until we, as a society, take on a true reverence for innocent lives we are going to get very far with this. We have a national military policy that allows drones and bombing of innocent civilians without recourse, police shootings of unarmed civilians in response to imaginary threats, pollution laws that allow the sickening and killing of people hundreds of miles from the pollution source, and so on and so on.

I don't disagree with "treating the symptoms" and making the patient comfortable, but we're not going to get very far until there is put in place a societal more against the killing of innocents in response to any personal enmity toward someone else.

CE Petro's picture

Before the Dialogue

Perhaps what we need before the dialogue is to look at the number of shootings in our country, and compare that with the number of shootings in other civilized/industrialized countries.

I'm not talking about just mass murders, but gun murders. Gregg Levine wrote (and reposted yesterday -- this was written just after the Virginia Tech massacre):

Gun violence is more than an everyday occurrence in this country, it is an hourly one. Correction: it is a quarter-hourly one. There are, roughly, 12,000 gun murders a year in the United States (if you are looking for contrasts, contrast that with the average 350 gun murders that occur annually in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia combined). If you watch the local TV news in the US, then you likely bear some sort of witness to numerous individual gun murders every week.

But it is only when six or twelve or twenty-two or thirty-three are shot that most of us even look up, take pause, or stop to think at all about what guns do.

And what guns do is kill people.

For the record, I do not own a gun, I do not use a gun, nor do I care to. I find the wild-wild-west mentality of (some) gun-rights activists to be in opposition to a growing thriving society. But, that's me. So, the question becomes how to incorporate gun ownership and living responsibly within a society.

After the Virginia Tech massacre, The Scotsman published this:

The actor Donald Sutherland once pointed out it is almost as easy to buy a gun in Canada, where he comes from, as in the US, yet the incidence of gun-related deaths there is dramatically lower.

He argued that both countries have a frontier spirit, but the iconic figure of the Canadian West is the Mountie - a law officer - while the iconic figure of the American West is the outlaw.

Why are there so many gun deaths per year in the US compared to other industrialized countries? What separates them from us?

marytheprez's picture

The NRA depends on gun makers' greed.

According to statistics out last week, there are over 320 million firearms in circulation in this country and 4 million made and sold each year. 32 Americans die each day in this country from being shot.
Gun laws are NOT being enforced due to the loopholes like gun show sales, selling to individuals or at swap meets, or via the internet. Guns found or used in crimes are NOT destroyed but re-sold at auctions. The laws enacted after the Reagan shooting have now lapsed like the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban.
Here in TN as in other States, the NRA/gun makers' ALEC 'guns everywhere laws' will continue to sail through our TEA/Koch brothers Legislature, and the Governor will not even comment. He didn't even have the guts to veto the 'Monkey Bill' which dumbs down our public school children.
And good ole Ron Ramsey is the chief shill for the NRA...he is going to get his 'guns in parking lots at work' bill through as soon as the New Session commences.
And the NRA continues to lie..."Obama is planning to take away ALL your guns". Or "This is a 2nd Amendment issue".
And my question is this:

Since there are so many 'responsible gun owners' in the NRA, why the heck don't they stand up and say it is time to stop the killing, the deaths, accidental, or intentional, or crazed ? Are they really proud to be in an organization that promotes home grown terrorism and the killing of our nation's children?

R. Neal's picture

Guns found or used in crimes

Guns found or used in crimes are NOT destroyed but re-sold at auctions.

This is particularly outrageous. I'm not sure how many crimes, if any, could be prevented by just destroying such weapons, but if it is one crime then it's worth it. State laws that promote putting more guns on the street don't make any sense, especially when they've already gone to the trouble to get it OFF the street. (I'm sure you are aware and referring to the Tennessee law that was passed fairly recently.)

R. Neal's picture

Also, what about violent video games?

Video Games and Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings, and Behavior in the Laboratory and in Life

Two studies examined violent video game effects on aggression-related variables. Study 1 found that real-life violent video game play was positively related to aggressive behavior and delinquency. The relation was stronger for individuals who are characteristically aggressive and for men. Academic achievement was negatively related to overall amount of time spent playing video games. In Study 2, laboratory exposure to a graphically violent video game increased aggressive thoughts and behavior. In both studies, men had a more hostile view of the world than did women. The results from both studies are consistent with the General Affective Aggression Model, which predicts that exposure to violent video games will increase aggressive behavior in both the short term (e.g., laboratory aggression) and the long term (e.g., delinquency).

Hildegard's picture

A complicating layer to the

A complicating layer to the Newtown story appeared in the NY Times today: It appears the guns used by the shooter to kill all those little kids were actually owned by his mother, the teacher (or assistant) whom he also killed. Which reminds me of the gun nuts who say we should arm the teachers, which in turn reminds me of this teacher who kept a piece in his desk drawer.

R. Neal's picture

Regarding mental health

Bbeanster's picture

No, she's not Adam Lanza's

No, she's not Adam Lanza's mother.

Unless she bought a cabinet full of semi-automatic weapons and kept them where he could get them.

fischbobber's picture

December 21, 2012

Should we be concerned about all the folks that have been stockpiling weapons and ammunition in anticipation of the world's demise this upcoming Friday?

This became a topic of conversation this morning because a family friend has been doing just that. I'm concerned that there may be a network of these folks planning, who knows what, for Friday.

I'm just wondering if there's any obvious signs to look for that indicate,"Duck!"

redmondkr's picture

I met one of those nutters at

I met one of those nutters at a friend's garage sale yesterday, wearing a Glock in a holster, no less, on his pair of cammies. He was bragging about being a survival instructor and that he always gave each of his students this wonderful little flint gadget that would allow one to start a fire one-handed 'in case one hand were blown off'.

He bragged about being a former Marine Corps sniper. I have a cousin who was and that's something he says most of them are pretty quiet about. I expected the anti-Obama spiel but it never came, just that the world was going to hell in a hand basket and only the strong would survive. He is apparently expecting us to last past the 21st, though, because he bought a dozen pint jars (complete with the rings) to put up his supposedly infamous Habanero jelly.

I stood there thinking this silly bastard probably couldn't even install a rebuild kit in a Delta faucet.

Bbeanster's picture

I googled "Nancy Lanza

I googled "Nancy Lanza survivalist" and came up with a horrifying link to a heavily-trafficked survivalist site whose habitués have concluded that this whole incident was set up by the government to take people's guns away. A psy ops operation....

Min's picture

Frankly...

I've been waiting to hear someone make that argument. It plays right into the paranoia from which NRA benefits.

CE Petro's picture

Please Explain

how this person was able to stockpile 47 guns?

Cedar Lake police were called to the home of 60-year-old Von I. Meyer early Friday after he allegedly threatened to set his wife on fire. A police statement says Meyer also said he would enter Jane Ball Elementary School and "kill as many people as he could."

Authorities found 47 guns and ammunition worth over $100,000.

Seriously? Why would anyone need 47 guns? There should be a limit on how many guns one can legally own! [that's my opinion, you don't have to share it, but I'm allowed to have it]

Meanwhile, in China, where guns are verboten, no one died in this attack. Note in the picture how police are capturing the knife-wielding attacker.

edited to correct spelling

bizgrrl's picture

I do think we need to have a

I do think we need to have a conversation about guns. Bloomberg is correct, the NRA is not as powerful as some would think. There doesn't have to be a plan to take away everyones guns, just some restrictions. I've been around guns all of my life. I will never understand why people feel the need to own these types of guns. They want to play a real life video game? They want to defend themselves from the U.S. Army? All in the name of gun rights?

V.M.'s picture

My take on gun nutters is

My take on gun nutters is that their retreat to "tactical weapons" is an escape from modernity's burden of having to live in and build a pluralistic society. It's an escape from freedom. And, it's delusional at just about every level. The whole paramilitarism of the gun nutter, it's macho authoritarianism and faux patriotism reeks of stunted emotional development for people who never learned how to live with others and deal with difference.

This ABC News clip is pretty compelling on the whole self conception of the gun toting savior:

(link...)

EricLykins's picture

My two cents.

Often the institutional memory is at odds with the modern conventional wisdom, which is in this case a child of the 1970s NRA, not the 1770s founders. For 200 years, the militia clause trumped the individual rights clause. Columbia v. Heller for example was no "Triumph of Originalism" and goes out of its way to mention that "modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right." Scalia also notes that your individual rights under the operative clause are not unlimited.
You could only carry a handgun in five states before 1980. You can't pose for an Instagram in a Thomas Jefferson shirt and tricorn hat with your AR-15 and pretend your current right to do so does not come from recent RE-interpretations of the Second amendment. You furthermore can not reference the Second Amendment without referencing Article 6 that it amends, both giving zero rights to the unregulated and undisciplined.
That being said, what Senator Feinstein is accomplishing most of all, at least in the short term, is to increase already abnormally high sales of assault rifles and large magazines to the nuttier and nuttier. Republicans already have a "quality of the inmates" problem. Proceed with caution. It would be best to proceed not with another assault rifle ban, but by doing some math. How much mental health funding could be restored by not building a new F-35 engine in John Boehner's district? The C27-J in Steve Austria's district? The Pentagon doesn't want it. The Air Force wants to stop buying the Global Hawk Block 30 surveillance drone. Congressmen keep paying for it. How about funding instead some counseling programs for out-of-work NRA and defense contractor lobbyists?

fischbobber's picture

Good Post

+1

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