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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bullying Part VI: Can Stricter Gun Control Laws Prevent Tragedies Like Aurora?

AP Hearbreak in Aurora
Thought for the Day: I am saddened by the madness & escalation of violence in our country. My initial thought that the violence might be in the hands of another victim of bullying, may be wrong, but The Aurora Massacre raises serious questions for our society. There are no simple solutions, but the use of common sense in developing better gun control laws & ways to detect signs that someone may be planning a violent act need to be explored.

When my eldest daughter was about six years old, I was living in Israel. There was a terrorist attack at the Lod Airport not far from my home. When my daughter heard about the attack her reaction was, "If they get guns and attack me & my family, I'll just get a gun & kill their families." As a pacifist & parent living in a war torn nation, I was horrified to hear my innocent child's response to the terrorism. I told her that the army was there & had responded to defend it's citizens, but that we do not go out & commit terrorist attacks against defenseless women, children, and tourists as retribution. Fortunately, my daughter grew up to be a sensible law abiding citizen & parent with views closer to my own. The terror in Aurora brought back memories of that day.

How can anyone advocate for allowing people like Holmes the freedom to accumulate an arsenal of weapons without raising any red flags? When our forefathers advocated for weapons for self defense, they also gave us all inalienable rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Someone must fight for the rights of the victims who went to a movie & were denied their right to live. I am not a politician, just a psychologist  believing that tragedies like the Aurora massacre, Columbine & other similar attacks could be prevented with restrictions of automatic weapons & supplies that are used to develop explosive devices.

Sarah Palin, former Alaska Governor & vice presidential candidate's sounded more like my six year old daughter with an over simplistic approach when she said, “The bad guys, the criminals, don’t follow laws and restricting more of America’s freedoms when it comes to self-defense isn’t the answer. Not when you consider what the reality is. Bad guys don’t follow laws.” She described the shootings as "a manifestation of evil. It appears that Holmes, the alleged shooter, was not only evil but also mentally ill. He is not the first person with serious mental illness to go on a rampage with automatic weapons. I am not expecting a gun dealer or the internet gun suppliers to be psychologists, but the laws & automatic internet devices could raise red flags when anyone tries to purchase automatic weapons or large supplies of ammunition designed for combat, not simple self defense. Does the fact that criminals don't follow laws mean we should make it easy for them to obtain weapons?

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson's statement was also overly simplistic when he said that, "'s certainly one of the rationales behind conceal and carry, where criminals actually have to be a little concerned before they commit a criminal act that maybe somebody could stop them. And I think that is the truth. That somebody, a responsible individual had been carrying a weapon, maybe -- maybe -- they could have prevented the death and injuries." A concealed pistol in the hands of a novice shooter could not have stopped the onslaught of automatic weapons. Criminals know there may be someone with a gun & therefore they have escalated their choice of weapons to more powerful automatic & semi-automatic weapons that most people do not take with them to a movie theater.

We should not ignore the problem like Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper who weighed in against stricter gun control, telling ABC that Holmes would have been able to create terror even without access to firearms.  James Holmes had over 30 grenades in his apartment. How can anyone in the United States buy grenades without someone wondering why they would need them?

I agree with New York mayor Michael Bloomberg who questions both Obama & Romney's failure to advocate for stricter gun control, “This really is an enormous problem for the country, and it's up to these two presidential candidates. They want to lead this country, and they've said things before that they're in favor of banning things like assault weapons. Where are they now and why don't they stand up? And if they want our votes, they better."

After I posted this, I saw that President Obama did speak out for changes. Although he supports the right to carry guns for hunting & self defense, he "also believe(s) that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals. That they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities. I believe the majority of gun owners would agree we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons, and we should check someone's criminal record before they can check out a gun seller."

In addition, he called for new restrictions that would bar mentally unstable people from purchasing weapons. He stated that, "These steps shouldn't be controversial, they should be common sense." These changes should be supported across party lines.

We all need to take a stand & confront the these complex questions. Where do you stand on this issue? I would like to know your thoughts.


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