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Kotowski: Take focus off weapons

We are all aware of the horrendous carnage at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston last week, resulting in nine dead at the hands of a 21-year-old sociopathic killer. It was sadly reminiscent of another attack not too long ago somewhat closer to home.

In 2007, another 20-something maniac burst into the New Life Church in Colorado Springs and opened fire. He was armed with a rifle, two handguns, 1,000 rounds of ammunition and a grenade. Two congregants were killed and two more were wounded.

Another member, Jeanne Assam, drew her own pistol and engaged him before he was able to shoot anyone else. Her first five shots knocked him down. Her last two finished him off and prevented him from pulling the pin on the grenade he was reaching for.



Both incidents are horrific, but one is inarguably worse than the other. There is a difference worth noting between the two churches involved: The church in Charleston is a gun-free zone where no one is allowed to be armed. The Colorado Springs Church respects every law-abiding citizen’s right to exercise his or her Second Amendment privileges.

That observation is made in the wake of President Obama’s recent call for more aggressive gun control measures to be implemented. Here are some more points I think are worth considering:



There are more than 20,000 gun control laws presently on the books. If gun control legislation were as effective as the president thinks, incidents like those in Colorado Springs and Charleston would be more rare than they already are (the Charleston shooter is a convicted felon and legally barred from gun ownership). Cities like Chicago, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Detroit and Milwaukee — with some of the most draconian gun control restrictions in the the country — would also not boast some of the worst rates of gun violence.

It’s too soon after the Charleston murders to know much about the shooter, but hindsight has furnished some relevant information about the perpetrators of previous massacres.

The man who attacked Congresswoman Giffords had been expelled from college and was advised that he would only be considered for re-admission after a mental health evaluation. He has since been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.

The Virginia Tech shooter had a life-long history of mental health issues and had been investigated by university police for stalking and harassing other students. Two years before the attack, the state of Virginia had declared him mentally ill and ordered him to seek treatment.

After Virginia Tech, a great deal of lip service was paid to mental health screening and treatment, and what might constitute a red flag for gun purchases. Little, if anything, has been done in the aftermath (although the state of Virginia has closed the loopholes that allowed persons adjudicated as mentally unsound to buy guns without being detected by the NICS background check system).

Dr. Charles Krauthammer, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, has proposed relaxing the standards for involuntary commitment. A touchy subject to be sure, but it’s long past time to have the discussion.

There are more guns than people in the United States; more than 300 million in civilian hands alone. Adding to the 20,000 gun control laws we already have is meaningless. Anything short of repealing the Second Amendment amounts to spitting into the wind.

Additional laws might make the president feel better but will impact no one but the law abiding. Criminals and the deranged will remain unaffected. Those who focus on the weapon instead of the person who uses it are missing the point.

Brian Kotowski

Milner


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