The recent killing by a gunman apparently with mental health issues of his mother followed by the slaughtering of innocent children and female teachers at the school in Sandy Hook, Newtown, is a tragedy to say the least. No killing of innocent persons can be acceptable. But in view of the world we live in it’s hardly likely to stop. The current position of the proponents about gun control won’t work. But not for the arguments and reasons the National Rifle Association (NRA) president, other gun club members and sporting enthusiast are proffering. One such argument presented by the NRA is to put armed police officers to guard the schools. Armed police officers cannot either stop or effectively reduce the opportunities for gunmen to kill innocent persons. They neither succeeded in the past, and nor will they in the future.
Another thought of building high security style schools may reduce to some extent the opportunities for mass killings. But, there are other opportunities on school busses, during school sporting events, and at other socials outside the school environs, to execute such senseless acts. Can we imagine that children, teachers, visiting educators and administrators should be subjected to an image of a prison-like environment on a daily basis? This negative impact could be more devastating for society in America.
Another argument is that children and adults watch too many violent videos, movies, and spent too much time playing violent video games. Given our free enterprise culture and freedoms enjoyed by Americans, installing restrictions and legislations to create effective, meaningful and consistent controls for these kinds of senseless killings, could prove problematic. Every mother and father in society, are stakeholders in ensuring that the best possible controls are in place at home and in their communities, to prevent killings similar to those that occurred in Newtown. We are wasting time and energy putting this or any of these policies put forth by the NRA president as solutions for preventing gun crimes, acts of terror, and senseless mass killings.
Persons with mental health issues are also contributing to gun crimes, says the NRA. The solution offered by the Association’s current president that correctly diagnosed mentally ill persons, or person with mental health issues be incarcerated, is foolish and shortsighted.
This position would mean locking away 1 in 3 Americans or about 33 % of our society. Bear in mind that the United States has currently the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. The USA is No. 1 in lock-ups, and locked away prison society in the world per population, and 67% will return to prison in 3 years. One in 100 Americans are locked up in prisons or jails. Over 80 million Americans combined are either in prisons or jails and suffer mental illness each year. (Reference National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and National Census Bureau NCS-R data, World Prison population List 8th edition)
The aim of any society should be to prevent or to significantly reduce the opportunities for these senseless killings. The laws or regulations to achieve this aim must not be limited to the NRA’s self-interest positions or considerations. This is an issue for all factions of the entire society to come together and to collectively address.
Before guns were invented items such as sticks, stones, arrows, poison and drugs were used by people to injure and kill. The presence of millions of guns, magazines and ammunition in society won’t change the nature of the preponderance use of weapons to kill people. The call for gun control laws alone is apparently very limited and frankly unworkable.
Guns do not kill people. It’s people who kill people. People have a constitutional right to self-defense. To encroach on the rights of self-defense will be unsuccessful especially in an American society. The conversation then should be to concentrate on two remedies.
The first is the enforcement of and the control of ammunition, munitions and similar dangerous chemical agents that are released for private use. Within the United States Army, the proper procedure is that no soldier or Officer is issued with a weapon, ammunition or other related munitions, without accountability and culpability.
Secondly, mental illness and mental health issues must be addressed in order to assure proper and appropriate risk assessment and personality profiling. Despite strict controls however, on the discharge of guns, munitions, prescription drugs and other dangerous chemicals in our various sections of military, law enforcement and society generally, some gun-possessing individual bent on doing harm to others, will slip through the cracks. Guns and munitions are repeatedly used by, but not limited to terrorist, criminals, and law enforcement persons; law-abiding citizens for self-protection and hunting and sports enthusiasts.
It is imperative therefore, to address the efficiency and effectiveness of the controls and enforcements in this critical issue that affects our safety and security. This is particularly true in a democratic and free society.
We will pay for this freedom again. But for those who do not own, nor wish to use guns for any reason, they should not be burdened or encroached upon. This fare should be borne by the NRA, its membership to whom it offers comfort, and those who share their philosophy. Ordinary law-abiding citizens already pay for protection provided by the military, Federal and local law enforcement agencies that currently use guns and munitions.
The remedies being advocated in this article make for a comprehensive yet simple approach. With so many incidents occurring over recent years, the solutions necessary to stem these horrific acts seem to evade our intellectual thought and good intentions.
The solutions to this problem may include:
- Creating an independent Licensing Authority for issuing, inventory control records, use and security of gun licenses and its control for private use. This Authority would conduct regular audits and security reviews of gun clubs, private security companies, shooting facilities, licensed firearm holders and their firearms.
- Conducting as priority a nationwide exercise using the military, law enforcement agencies and the NRA during a period of amnesty, for affirmations of ammunition possession and regularizing the ammunition inventory for private use.
- Conducting a nationwide mandatory registration for new gun licenses for private use.
- Preventing persons of intemperate habits or unsound mind to be granted a gun license as diagnosed by special State licensed medical and mental health practitioners.
- Satisfying the Authority, the proficiency in the use and management of the type of firearm in respect of which license is granted.
- Satisfying the Authority that users have made adequate provision for keeping secure the firearm and ammunition of the license granted.
- Being the sole and independent authority in the manufacturing, importation, safe storage, distribution and sale outlets of ammunition for private use.
- Being the sole authority to regulate, monitor, manage and modify all firearms and related accessories if and when required for private use.
- Collecting and accounting for all fees, taxes and insurance related dues.
John Prescod Jnr., a KC old boy (1969) is a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) who served from 1972-2000, and was Commissioner of Corrections on secondment from the JDF to the Department of Correctional Services in Jamaica from 1993-2000.