Latest posts by Nancy Thorner and Ed Ingold (see all)
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With the tragic deaths of two newscasters at the hands of a disgruntled ex-employee on Wednesday, August 26 come the predictable calls for tighter gun control and keeping guns out the hands of “crazy” people. In no case, however, do the proposed solutions bear any relationship the crime itself. According to the media and progressive politicians, we have a “crime problem” and a “gun problem.”
CNN”s Don Lemon, in interviewing Republican presidential candidates Ben Carson and Jim Gilmore the day after the horrific Roanoke, Virginia shooting, prompted both candidates to rethink their positions. Talking to Ben Carson, Don Lemon demanded: “After you watch a crime like this, does it make you question at all the role of guns in our society?” Carson responded that guns are not at fault, rather criminals who have no regard for others, and that owning firearms is a Constitutional right.
Both ABC’s “Good Morning America” and CBS “This Morning” on Thursday, August 27 used the shooting death of the two journalists in Roanoke, Virginia to highlight gun control. GMA co-host Robin Roberts talked to the boyfriend of slain reporter Alison Parker and lectured, “…When something like this happens, the conversation turns to gun control.”
Also on Thursday, August 27 the CBS Evening News seized on the deadly shooting of two local news reporters in Roanoke, Virginia to promote the idea that gun control should be treated like “a public health issue” akin to seat belts, airbags, and anti-smoking campaigns. In a tease early on in the program, fill-in anchor Maurice DuBois explained that“[s]ome public health officials say gun violence, just like car accidents and smoking-related illnesses can be prevented or at least reduced.”
Accuracy of NICS data base?
Among the proposals to stem gun violence are the elimination of background check loopholes (e.g., gun shows and private sales). However, the shooter in Virginia bought his firearms at a local dealer, and passed the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) He had not been convicted of any serious crime, was not a fugitive or under indictment, nor had he been committed to involuntary confinement or treatment for mental disorder. He was good to go, as far as the law was concerned.
The NICS data base is usually up to date on felony convictions and indictments. It is less accurate on orders of protection, and highly inaccurate on adjudication for mental disorders. The last is due to negligence on the part of states and courts to report these issues for a variety of reasons. Incompetence, among public officials, is not uncommon, nor is it a crime.
How far do we go in attempting to predict future behavior? What signs are sufficient to deny Constitutional rights to individuals before a crime has been committed? Are the 4the and 5th amendments any more important than the 1st and 2nd in imparting restraints on government control?
Psychological Screening Shows Dodgy Results
Progressives want to expand the types of mental disorders which would prevent a person from buying a firearm beyond the usual criteria of presenting a danger to themselves or others, subject to court proceeding. Unilateral opinions of mental health professionals would suffice. President Obama has ordered the Veterans Administration and Medicare to report patients to NICS who have difficulty managing their personal affairs, including financial issues and even mobility problems. As reported in the Los Angeles Times in July of this year, the Obama administration even wants to keep people from collecting Social Security benefits from owning guns if it is determined they are unable to manage their own affairs.
Better psychological screening to keep guns from the hands of “dangerous” people would require that HIPPA restraints be loosened. This ignores the fact that even adjudicated commitments are not consistently reported to the NICS background check system. The shooters at Aurora, CO, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois and others legally purchased firearms due to this lapse. Now we see that 60% of the studies for evaluating patients are falsified.
As reported by NBC News, “Psychology Studies Show Dodgy Results.” According to Brian Nosek, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia who led the project: “Any one study is not going to be the last word. Each individual study has some evidence. It contributes some information toward a conclusion. But the real conclusion, when you can say confidently that something is true or false, is based on an accumulation of evidence over many studies.”
Crazy people are out there. The sad fact is that most criminal acts are easier to predict in hindsight than foresight. There is no reliable predictor of criminal acts of this nature even with better psychological screening.
Forensic Testing not Infallible
Psychology is not the only offender in this regard. Recent articles show how forensic evidence such as hair, bite marks, arson and even DNA comparisons have resulted in many faulty convictions. The field of Forensic Science has opened a lot of doors for the world of criminal investigation. While some of the methods used in forensic testing may seem infallible, a recent study on the feeding habits of vultures revealed the shocking truth about what everyone thought was a universal scale of identification. Now, a woman’s skeleton picked clean by vultures demonstrates how horribly inaccurate forensic sciencecan be.
The Innocence Project is a nationwide legal network that works to exonerate innocent prisoners through DNA testing. Experts agree that the Innocence Project has changed the justice system for the better, both by freeing the innocent and by encouraging scrutiny of all types of evidence presented in the courtroom. The article relates how Steven Barnes served more than 19 years in prison before DNA technology could be brought to bear on his case. In 2008, a test of short tandem repeats on the Y chromosomes of sperm found on the victim showed that Barnes wasn’t a match.
But do we have a “gun problem?” In the last month several “mass homicides” were committed using knives and blunt instruments. Most recently, in Louisiana, a police officer was murdered with his own weapon while investigating a domestic incident where three family members were murdered with a knife. In California, five family members met the same fate. In China and Japan, where no private citizens are allowed to have guns, knives are the weapon of choice, and mass murders are no less common than in the United States (just less publicized). In the Middle East, explosives and fire kill hundreds of innocent people each month. The Prime Minister of Sweden was killed with an “unavailable” handgun. Criminals have no problem obtaining guns, illegally, and kill nearly 30 people a day with them in the U.S. On the other hand, about once a day an ordinary citizen uses a firearm to successfully defend themselves against a criminal assault, and hundreds more go unreported if no shots are fired.
Preventive Intervention Curtails Liberty
The real danger of “preventive intervention” is to our liberty, as seen in the actions of the VA and Medicare. Dictators routinely use “preventive” measures to abuse or murder their subjects, and mental disorders are frequently used as the excuse. It is also used to stifle dissent. The producer of “Obama’s America”, Harvard graduate Dinesh D’Souza, was convicted of a minor election contribution offense and sentenced to two years of confinement. On release, the Judge compelled him to undergo 5 more years of mental evaluation. And according to Hillary Clinton, those opposed to abortion are “terrorists” and those in opposition to the Iran Treaty are pegged as “warmongers.”
Laws only inhibit honest people. The best defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Obama’s gun control agenda has failed in Congress, not because of NRA influence, but because similar measures haven’t worked in the past, and bear no relationship to the problems they seek to address. The defining word is “control.” “Gun” is just an adjective in this context.