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Santa Barbara tragedy & gun laws

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POSTED June 3, 2014 1:22 a.m.

I was shocked, saddened, and angered the other day when I read that some crazy guy in Santa Barbara had killed six innocent people before taking his own life.

His rampage began at an apartment complex when he apparently stabbed or hacked his three roommates to death. Then armed with three handguns he went to a U.C. Santa Barbara sorority and tried to enter, but they fortuitously didn’t open the door. He then turned his gun on other sorority girls who were walking by, killing two and wounding others. Moving on, the maniac shot and killed a 20-year-old man in line at a nearby deli and began intentionally ramming people with his BMW. Finally  Elliott Roger took his own life. 

According to numerous news reports Roger was deeply troubled and had been in mental therapy for over 10 years. During his rampage Rodger utilized knives, machetes, a hammer, handguns, and his BMW.  His parents had even called local police just a few weeks before and reported that they thought he was contemplating violence. As near as I can tell, his psychiatrist did not notify police in advance of the possibility of the killings. Every sane person abhors such senseless violence and agrees that something needs to be done to prevent future tragedies. The question naturally arises, “What do we do?”

The easy answer that first pops up is more gun control. Ironically, California has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. Study after study has shown that the cities across the United States which have the strictest gun control also have the highest crime rates. According to Wikipedia, when New York City passed its strict Sullivan Act in 1911, gun murders rose 18% in the next year. According to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the cities of Los Angeles, Chicago and New York lead the nation in murders. While gun control measures might appear at first glance to be a solution to the nation’s homicide problem, the facts simply don’t support it.

Another aspect to consider is that gun ownership by ordinary sane and decent people actually reduces violent crime. In the past 20 years or so there has been a growing movement to make owning and carrying guns more accessible to ordinary citizens. Thus far 35 states have passed “Shall Issue” laws regarding the carrying of concealed weapons. In a “May Issue” state like California concealed weapons permits are granted by sheriffs and police chiefs if they believe the citizen applying is of good character and has a valid reason to want to carry a gun. In a Shall Issue” state like Utah or Nevada, the local authorities must grant you a concealed carry permit as long as you pass a background check that determines you are not violent or a felon. The citizen doesn’t have to give a reason to carry concealed. Of course felons and those judged mentally unstable cannot get a permit. In every one of the 35 states that have passed “Shall Issue” laws the violent crime rates have dropped significantly. The indisputable facts clearly support the carrying of concealed weapons by ordinary citizens as an effective way to reduce violent crime.

Probably the toughest hurdle to reducing violent crime is in the area of mental health. Clearly Elliott Rodger was mentally unbalanced. His therapist knew it and his family knew it. I don’t think that any reasonable person thinks crazies should have guns. The question then becomes how do we identify  mentally unbalanced people so that we can prevent them from harming innocent people?  And just as importantly how do we get them the help they need? Meanwhile we should quickly pass a “Shall Issue” law so that ordinary decent people can protect themselves. Perhaps if one of those sorority girls had been carrying a handgun and known how to use it, some of the Santa Barbara tragedy could have been prevented. Think about it. Should your daughter be able to protect herself on the public street?

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