Guest Editorial


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What has changed?

Many Americans have had lots of guns for lots of years.  Before the 30's you could even own a machine gun!  Still can with a $200 federal license if you can pass a close look by law enforcement.

As a culture, we will have to come to understand what has changed.  What are the variables?  I think the principal ones are letting way too much unexamined, ill-considered information flow to the public, failing to isolate and securely house potentially violent mentally ill individuals and not taking advantage of the American arms culture.

Schools were gun free zones as I grew up in the late 30s and through the 40s.  We had no attacks on our student ranks.  We then had radio, movies and emerging TV.  The media were both restrained and self-restrained, aware of the awful power they could wield, and the harm information can inflict.  I think "Psycho" was the first breach by the media.  I walked out during the depiction of the homicide, and stopped going to "serious" movies.

Until about the time of Psycho, the media had shown public responsibility and self restraint. Today, they do not.  If they will not self regulate, we must regulate them.  Explicit depictions of homicides, torture and other forms of violence simply must be barred.  Detailed explanations of how the insane find ways to kill others must not be aired.  We are providing detailed instructions to horribly disturbed and morally empty people.

Our law has long recognized that one has no "freedom of speech" to shout "Fire!" in a crowded, dark theater filled with people.  It is time we look at the media, and understand free speech doesn't include freedom to provide any information that contributes to the mass killing of innocents.

The killers in so many cases of mass homicides have already been identified as at risk mentally.  But the current "wisdom" is to let them harm us first, then try to do something about the fact.  That was not how things operated until perhaps about the time of Psycho.  It was not long after that when "Mental Health Professionals" decided it should be difficult to institutionalize people.   My friend Lloyd Wilder, MD – twice President of the Florida Psychiatric Association -- then told me the shift was going to a professional belief (which he did not share) that it was better to let at risk people go "walking around crazy."   Legislatures liked the fact that less money had to be appropriated for institutional care for these people.  And so, they came to remain in our communities, posing a continuing risk to us all. 

The rest of the story is in having trained people with adequate firearms in public places, and permitting the thousands of responsible CCP holders access.  "Gun Free" areas scare me.  It's where you are most likely to become the victim of a random act of violence.  The nuts are pretty cowardly people.  Shooting little kids doesn't require any courage at all. Show superior force to this kind of person and they waffle. Instead of multiple deaths, an armed adult could have limited the carnage.  A huge gain for the kids and their parents.
"Gun Control" of "Assault Weapons" is not the answer.  We had those laws in place when Columbine happened.  The guns used in Connecticut would not have been barred by the former law.  Even if barred by new legislation, it is impossible for our legislative bodies to mandate mental health, ethical behavior or morality.  Americans will not tolerate government disarmament of the population. And if the politicians could pull it off, do you think a hostile, mentally ill person couldn't find an illegal weapon with a few hours to try?

We need to return to institutionalization of at risk individuals, restriction of the flow of harmful graphic and narrative information to the immoral and unethical elements in our society, and the use of our constitutional right to keep and bear arms to protect others and our selves.

David Strawn, before retiring, was a renowned lawyer, sheriff and outdoorsman. We shared a hunting and fishing camp in Florida. He was as proficient in hunting as he was in oher fields.