I've been reading that some elected officials propose that our mass-shooting problem might be remedied by expanding services for the mentally ill ("Ending Gun Violence Takes a Different Kind of Bravery," Feb. 22).
I'm a mental health professional and I think expanding the sorely threadbare system of mental health services is a great idea, especially for the severely mentally ill. But it is unlikely to make more than a dent in the problem of mass shootings.
Most experienced mental health professionals will tell you that, absent a person actually expressing intent to commit harm, predicting violent behavior is one of the most challenging tasks they may face. There are no subtle clues or sophisticated psychological tests that reliably differentiate those who will go on to commit murder from those who are simply hateful and maladjusted and may act in less harmful ways. And I think most of us will agree that locking people up for long periods of time for actions that they may or may not undertake is itself a very dangerous proposal.
This focus on mental illness as the cause of gun violence also serves to further stigmatize people who experience mental illness. The fact is that most mentally ill people are no more dangerous than anyone else.
In my personal opinion, if there is one bright point in our current sad situation it may be that at least we are not facing homicidal maniacs wielding tanks, rocket launchers, or cannons to blast our schools and public spaces. But we know why that is. Outside military control, no one has access to such weapons. Which might give us a clue as to what we might actually do to reduce mass killings: eliminate access to highly lethal automatic weapons which really belong only on a battlefield.
Patrick Carr, Arcata
Regarding gun violence in the United States and comparing it to the situation in other countries, like Britain, Australia and Japan, that have passed laws to make most guns illegal to own, I can't help but wonder if we are ever going to get close to a similar resolution of this problem unless we first repeal the Second Amendment. Michael Moore supports such a move and points out on his website that 77 percent of Americans do not even own a gun.
Let's use our super-majority power and get this done! When the founders wrote this amendment and used such a generic term as "arms" they could not possibly have imagined the deadly weaponry yet to come. For instance (credit to Michael Moore again for this info), neither the bullet nor the revolver had even been invented yet.
Once we have this amendment repealed (changing the Constitution is allowed, you know, and for this very purpose – things change), then, and probably only then, local jurisdictions from cities to states can make their own rules for sensible gun ownership and we can begin to make this culture shift. The people, largely women, criminalized drunk driving in my lifetime. We were tired of innocents being killed. Surely this is at least as important. I have decided to start asking political candidates at every level if they support a repeal of the Second Amendment. I would also be glad to sign on to any petition that gets such an effort started.
Karen Shepherd, Arcata
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
This Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, along with nine others, was approved by the fledging United States Congress in 1789 and ratified by the requisite three-fourths of states in 1791. During the Revolutionary War with England, there was no standing army with weapons. Gen. Washington relied on volunteers and short-term enlistees from the farms and countryside to fight the war. And with them most brought their own weapons, typically single-shot muskets.
Although the Treaty of Paris with England granting independence to our country was approved in 1783, conflict with Britain continued, culminating in the War of 1812. This reality meant that our forefathers still had to rely on volunteers and state militias to defend our still fragile country. (These well-regulated militias evolved into our present-day state national guards.)
It wasn't until the 1860s and beyond that repeating rifles and six-shooters were invented. How could our founders have envisioned the array of assault weapons now available to our citizens?
When I was in the military during the 1960s, the trusted heavy M1 carbine was replaced by the lightweight AR-15 and, later, AK-47 rifles. What a difference for our military. But these weapons were never intended for hunters or the "person on the streets."
Many hunters and sports men and women belong to the National Rifle Association. These people do not hunt and shoot with deadly rapid-firing assault weapons. And those who wish to protect their homes typically keep pistols.
So, how has our Second Amendment become so distorted from its original intent? Why can't our Congress and state legislators do what is so obviously necessary and ban these assault weapons to save the lives of so many innocents? Why? Because so many of them, Republicans and Democrats alike, are "bribed" by the NRA to dissuade them from supporting these desperately needed bans and background checks.
Come on legislators — get some backbone and take the chance that you can survive in office without the NRA.
Edward "Buzz" Webb, McKinleyville