Sandy Hook: a few (respectful) questions for gun owners.

What happens when lawful gun owners have mentally ill family members?

Everybody, even in other countries, has been shocked by the mass killings in Sandy Hook. I have some reasonable, and I believe, perfectly respectful questions to ask on this issue.

Somebody suggested that the appropriate response to the Sandy Hook massacre was that everybody should do a random act of kindness to someone everyday. But how will that stop the next Nancy  Lanza, who has two hand guns, and an assault rifle, from having them taken off her by her mentally ill son (or brother or husband or father in law, or cousin who comes to visit) and have them used on her and then on others? [Later note: Nancy Lanza in fact had 6 guns in her house, and her son  killed her with her own gun, then took three of them to do the shooting.]

To keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people, don’t you you need to check that the buyer hasn’t got a mental illness at the time of purchase, and then regularly review that every year or two? Most countries have annual renewals for car registration.  In New South Wales, Australia, cars over five years old have to have annual roadworthy checks.  Certain medical conditions can get you banned from driving.

People with guns and people with cars can both kill others. Should gun ownership be less stringently monitored and reviewed than car ownership?Should a system of regular re-registration be in place but with documentation from your doctor? (Has this person  developed a mental illness in the last year?) How could this be done?

Or what about other people in your household (Like Mrs Lanza’s son?) Wouldn’t the gun ownership need to be limited where anyone who is a regular visitor to you house has a mental illness? (Does anyone in your house have, or have they developed a mental illness?) This might also apply to people with mental disabilities. The shooter at the Port Arthur massacre here in Australia didn’t have a mental illness, such as paranoid schizophrenia, but did have a serious intellectual disability.

The questions aren’t being disrespectful to gun owners.

They are legitimate questions when the guns are bought legally by a person who is mentally fit at the time, but who may subsequently suffer a mental illness, or whose family members may acquire a mental illness, or where a family member has a significant intellectual disability. Should households in these cases be allowed to own a gun and if “yes” to one should that be “yes” to two or three guns? Is one hand gun enough to protect the average home from intruders? Are two or three? Is an assault rifle needed for that purpose?

Gun owners want to be protected for burglars other violent people. But how do we protect people like Mrs Lanza from the use of her own guns by a family member? After all, although she had the right to own a weapon, she had other rights too – rights not to be killed by her son. How is this right to be enforced?

Who’se looking out for the rights of the thousands of Mrs Lanzas out there?

So – I know many of you have strong feeling about gun ownership – pro and con- but if you accept that guns should stay out of the hands of mentally ill people, how do you deal with the situation of the multiple gun owner whose family member develops a mental illness.

Any thoughts?


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