Commonsense thoughts on gun rights, gun control, gun violence

Jennifer Crumbley is escorted away in court February 5, 2024 in Pontiac, Michigan. She was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

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Jennifer Crumbley’s conviction for her son’s school shooting is a sea change in the public’s view of gun violence. My own parents could have suffered the same fate as hers had not fate intervened.

Shortly after a diagnosis 25 years ago for bipolar disorder, I was mis-medicated when I got into an altercation with someone and lashed out violently with a golf club. When the police arrived, I exhibited surly disrespect: “contempt of cop.” At that moment, anything could have happened. Thankfully, I cooled off.

Today I am properly medicated, I stay away from guns and I defer to law enforcement. But what about someone who is homicidally unmedicated, brandishes a pistol and flouts the law? Would anybody in their right mind tolerate having this kind of person in society?

My experience informs the crime prevention triangle: a crime is committed when a perpetrator has the (1) desire, (2) ability and (3) opportunity. All three are different but important causes of gun violence.

When conservatives advocate for gun rights, they say: “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Only someone who irrationally wishes to inflict mortal harm would attack others. Thus, an (1) unmedicated homicidal impulse is the desire for gun violence. Conservatives are concerned, and rightfully so, with untreated mental illness.

When liberals advocate for gun control, they say: “Guns are the instruments of death.” Only someone who can and would inflict mortal harm would attack others. Thus, (2) felony possession of a gun is the ability for gun violence. Liberals are concerned, and rightfully so, with guns falling in the wrong hands.

When moderates advocate for public safety, Second Amendment rights and the rights of the mentally ill, they say: “Too little, too late.” Only someone who seeks with premeditation an occasion to inflict mortal harm would attack others. Thus, (3) absent law enforcement is the opportunity for gun violence. Moderates are concerned, and rightfully so, with maintaining law and order.

We all have a stake in ensuring that these three conditions are never met. But they have and they continue to do so. Can we put the genie back in the bottle? We cannot force a homicidal person to take medication. We cannot trust a gun-toting violent felon to control himself. We cannot expect law enforcement to be everywhere all the time.

Consider this: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Let us institute (1) mental health screenings, (2) universal background checks and (3) crackdowns on gunrunners.

An applicant who applies for a gun and fails the (1) Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-3) will be escorted off the premises. An applicant who fails the (2) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) will be escorted off the premises. Gunrunners caught selling to applicants failing (1) or (2) will be delicensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). These stipulations will be enforced by an ATF agent stationed at every commercial gun dealership (while the 40,831 or 57% of dealerships that are residentially located are shuttered).

For straw purchases, where someone buys a gun for somebody else, the ATF agent will act as a deterrent against such shenanigans. For children bringing in their parents’ guns to school, whether to threaten or commit gun violence, disarm them and have the parents charged. For gun owners threatening to use them, confiscate them with gun violence restraining orders (GVRO) in all states and place permanent bans on guns for such people. These severe disincentives will keep such troublemakers off our backs.

As for the black market, let the crazies, criminals and crooks suffer the consequences of peddling guns amongst themselves.

Conservatives, liberals and moderates are the three phases of American football: (1) offense, (2) defense and (3) special teams. The offense must score. The defense must prevent the opponent from scoring. Special teams must securely transition between offense and defense. We must coordinate strategically, otherwise gun violence will never go away.

My personal experience made me realize that I could have gone either way. I was mis-medicated, not unmedicated. I brandished a golf club, not a pistol. I exhibited “contempt of cop,” not “suicide by cop.” Institutionalization, jail or death? No way. Sanity, freedom and life? You betcha!

Jason W. Park received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Harvard and his PhD in strategic management from the University of Pittsburgh.

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