Paul Jacob

December 16, 2012

When 20 kindergartners and first-graders and six adults are senselessly slaughtered at a small town elementary school by a heavily armed lunatic, it’s normal to want to do something — anything — to help make certain such a horrific event never happens again.

But “never again” has proven a very difficult, if not impossible, standard to achieve.

Pass any number of new laws — the problem will remain that Adam Lanza, and other killers like him, don’t obey such laws.

We might force a background check or establish a more thorough one before a person may buy a gun. But Lanza had no criminal record; he likely would have been approved. In fact, even if Adam had a criminal record or other loud, flashing warning signs, it would not have altered this terrible outcome, since he reportedly stole these guns from his mother — before fatally shooting her in the face as the morning’s start of his rampage.

I figure the shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza, would have passed a background check.

Some will call for greater regulation of the psychiatrists and psychologists who treat the mentally ill, perhaps, or for a loss of gun rights for people suffering from some forms of mental disorder. Still, in this case, such heightened regulations or restrictions would have been circumvented as previously noted. Moreover, a system of restraints on those who seek mental help would almost surely reduce the likelihood that those suffering such ailments seek help.

Of course, most people suffering mental illness do not shoot anyone, much less open fire on classrooms of young school children. It’s not difficult to see how any new clampdown on mental health patients could be seriously counterproductive in preventing future mass shootings.

A number of pundits argue we can fine-tune the weaponry used by the madmen who unleash their madness upon others. Some are calling for a new “assault weapons” ban and President Obama hinted at such a policy response, saying in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, “we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

But enacting new rules designed to force killers to re-load more often, to fire less deadly bullets or to use machetes or poison or bombs instead of bullets, will hardly vanquish evil from our future reality. Nor would outlawing all private gun ownership, which presents its own unacceptable dangers.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.