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    • While the issue of "free speech" could easily be a whole other thread, and i don't want to disrail this thread, i do not see Citizens United as simply an issue of free speech (though that is how Justice Kennedy saw it). The decision is also about money, power and influence in politics. I agree in theory everyone (individuals, the media, nonprofits, or companies) should be allowed to speak their views (though whether "hate speech" should be allowed is another matter for debate); to my way of thinking, i am not so sure that buying votes with money and favors constitutes free speech.

    • If it's not a mental illness, what is it called when someone feels and acts the way the FL shooter felt or the pair who carried out Columbine or Sandy Hook and decides the only solution/way to be relevant is to kill their classmates?

      YouTube near confessions, observations by others (and reported to authorities), the school was concerned enough to advise its staff this kid was not allowed on campus with a backpack demonstrate that you don't need technology to read the handwriting on the wall and see there were opportunities to stop this before it happened. In total, the police visited his house at least 39 times for various complaints including an attack on a neighbor's car, "mentally ill person", domestic disturbance, child/elder abuse, shooting at the neighbor's chickens, etc. Aside from the police, he wasn't well liked by many of his neighbors either.

      He bought the gun 3 days prior to shooting 17 people dead yet there is a pattern over 39 visits by police, two reports to the FBI spanning several years where something could and should have been done however, nothing was. What failed?

      I am willing to entertain sensible changes as long as we agree that in many cases, it's not gun laws or even guns that are the real problem-it's more to do with failure to enforce existing law and that something should be done about that too.

    • I am willing to entertain sensible changes as long as we agree that in many cases, it's not gun laws or even guns that are the real problem-it's more to do with failure to enforce existing law and that something should be done about that too.

      I'm not aware of any existing laws that this particular shooter broke, up until he carried an AR-15 into a school and started shooting people. Are you?

      It's important to make a distinction between people who are mentally ill and people who are diagnosed with a mental illness. Most mass shooters had not been diagnosed with a mental illness before their crimes, but that's not surprising given societal stigmas against seeking mental healthcare and the fact that many people couldn't afford it if they wanted it.

      It's also important to distinguish between mental illness that indicates a person may be a danger to oneself or others and mental illness that's not dangerous. As @flei says, most people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness aren't murderers and aren't a danger to anyone.

      We definitely need to make it easier for mental health professionals, teachers, and others to report people who they believe are dangerous, and to make it easier for authorities to act on those reports. But even if we could prevent all known dangerous people, mentally ill or otherwise, from obtaining firearms, it still wouldn't prevent mass shootings because it's not uncommon for shooters to have no history of suspicious or violent behavior.

      The Las Vegas shooter who killed 58 people last year in the deadliest mass shooting in US history showed no prior signs of dangerous mental illness and had no record of violence. Everyone who knew him said they were surprised by what he did. To this day nobody knows his reasons. But he clearly decided he wanted to shoot a lot of people, and he was able to legally purchase an arsenal of firearms and ammunition with which to do it.

      The one thing all mass shooters have in common is that they all use guns.

      There are many things that can (and should) be done to help eliminate mass shootings, but by far the single most effective thing we can do is limit the availability of firearms. We know this is effective because every single country that's tried it has succeeded in drastically reducing or eliminating mass shootings.

    • "We definitely need to make it easier for mental health professionals, teachers, and others to report people who they believe are dangerous, and to make it easier for authorities to act on those reports."

      As a mental health professional I am aware that it is already very easy to report someone who is dangerous and we are in fact legally obligated to do so. All we have to do is make a call to a psychiatrist, they file a "Section 12" and the police and an ambulance show up and take the dangerous person involuntarily to a hospital for evaluation. They can initially be held against their will for 72 hours (and then longer if deemed necessary by a doctor).

      If you think the present system is ineffective and want to change it, you need to ask some questions: Who gets to decide what constitutes "dangerous"? (Example: They think that "9/11 was a conspiracy" and advocate the overthrow of the government). How might "free speech" be impacted? Who decides what constitutes "mental illness" (currently it was decided by 27 members of an APA task force)? Who decides what to do with this "ill" person? Can/should they be involuntarily hospitalized? For how long? Who decides when they are "better" (e.g., they tell the doctor they changed their mind about killing) before you let them go?)? IMO this can be a very slippery slope. Remember how in the USSR, dissidents who were critical of the government were called "dangerous" and "mentally ill" and were sent to gulags? There are places this is still practiced.

      Further, as I stated earlier, there is no "science" of human psychology that yet exists that would allow us to accurately identify a potential murderer ahead of time (unless they tell us they plan to kill someone (and they mean it)). Do you think that every person who posts such threats on social media should be evaluated? Hospitalized? Incarcerated? If so, we had better start building many more hospitals and prisons.

      Finally, although they keep getting blamed, people with mental illness do not commit most of the murders in this country. I am certain that permanently locking up every person with a diagnosable mental illness would have little to no impact on gun violence in the USA. If you want to make an impact, as demonstrated in numerous other countries, a much better solution is actually simple: stop selling assualt rifles, large magazines and hand guns.

    • As a mental health professional I am aware that it is already very easy to report someone who is dangerous and we are in fact legally obligated to do so. All we have to do is make a call to a psychiatrist, they file a "Section 12" and the police and an ambulance show up and take the dangerous person involuntarily to a hospital for evaluation. They can initially be held against their will for 72 hours (and then longer if deemed necessary by a doctor).

      I'm not a mental health professional, but my stepfather is, and he feels very differently about this. Specifically, he points out that only people who have actually been formally committed by a judge lose their federal right to buy a firearm, and the bar for committing someone is so high that this rarely happens before they hurt someone.

      I don't agree with everything he wrote in support of his position (for instance, I disagree with his stance on the ineffectiveness of assault weapon bans), but I do believe him on this point given that civil commitment is his specialty.

      But in general I think you and I agree that while mental illness may play a small part in gun violence, guns play by far the largest part, and far more blame has been placed on mental illness than is warranted.

    • You would think 39 visits to his home by police, 2 reports to the FBI about his intent or the seriousness of the school administration's fear of him should have lead to his involuntary commitment under the Baker Act for making terrorist threats. Doesn't get any easier than that.

      Chris, do you want to tell the story about Pep?

    • "...only people who have actually been formally committed by a judge lose their federal right to buy a firearm, and the bar for committing someone is so high that this rarely happens before they hurt someone."

      OK, so.... Who gets to set that bar? The government? How low do you want it to go (do we pick up the guy who posts on Facebook "I'd like to kill _____ for what he did to me")?

      We are focused on gun violence by the mentally ill because the NRA and gun advocates WANT us to focus there. They want us to believe that only "crazy" people use their guns to kill so that they can buy more guns.

      So just how many of the 14,925 murders by firearm in 2016 do we think were committed by the mentally ill?

      The facts worth reading (from: https://psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.5555/appi.books.9781615371099)

      "Mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent less than 1% of all yearly gun-related homicides. 

      The overall contribution of people with serious mental illness to violent crimes is only about 3%. When these crimes are examined in detail, an even smaller percentage of them are found to involve firearms.

      Laws intended to reduce gun violence that focus on a population representing less than 3% of all gun violence will be extremely low yield, ineffective, and wasteful of scarce resources.

      Perpetrators of mass shootings are unlikely to have a history of involuntary psychiatric hos- pitalization. Thus, databases intended to restrict access to guns and established by guns laws that broadly target people with mental illness will not capture this group of individuals.

      Gun restriction laws focusing on people with mental illness perpetuate the myth that mental illness leads to violence, as well as the misperception that gun violence and mental illness are strongly linked."

    • I agree. It's completely ridiculous that this person was allowed to own firearms.

      You argued that "it's not gun laws or even guns that are the real problem-it's more to do with failure to enforce existing law". But what existing law wasn't enforced? What existing law says that the police who visited this man's home 39 times should have — or even could have — taken away his guns?

      As far as I'm aware, there isn't one. But there should be.

      You say we need to enforce existing laws. I say we need these laws to exist so we can enforce them.

    • He was a threat to others. That was enough to hold him for evaluation and not just for his videos purporting his professional desire.

    • My father was a big strong guy who was a golden gloves heavyweight boxer in the Navy. He had an explosive temper. I remember when my sister locked herself in her room because she was mad, and he broke the door down.

      He kept a loaded shotgun beside his bed and was very vocal about how he would shoot an intruder if one ever broke in. One did, but dad wasn't home at the time. However, when I had to get up in the night to pee and tiptoe down the hall past his bedroom, I thought about that gun. How much did dad drink last night and could he mistake me as an intruder?

      He had a thing about regulation and he would rant about the government mandating seat belts for cars. He refused to buckle up. Cars weren't designed to kill, and yet despite my dad's rantings, he couldn't stop the parade of safety features from shoulder harnesses to airbags and child safety seats—and requirements to take driving tests, get inspections, and obey an endless list of rules while driving.

      And yet a 19-year-old can walk into a gun shop and buy a terrifying machine that is designed for killing, with endless supplies of ammo, in just a few minutes.

    • Don't mean to hijack further, but Citizen's United did just lose an appeal to get around New York's transparency laws. They claim some organizations won't donate if they can't keep the donations private. They are threatening to go to the Supreme Court again.

    • Australia legislated in 1996 after some mass killings and it worked.

      link

      and wikipedia for more in depth

      I served in the army, was in a civilian gun club, enjoy shooting targets, clays, plinking. I'm not an anti - gun person but my 8 year old niece, in NJ, practices a drill twice a year for a shooter in the school. That is terrifying and unnecessary.

    • I've had several conversations on the matter during the past week, mostly with people who are fearful of having their second ammendment rights stripped from them.

      I think the first thing we need to do is evaluate the second ammendment and what it says: "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."

      While some people see the second ammendment as an obstacle to gun control laws, I actually think there's a lot of legislation that we can pass that would decrease the odds of school shootings without violating second ammendment rights. The main reason I think this is that states with stricter gun laws have fewer gun deaths per 100,000 people. California, New York, and Illinois get criticzed for having lots of gun deaths but in truth, the number of gun deaths they have per 100, 000 people is well below the national average. Chicago gets criitized for all their gun deaths, but their biggest issue is people purchasing firearms in Indiana and then coming back into the city.

      I don't think there's any law that can eradicate gun violenece, but there are common sense steps we can take. Some of my ideas include increasing the age limit to own a firearm to 25 unless you are in the military or law enforcement. Increasing the age limit would ensure that people purchasing firearms are people with fully developed adult brains. A lot of these school shootings are done by tennageers who are very emotional and irrational. An age limit increase to 25 would make it so that some moody teenager would have a harder time getting their hands on a gun. Secondly, there are certain guns that private citizens just don't need to have. AR-15s and other types of semi-automatic weapons are simply not needed if all you want to do is protect yourself from a burglar.

      I have more ideas, but these are two that spring to mind at this time.

    • Definitely agree.

      I'd also like to see all gun purchases require a federal licensing and training process similar to the strictest concealed carry licensing processes currently enforced at the state level.

      Firearms capable of firing high velocity rounds should either be banned completely or should require the strictest level of licensing. High capacity magazines should be banned.

      Gun show and private sale loopholes should be eliminated. Guns should only be transferable by responsible, licensed dealers. If you want to sell a gun to someone and you're not a dealer, you should be required to process the sale through a dealer similar to how interstate sales work today.

      And I'd like to see a real computerized national gun registry. Gun owners should be required to register their guns and update their registrations every few years just like we do with cars. Law enforcement officials should be able to easily look up a gun's serial number and description in the registry to trace ownership of firearms used in crimes.

      If someone is convicted of a violent crime or is the subject of a restraining order or a serious harassment or abuse charge, it should be easy to consult the registry to see if they own any firearms, and they should be required to surrender them (either temporarily or permanently depending on the nature of the charge).

    • In the wake of some school districts threatening to discipline students for protests and walkouts stemming from the Parkland shooting, MIT published a statement on whether they could hurt the student's chances of being accepted at MIT. I found it incredibly inspiring.

      So: if any admitted students or applicants are disciplined by their high school for practicing responsible citizenship by engaging in peaceful, meaningful protest related to this (or any other) issue, we will still require them to report it to us. However, because we do not view such conduct on its face as inappropriate or inconsistent with their prior conduct, or anything we wouldn't applaud amongst our own students, it will not negatively impact their admissions outcome.

    • I'm glad to hear this, because one thing I'm struggling with is the lack of conversation. My immediate social circle runs the spectrum on this topic, and it seems to me like so many people can't bear to acknowledge the complexity of the topic and run for their safe little corner, whichever one that might be. I have pro-gun friends who won't engage with the topic of meaningful controls on purchasing, and I have anti-gun friends who won't engage with the topic of civil responsibility and the risks posed by surrendering legally owned weapons. This lack of engagement and polarization is what scares me the most, and not only on this topic. It makes good governance impossible or at least unlikely.

      I own and shoot guns regularly. If they could all disappear, I'd be all for it. But that option doesn't exist.

      I think raising the age to purchase weapons is the wrong approach, for one because shooting with kids is so important to so many friends of mine, and for another, the kids I know who are the most involved with guns seem to be the least likely to misuse them.

      To me, the right answer is a mix of many things. Helping young people feel part of their community, limiting exposure to glamorized violence, changing how these events are reported to take away the allure of becoming instantly infamous, and limiting availability of high capacity magazines all seem realistic. Mandatory training and licensure seem potentially appropriate, although the training I have been through to get a CCW seemed like a greater harm than good.

      Past attempts at "assault weapons bans" have been so flawed as to be laughable, and beginning a meaningful registration program when so many guns are in circulation seems like too little, too late.

      About all I am absolutely sure of is that it is a complex question and that anyone who proposes a simple answer, hasn't looked at the question hard enough.

    • Neduro, can you explain what made the last assault weapons ban laughable? I've read some articles on how easy it was to get around the ban by modifying the guns because the legislation wasn't written by people knowledgeable enough. But it seems like the best data we have indicates that even flawed legislation saved some lives.

      One argument we often hear is nothing we can do can prevent all deaths, so the outcome of the argument is we don't do anything. But there are things we can do to prevent some deaths, right? So shouldn't we do them?

      This chart is often debated because there are other factors like population increase and the increased lethality of weapons now, but I haven't heard credible arguments that the assault weapons ban saved no lives.

    • Sure, I'm all for a ban on semi-automatic weapons (watch for the NRA to resist, but then maybe give in to an "assault weapons ban" with legislation that they help write (and which won't ban all semi-autos)) and large ammo magazines.... but it is plain ole' hand guns that kill the most people by far (roughly 80% of firearms homicides). How come we are not hearing much about controlling the sale of handguns...
      https://www.thetrace.org/rounds/national-homicide-rate-handgun/

      For anyone interested in the facts about firearms and violence, I highly recommend going to the U.S. Dept. Of Justice Bur. of Justice Stats. website and exploring all the unbiased data (not data reported by the NRA or anti-gun groups). Here is a good page to begin: https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=43