Granted, it has been a long time since I went to school, but way back in the stone ages they tought us that governing was about finding solutions to problems. Often there are multiple solutions to every problem. If each problem had only one solution then they wouldn’t pay those that represent us as lavishly as they do (okay, maybe they still would). So, I’ve read with great pains every single editorial that has come in the wake of the Washington Naval Yard tragedy and had to just shake my head. Don’t people get it? Why do we have to argue for one solution or another. It’s all hands on deck at this point.
Most editorials I have read have jettisoned gun control as passe. The latest one by Bill King I found to be especially galling because he actually mentioned that gun control measures might have prevented one of the tragedies. Okay, shouldn’t that be enough to pursue it? That being said, those that have mentioned mental health (nearly everyone I’ve read in the Chronicle) as the predominant issue. As someone with a mental health background I would have to agree. I found myself in the unusual position of agreeing with Charles Krauthammer on an issue. The issue isn’t whether or not either side is right or wrong. In this case they are both right and both wrong at the same time.
They are right in that their particular solution plays a part in the puzzle of limiting these events to a rarity. They are both wrong in that they alone have the answer in doing so. This country’s (and particular this state’s) investment in mental health is appalling. Texas is 50th in per capita investment in mental health. That’s Rick Perry for you. While the cold-hearted among us may not care about the personal demons that a few of us may possess, they start to care when those personal demons threaten us as a society. It’s funny how those that want to slash budgets that assist the most vulnerable among us suddenly start tooting its horn when lives are snuffed out.
Of course, that isn’t to say that lives would also be saved by limiting a mentally deranged person’s ability to exact mass murder. Yes, some of these weapons are acquired legally. Yes, sometimes they are ordinary weapons that any of us can get our hands on and use legitimately. Sometimes that isn’t the case. So, why not address the situation with equal zeal from both ends. Those in Congress are presumably among the best and brightest. Are you telling us they can’t multitask?
Those that kill a bunch of people in short order are undoubtedly mentally ill. However, the vast majority of them have one thing in common: they use guns and usually semi-automatic ones to do their bidding. Yes, guns do not kill people. People kill people. Yet, we cannot get around the obvious fact that they are designed specifically to kill people. When judging any machine we must consider the positive and negative utility of such an item. Just about any item can be used in an evil way. However, when considering such an item as these automatic weapons is there such a thing as a positive utility?
Yes, they are weapons of war, but can we label war as a positive utility? This is where both paths have to intersect. Yes, 99 percent of gun owners are responsible people. Yes, 99 percent of gun owners would never even consider using their guns in such a way. So, part of the key is in early identification of those folks who might and the other is in investing in ways to make sure they never get their hands on such an instrument. Enacting one legislation does not preempt us from enacting the other any more than any of us actually working on two things during our work day. I wish I was lucky enough to only have to focus on one thing. It’s time for our lawmakers to perform the act of multitasking.