Jim Hartmann: Mass Shootings: Young Men, Guns, and Mental Illness

Jim Hartmann

Jim Hartmann

The May 24 massacre of 19 children and two of their teachers at Robb Elementary School in Ovaldi, Texas, sparked outrage and indignation in many — and grief among us all.
The profile picture of the bowler, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, is frustratingly familiar.
Ramos was a lonely teenager from a dysfunctional family. He was bullied as a child, and immersed himself in video and other virtual reality games. He fought with his mother and alluded to violence.
This history is similar to the profile of other young mass murderers.
The 2018 Parkland gunman regularly posted violent and threatening photos, and his classmates later told investigators that if there had been a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, they thought it would be him.
The shooter behind the May 14 racist attack in Buffalo specifically told his classmates that he wanted to commit murder/suicide after graduation.
There were similar warning signs of mass murderers from Sandy Hook to Aurora — and in Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Newtown, Thousand Oaks, Tucson and Sutherland Springs.
As after each of these previous atrocities, there is a regular demand to “do something” about gun violence. But it is easier said than done to identify achievable steps to reduce the possibility of future massacres.
President Biden called for “common sense” weapons reforms without specifics. “It’s been a while since action, what kind of action,” former President Obama wrote on Twitter.
Both easily demonize the Republicans and the “gun lobby”.
This call to “action, any kind of work” means that anything will do, even if it turns out to be futile or counterproductive.
RAND Corporation, respected public policy experts — not sycophants of the National Rifle Association — conducted a 2018 research study and failed to find a single gun control policy that was proven to reduce mass shootings in the United States.
Their report frankly concluded, “We found no eligible studies showing that any of the 13 policies we studied reduced mass shootings.”
The 1994 ban on “assault weapons” actually increased sales of weapons like the AR-15 rifles during the ban’s period and skyrocketed when it was lifted in 2004.
A 2004 report by the Department of Justice found that “the effects of bans on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small to be reliably measured.” Congress let the ban fall with little debate that year.
Are there “common ground” actions that a bipartisan majority in Congress can take to stop the mass shootings of troubled youth?
So-called red flag laws that give police the power to deny firearms to people who might pose a danger to society may be helpful, but they are difficult to enforce. New York state has a red flag law and the Buffalo shooter was referred for mental counseling, and he still has a gun.
Nevada is one of 19 states to have a “red flag” law passed along strict party lines in 2019. AB 291 allows a family, family members, or police to petition for a court order to confiscate guns for up to a year.
Red flag confiscation requests were extremely rare in Nevada. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo reported last year that Metro had only seen two requests for extended protection orders and neither had been handled by the state.
The prevalence of mass shootings reflects problems deeper than gun laws can solve.
Society needs to rethink our attitudes toward antisocial behavior and mental illness.
Security must be strengthened in schools and churches.
The emergence of family dysfunction and the deterioration of institutions such as churches and social organizations have consequences.
Hollywood movies, television, and video games contribute to a pervasive culture of violence that affects our society in negative ways.
Anyone who thinks gun laws will end mass shootings in America is not paying attention to our much larger societal problems.
Email Jim Hartman at lawdocman1@aol.com.