Guy W. Farmer: Gun control in the wake of Newtown

I know that gun control isn't a popular topic here in Gun Country, but I'm going to write a gun control column anyway. Don't panic, however, because I'm not advocating more gun control laws - just better enforcement of those that are already on the books.

I thought about last month's Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre as I visited my 8-year-old twin grandsons in Seattle for Christmas. A mentally deranged shooter murdered 20 grade-school kids, ages 6 and 7, and six adults during in that deadly rampage. Gun nuts and gun control nuts promptly came out of the woodwork with proposals ranging from requiring all Americans to own guns, to outlawing gun ownership, as if that were possible.

And no, I don't think United Nations troops are coming to Northern Nevada to take away your guns, nor do I think that extreme gun control ideas make any sense. Nevertheless, a very serious question remains: How can we keep guns out of the hands of certifiably crazy people? The NRA says that's impossible, but I think refusal to discuss the issue is a cop-out.

After the September 2011 IHOP shooting in Carson City, I wrote that President Obama should direct his Justice Department to strictly enforce existing gun control laws, and that Congress should reinstate the assault weapons ban and close gun show loopholes. This is another issue where people of goodwill should come together to seek mutually acceptable solutions. But as long as both sides continue to shout and accuse each other of being "anti-American," nothing will happen.

While respecting the Second Amendment, I don't think it guarantees that crazy people can own guns. Congress should find a way to incorporate court decisions on mental issues into FBI background checks on prospective gun owners. At the same time federal, state and local authorities should pursue and prosecute those who provide guns to mentally ill friends and relatives. For example, why hasn't anyone been prosecuted in the IHOP shooting?

At this point I'd like to mention a related issue, our increasingly violent media - movies, television and video games - which tend to glorify violence. Just watch any Quentin Tarantino movie and tell me that he doesn't glorify gratuitous violence. And we're about to be treated to a new, bloodier (if that's possible) version of the Texas chain saw massacres in 3D. Let's face it, too many of our children are drenched in make-believe blood from an early age.

A final contributing factor, in my opinion, is our "wired" society in which some people live their lives on the Internet rather than interacting with actual human beings. I hope that Facebook and Twitter never replace face-to-face communication with friends, neighbors and favorite relatives. I also think so-called "social media" contribute to a lonely society where some unstable people live inside technological "bubbles" that breed angry, anti-social loners who are capable of injuring or even killing innocent bystanders, including grade school children. But instead of arming everyone or banning guns, let's have an adult conversation about these life-and-death issues. Care to join me?

• As you may have surmised, Guy W. Farmer isn't a Gun Guy.


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