Jim Hartman: Mass shootings: Young men, guns and mental illness

Jim Hartman

Jim Hartman

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The May 24 massacre of 19 children and two of their teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas incited rage and indignation from many – and grieving among us all.
The profile of the 18-year-old shooter, Salvador Ramos, is depressingly familiar.
Ramos was a teenage loner from a dysfunctional family. Bullied as a child, he immersed himself in video games and other virtual reality. He fought with his mother and hinted at violent actions.
This history is similar to the profile of other young mass killers.
The 2018 Parkland gunman regularly posted violent and threatening images, and his classmates later told investigators if there was ever going to be a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, they believed it would be him.
The shooter behind the May 14 racist attack in Buffalo specifically told classmates he wanted to commit a murder/suicide after graduation.
Similar warning signs were there for mass killers from Sandy Hook to Aurora – and in Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Newtown, Thousand Oaks, Tucson and Sutherland Springs shootings.
As after each of these previous atrocities, there’s the usual demand to “do something” on gun violence. But “doing something” is easier said than actually done in identifying achievable steps to reduce the likelihood of future massacres.
President Biden has called for “common sense” gun reforms without specifics. Former President Obama tweeted: “It’s long past time for action, any kind of action.”
Both easily demonize Republicans and the “gun lobby.”
This call to “action, any kind of action” means that anything apparently will do, even if it turns out to be futile or counter-productive.
The RAND Corp., respected public policy experts – no sycophants for the National Rifle Association – conducted a 2018 research study and failed to find a single gun-control policy that had been proven to reduce mass shootings in the United States.
“We found no qualifying studies showing that any of the 13 policies we studied decreased mass shootings,” their report bluntly concluded.
A 1994 ban on “assault weapons” actually resulted in sales of weapons like AR-15 rifles increasing during the era of the ban and skyrocketing when it was lifted in 2004.
A 2004 report for the Justice Department found the ban’s “effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.” Congress let the ban lapse with little debate that year.
Are there “common ground” actions that can be taken by a bipartisan majority in Congress to stop mass shootings by disturbed young men?
So-called red-flag laws giving police the ability to deny guns to people who may pose a risk to the community might be useful, but they are hard to enforce. New York state has a red-flag law and the Buffalo shooter was referred for mental counseling, and still got a gun.
Nevada is one of 19 states to have a “red-flag” law passed along strict party lines in 2019. AB 291 allows family, household members or police to petition for a court order to seize weapons for up to a year.
Requests for red flag confiscations have been extremely rare in Nevada. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo reported last year Metro had seen only two applications for extended protection orders and both were never processed by the state.
The proliferation of mass shootings reflect deeper problems than gun laws can fix.
Society needs to rethink our hands-off attitudes to antisocial behavior and mental illness.
Security at schools and churches will need to be enhanced.
The rise of family dysfunction and the decline of institutions such as churches and social organizations have consequences.
Hollywood films, television and video games contribute to an overall culture of violence that affects our society in negative ways.
Anyone who thinks gun laws will end mass shootings in America isn’t paying attention to our much larger societal problems.
E-mail Jim Hartman at lawdocman1@aol.com.


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