A Matter of Motivation?

Sniper RifleWe can guess that the individual described in a Las Vegas Sun article wasn’t motivated by altruism: “The 63-year-old killed Tuesday in a shootout with Henderson Police had an arsenal of more than 150 firearms in his house, but detectives’ search of Edward J. Scheboth’s house yielded no clues for a motive, authorities said.”  [LVSun]

It also doesn’t seem unreasonable to state that I really don’t care how many firearms a person collects — just as I don’t care how many cans of soup a person has in their pantry — BUT when one of those firearms is taken outside the home and used to shoot at a police officer sitting in a patrol car, then I care, and care deeply.

I care when Michael Hill takes an AK-47 and 500 rounds into a Georgia school with the evident intent of replicating the horror in Newtown, Connecticut.  We should care that the incident was defused by an incredibly courageous school employee who “talked him down.” [ChiTrib]

I care when Governor Christie signs a bill into the statutes of the State of New Jersey (in a bit of groveling to the NRA) which allows the private ownership of 50 caliber sniper rifles, capable of projecting palm sized ammo into heavy armor a mile away.  No matter, evidently, that he had called for this legislation last year.  Suddenly, these weapons of war are “necessary” for private recreation.  [Nation] As if flying into the Newark Airport isn’t exciting enough already, we can now wonder if some “collector” might be moved to bring back the good old days during WWII when the .50 BMG was used in the M2 Browning machine gun for anti-aircraft purposes?  Conservative commentators are pleased to note that .50 caliber sniper rifles are “never used in crimes, ” [WashTimes]  Well, now one supposes they could be…  However, gone now from the New Jersey shores are any requirements that gun owners be licensed, or that there be a ban on private gun sale exchanges without a background check.

Perhaps we should care more that gun enthusiasts are fond of citing the levels of mental illness associated with gun violence incidents, while  some of those self-same defenders of freedom join the chorus of “Less Government, Lower Taxes” calling for the reduction in spending, even if that reduction slashes the budgets of state mental health programs.

Nor do we seem to be sufficiently concerned about the horrific fact that as of 8/22/13 the CDC reports 21,982 people in this country have been killed by guns. [Slate]

Presumably, this number does not yet include the victim of a teen thrill killing in Oklahoma, during which three teens sated their boredom by shooting a college student in the back. [WaPo]

At some point the national discussion needs to incorporate several elements we’ve been loath to address.  (1) What is the appropriate level of public spending for mental health care services?  Should we increase federal and state expenditures for mental health care services even if this requires an increase in taxation?  (2) What are appropriate firearms for individual ownership?  We restrict fully automatic weapons, but not weapons which can be easily modified to achieve the same result.  Do we really want “anti-aircraft” weapons in private hands?   (3) Might requiring a quick background check for gun show, Internet, and private sales assist law enforcement in keeping guns out of the hands of those who ought not to possess them? The seriously mentally ill, felons, fugitives, unsupervised (bored?) children…?

Until we are able to have an adult discussion about (4) gun trafficking, straw man purchases, and the transferring of stolen firearms, we’ll continue to see a flow of weapons from regions with few restrictions into areas with tighter controls.  The NYPD recently arrested two individuals who trafficked a combination of 254 stolen and legally purchased guns from the Carolinas. [CNN]  What would be the best solution to this law enforcement problem?

A nation which stolidly absorbs the deaths of 21,982 people, while parroting dueling talking points and focus group slogans about gun restrictions, might have its own motives questioned?

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