Firewall – thoughts on how to reduce gun violence

The nation is still reeling from the Newtown, CT school massacre. Many of the funerals were held last week, and the national dialogue has become “he said – she said”. There is intransigence and wishful thinking and a tremendous lack on knowledge of the facts.

But there are some ideas that might help reduce some of the gun violence, and I would like to propose one.

The demographic of the majority of not only mass school shooters but many other murderers is well-known. It is similar to the demographic of terrorists, which we also ignore. In this case it is young men aged 17 – 26. That is an arbitrary range, but let the lawmakers come up with better.

This is the age range when mental illness often sets in and when the hormones are most active. It is the age of the man-child, especially in a culture that functionally delays the age of majority.

We recruit much of our military from the high schools and these recruits are then rigorously tested by a battery of psychological and other tests to determine aptitudes, skills, and suitability for various positions. The military is able to weed out those who cannot perform or are otherwise unsuitable.

But we do almost no psychological testing on the civilian side unless certain limits are exceeded, whether at home or in society. Our culture is drenched in an imaginary culture of blood that sometimes becomes all too real. The mythology of firearms is a powerful subliminal aphrodisiac. Power = manhood.

From video games to movies to street culture, violence is glorified and there are fewer and fewer social filters. Doing the dozens escalates on the streets of the inner cities and gang violence is a scourge.  Making ones bones or proving ones manhood or sometimes a twisted spasmodic urge to get even with the world results in death time and again. The narcotics trade is a prime contributor. And much of this revolves around young men 17- 26.

This is the time when gun usage should be controlled. This is where we need a Firewall. If we can limit access between these ages, crime will drop, and we will be able to limit the damage done by all shootings. The statistics support this argument unequivocally. There are outliers such as the Ft. Hood shooter and the Oslo shooter, but the worst of these murders have been committed by people sometimes not old enough to buy a beer legally.

There are exceptions to every rule and the vast majority of firearms users under the age of 26 are responsible, law-abiding citizens. But here too a sensible policy can help keep firearms out of the hands of madmen and criminals. Exemptions for serving military, shooters in supervised programs, and other classes of gun users can help sustain our Second Amendment rights.

And with this most of all must come an improved mental health system which can help identify and perhaps treat those most at risk. Thomas Szasz challenged the moral and scientific bases of psychiatry, but replaced this structure with nothing. The mentally ill are all around us and yet there seem to be no answers under modern treatment guidelines. Forced confinement and medication are applied only to the most severe cases and yet we are faced with Columbine and Newtown.

Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depression) and other mood disorders are treatable, but the patient must comply with the treatment protocol. How can this be done within our human rights? Again, I will leave that to the experts.

Pure evil does exist, but it is often shrouded in misinformation, ignorance, and politics. The massacre of 20 children and their teachers certainly falls within the definition.

But as human beings we are given the tools and intelligence to resist. The humanists deride faith and yet compassion, empathy, and sacrifice are all essential to a solution.These are found in much greater degrees within faith-based solutions and there is a verifiable record of success.

For we have seen an acceleration in mindless violence with the loss of faith. Science and the law will not solve this terrible issue alone. We cannot wish the problem away with gun free zones and firearms restrictions. These are humble suggestions humbly offered, but perhaps they can help inform the discussion.

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