On Sunday, NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ moderator David Gregory asked Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker if they were disappointed that there was not a more robust national debate on the issues of gun violence and gun control during the 2012 campaign season.
Given that their respective states have witnessed horrific acts of violence in recent months – the massacre at the Aurora, CO, movie theater, the mass shooting at the Sikh Temple in Milwaukee, WI, and most recently, the assault on a salon in Brookfield, WI – the way in which the governors addressed the question was of particular interest to advocates on either side of the gun divide.
What everyone wanted to know was, in the wake of these tragedies, would these statesmen speak up in favor of gun control? Or would they correctly diagnose the root cause of violence (people, not firearms) and suggest ways in which society can do a better job in preventing dangerous people from doing bad things.
Gov. Hickenlooper, answered first, and what he had to say was rather telling (especially for a Democrat, arguably the party of gun control).
“I think if you look at some of the weapons that people are using in these, these senseless attacks, I mean 12-gauge shotguns, there’s 120 million out there. I do worry that some of the cuts that governor Romney is proposing are going to cut funding in all manner of levels for mental health. I mean that’s one of the big issues. We’ve got some crazy folks out there that are just completely delusional. We’ve got to be able to identify that sooner and get them into treatment. Get them off the street before they do some sore of insane act.”
In other words, gun control vis a vis an Assault Weapons Ban would do virtually nothing to stop criminals because the guns most commonly used in shootings are ubiquitous. Instead, the government should focus on ways to identify crazy people and ensure that once they are identified as such, that information gets communicated to the proper authorities, who can then, theoretically, interdict before something tragic happens.
To this point, University of Colorado campus police were warned about James Holmes, the gunman responsible for the rampage in Aurora, by his psychiatrist Dr. Lynee Fenton just six weeks prior to the shooting.
Meanwhile, Gov. Walker’s answer to the question was equally insightful.
In our case, at least in the recent tragedy we had in Wisconsin, we need a greater focus, and I think it’s something that Republicans and Democrats can agree on, is a greater focus on tightening up domestic violence laws because that’s where our biggest problem was in our recent tragedy here in the state of Wisconsin. We didn’t do enough in this state, apparently, at least on the local level, to adequately enforce those laws. We didn’t do enough to stand up for domestic violence victims in our state at the local level. We need to do more than that. And that’s something that isn’t a partisan issue.”
Quick translation, enforce existing laws and be more vigilant at the local level, keep an eye out for situations that have the potential to turn violent.
With respect to the salon shooter, Radcliffe Haughton who shot and killed his wife along with several other women, police had been to the couple’s home as many as 20 times over the past decade. According to police records, seven of those calls were because of domestic violence. However, Haughton was never arrested.
While neither Gov. Hickenlooper nor Gov. Walker answered the question perfectly, they are at least looking in the right direction, i.e. away from foolish cries for gun control and at the individuals who actually perpetrated these, to borrow Gov. Hickenlooper’s term, “senseless acts.”
Whether the government can really do more legislatively (or logistically or administratively or communicatively, etc.) to stop the likes of a James Holmes or a Radcliffe Haughton remains to be seen. Ideally, it should try to dream up more Constitutionally sound ways to keep citizens safe. Yet still, even under the most practically ideal conditions, the government can’t stop every sociopath.
Consequently, there’s really only one choice for a law-abiding individual. Take personal responsibility for your safety and become a responsible gun owner. That is the best safeguard there is against becoming a victim — but even then there are no guarantees.