A very small segment of the population does almost all of the gun violence in the USA. Who are these people? Criminals, gang members, spousal abusers, the dangerously mentally ill (DMI) and the suicidal.

Whether you hate guns, like guns or don’t care about guns, very few disagree that individuals in these segments of our society should not have access to guns.

The trick is identifying these individuals and bringing them to the attention of the appropriate authorities and/or preventing them from shooting anyone.

Convicted felons are easy to identify — they have criminal records. They are also easy to deal with. No guns!

Gang members are almost as easy to identify. How do you think the police track them down when they finally become criminals by committing a crime? The police check out their friends, their residence and their place of employment. Fortunately, few gang members have no criminal record for long, so almost all are members of the criminal group mentioned above. No guns!

Spousal abusers are fairly easy to identify because they have histories of abusive actions. However they are more difficult to deal with. The abused spouse often finds it difficult to come forward. Accused spousal abusers have rights and must be protected against false accusations. And enforcement of any court order is pretty unreliable as far as the abused spouse is concerned.

The DMI are easily identified — in retrospect. The trick is to identify them ahead of the crime. Even once identified, they are very difficult to deal with because they fall through the cracks. The police can’t do anything unless they commit a crime. Their psychiatrist can’t tell anyone because of privacy restrictions. The family and friends can’t tell anyone because there is no one who can actually do anything. And the DMI have rights because they are citizens. 

Finally we come to the group that is the most difficult both to identify and to deal with, the suicidal. Modern psychiatry has neither a cure for suicide nor the ability to proactively identify the actively suicidal. We don’t want the police involved in a non-criminal activity. We don’t want to involuntarily restrain individuals merely at risk of suicide. However, society can actively keep guns away from the suicidal, much as efforts to reduce firearm accidents have reduced the incidence of accidental shootings by 90% in the past generation.

Any questions, feel free to call John Erickson (708-848-0742), Dave Schweig (708-383-3850) or Oak Parkers Against Gun Violence.

John Erickson

Oak Park

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