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Policy: Law

Evil murderers can be stopped, but doing the impossible takes a little longer

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Opinion,Op-Eds,Gun Control,California,Law,NRA,Mass Shootings

Does being the father of a victim of a horrific crime immediately make you a responsible voice on preventing that crime?

How do you tell a furious father that he has nothing to contribute to preventing the category of crime of which his beloved son was an innocent victim?

You wait a reasonable amount of time, understanding his righteous apoplexy. The question is, how long does the country indulge the uninformed outrage of an understandably distraught father as he channels that outrage into immediate political activism?

Such understandably upset people typically lash out with some variation of “Do something!!” at all of those who seem to be possible enablers of the perpetrators.

Richard Martinez is apoplectic at the murder of his only child, Christopher Michaels-Martinez, by the hand of Elliot Rodger.

Martinez told the Washington Post that “people are looking for something to do. I'm asking people to stand up for something. Enough is enough.”

He blames the NRA and lawmakers, shouting support of the new mantra, “Not one more,” and demands that Congress enact stricter gun control laws.

Martinez demands that reporters’ cameras cover his manifest anger. He is less sure what to do about the mental health system except that they should be given the “tools they need” — to do what?

There is no evidence that psychiatrists and psychologists can predict who will be violent — and quite a bit to the contrary — but such professionals could be empowered preventively to detain millions of Americans.

There is no reason to believe, however, that even such a totalitarian policy would reduce the number of those who want to execute innocents, much less eliminate the phenomenon.

Martinez surely must be aware that there is latent and sometimes active resentment of criminal defense attorneys like himself, who work hard to gain acquittals and reduced sentences for murderers who then go on to kill others.

Is the unbridled fury of those victims relatives against the criminal justice system he serves and the attorneys therein justified?

Those who concentrate on the acquisition of guns are not without some merit. While there is no evidence or constituency for believing that disarming America (repeal the Second Amendment? Not going to happen, nor would it positively impact illegal gun usage) would do anything but leave guns in the hands of criminals only, that does not mean that nothing can be done to limit gun procurement.

There is an argument that we are unwilling to enforce strongly those aspects of gun control aimed at reducing access for patently irresponsible and dangerous citizens.

Dealers who think that laws apply only to others regarding lost or stolen guns, as well as states that will not enforce serious background checks, must not be allowed to flout reasonable and life-protecting rules and regulations.

According to the New York Times, “Mr. Rodger purchased the first gun in November 2012 for $700, a Glock 34 semiautomatic pistol, at Goleta Valley Gun and Supply … [a]fter his mother saw a bizarre rambling he posted on YouTube last month, she worried he was suicidal.

"As a result of her concern, seven deputies showed at his apartment on April 30, finding Mr. Rodger polite, if awkward. They had no search warrant to look inside his apartment, and apparently no probable cause to look for weapons.”

This turned out to be a bad judgment, leading to the argument that any reasonable policing authority would have inferred that a dramatic concern that led to the interrogation of Rodger should have led as well to the room search he feared would have revealed his arsenal.

This assiduous application of law will not have a transformative effect, however. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence wrote of California last December, “California received an A- and continues to top the list of states with the strongest gun reform measures in the country.”

That does not mean that more rigorous insisting on law-abiding gun laws is irrelevant. A police state would eventually lessen the number of people killed by self-obsessive evil people, but most people do not want to live that way.

Ultimately, there are small ways to make the violence of horrible people less likely; there are no ways to eliminate the ability of such people to murder small numbers of unprotected citizens.

Richard E. Vatz is an editor of Current Psychology, psychology editor of USA Today Magazine and a professor at Towson University.
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