Thursday, December 20, 2012


What would have prevented the tragedy?

After the jump, considering the usual remedies and an unorthodox one.

What would have prevented the tragedy?

Background check? Not in this case. The guns weren't purchased by the killer, but by the killer's mother.

Waiting period? Not in this case. The guns used had been purchased months or years before the tragedy.

Assault weapons ban? Only if the ban included, not just new sales, but confiscation of all the existing assault weapons, and owners fully complied with the ban, including the bad guys. In other words, not in this case.

Arming potential victims? Not in this case. The first victim was the woman who owned the very guns used in the tragedy.

Better mental health treatment? Not in this case. Allegedly, what set the killer off was the threat of being admitted to a mental hospital.

No, none of the usual remedies seem to be the answer in this case. That leads me to a remedy that never gets any serious consideration -- take the first clause of the Second Amendment seriously.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Source: US Constitution.

Prevent tragedies not by focusing on the gun, or on the bad guys, but on the good guys. States should reconstitute their local militias. Not the National Guard as it currently exists, but universal militia service for all citizens. Require classes in gun use, gun safety, self defense, and the law. Require frequent and regular refresher classes. Require extensive remedial classes for individuals who cannot pass tests. Mentally unstable people are very likely to be revealed in the rigorous training proposed here, in time for preventive measures to be taken.

Finally, give exemptions from militia service for anyone who voluntarily agrees not to buy, sell, own, possess, or use guns. If you're not willing to be a member of a well-regulated militia, necessary to the defense of a free state, then you'd probably be willing to voluntarily agree not to exercise your right to bear arms.

Could this have prevented the Newtown tragedy? It's only speculation, but I think it could have. Either the mother of the killer would have opted out of the militia by voluntarily agreeing not to own guns, or else her militia membership would have instilled practices that would have kept her troubled son from having access to her guns. If everyone else acted likewise (remember, we would all be in the militia), the chances are slim that the killer would have been able to gain access to the guns used in the tragedy.

The neat thing about this solution is that it is not only legal, but it restores original meaning to the Second Amendment. It doesn't impose gun regulation; it restores the well-regulated militia that the Founding Fathers called for. It finesses all the classic arguments. It has aspects to like by both the pro-gun and anti-gun factions. It doesn't even require action by the federal government. The states themselves can restore the local militias that withered away in the decades following the passage of the Second Amendment.

Even if we can't absolutely prevent every gun massacre, this solution can significantly reduce the other 30,000 gun deaths (homicides, suicides, accidents) that occur each year in America.

If we as a society don't want to give up our right to bear arms, let's at least restore our responsibility to form a well-regulated militia.


mccalpin said...

In other words, let's be like Switzerland: (1) compulsory military service for all young men and optional service for young women, (2) screening for the young men and women, so that those unsuited for military service be offered alternative national service roles, and (3) those soldiers issued weapons and kit keep them at home during their term of service.

Yeah, I can live with this...


Mark Steger said...

1. Only if Switzerland's compulsory military service is continuous throughout life, or as long as the citizen desires to possess firearms.

2. I read that Israel, a few years ago, changed their practice and started requiring service members to leave their guns at the base on weekends. There was a noticeable drop in suicides among service members.

mccalpin said...

1. I "believe" (I am not sure) that there is an option to continue in the reserves for many years...indeed, as they shrink the standing army, I think some guys go straight to the reserves...still, I see your point, but perhaps after doing your 20 in the reserves, someone has a good take on your competence.

2. The environments of Israel and Switzerland are quite different, although I have no idea what the comparable suicide rates are. I did read, that in 2007, the Army stopped sending ammunition home, so maybe there was some concern there. Of course, it wouldn't be that hard for a determined person to get some ammo, but I suppose that much of the success of preventing suicides is to remove the immediate means to do so...i.e., if society makes it difficult to kill yourself, you may change your mind by the time you're able to...


Mark Steger said...

Make no mistake, I'm in favor of background checks, assault weapon bans, etc., even if they wouldn't have prevented the Newtown tragedy. No one action will prevent all crime. Still, I think universal militia training gets around the constitutional legal argument that gun defenders use to prevent common sense actions from being taken.