Time to get the guns

Time to get the guns

Norcross, Ga., Feb. 22; Oakland, Calif., April 2; Seattle, Wash., May 20; Aurora, Colo., July 20; Oak Creek, Wisc., Aug. 5; Minneapolis, Minn., Sept. 27; Newton, Conn., Dec. 14 – seven mass murders in 11 months in the United States.

We concede the point. Guns do not kill people; people kill people. People just kill more people with guns than without them.

More effective gun control probably would not have stopped Adam Lanza. Does anyone, however, seriously contend that he would have been able to massacre 20 children and six adults if he had to strangle them, or thrust a knife into each of them – in the 15 minutes or so it took him to pour multiple rounds into his victims?

Mass murder is not possible without weapons
capable of mass murder – and rapid-fire, quick-loading magazined guns and rifles are weapons capable of mass murder. That is what they were designed for. They can mass murder at a single clip, be reloaded in the batting of an eyelash, and kill again, and again, and 20 times again; and 50 times again.

“Better background checks” is a mantra, not a solution. The Houston Chronicle in September reported that 4,000 guns are stolen in that city alone every year – every year. Multiply that by every major city.

While the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms says that stolen guns only account for about 15 percent of handguns that are used in crimes, that is still a lot of guns obtained without background checks.

Guns also are obtained by lying on applications, the ATF reports; by hiring third parties to buy them; by knowing which streets to go down and whom to ask on those streets. Background checks do not apply.

The answer is not to tighten the rules on who may buy guns; it is to get all but the most basic revolvers and hunting rifles out of most people’s hands. It is to tighten the requirements for establishing a need to own a weapon in the first place. It is to make eminently traceable any guns, rifles and ammunition manufactured in or sold in the United States. It is to establish tough federal gun control standards that every state must follow. It is to make it impossible to buy guns, rifles, and the ammunition for them without valid photo ID permits that can be instantly checked by computer for authenticity. It is to impose criminal penalties on any gun sellers who do not do due diligence.

How many more dead children do we need to convince us to get the most dangerous guns and rifles off the streets, out of our homes and offices, and into the incinerators?

Specious argument

Already, we hear the refrain: “What about Israel? Everyone owns a gun in Israel. Assault weapons, too. Automatic weapons. The problem is not the guns.”

It is a specious argument. Israel actually has very strict gun control laws. In fact, it has the highest rejection rate of gun applications in the world; the number is somewhere between 40 and 45 percent. And approval does not end it. The guns must be traceable, and the Interior Ministry must certify that the applicant has a need for the weapon.

If we must put Israel into the gun control discussion, then, let us focus on the strictness of its laws, not the fictional version that gun control opponents are so quick to proffer.

And then there is mental health . . .

We are not attempting to equate what happened last week in Newtown, Conn., to what happened years ago at Yeshiva University High School for Boys. There are similarities, however, including that to sexually abuse youngsters is another way of killing them, albeit psychologically.

Above all else, however, what these two major events have most in common is that clearly disturbed people went undisturbed by everyone around them. Adam Lanza was seen harassing people on his local streets and clearly displaying the characteristics of a dangerous person who needed help. People avoided him rather than getting help for him.

Those guilty of sexual abuse are vicious predators, to be sure, but it is also just as sure that they are people with mental problems. The current chancellor of YU and its former president, Rabbi Norman Lamm, admits that he knew of at least one serial abuser, but that he did not get the person help. Rather, he got him another job.

These are wake-up calls. As a community, we need to get better at identifying mental distress and treating it, not avoiding it nor ignoring it. We also need to set up and adequately fund treatment centers. We have delayed acting long enough.

Free Pollard now

It seems likely that Jonathan Jay Pollard, the former civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy who was convicted of passing on United States intelligence data to Israel, was given a life sentence because he granted the Jerusalem Post newspaper an interview in defiance of a federal plea bargain.

That, at least, is what a just declassified Central Intelligence Agency assessment claims. According to the CIA assessment, Pollard spied in the United States, not on it. He transmitted intelligence regarding the Soviet Union and Arab states to Israel, but never passed on intelligence regarding the United States (nor did Israel ask him to do so).

That does not excuse his crime, but his crime is not why he was jailed for life, apparently. This injustice has gone far enough. It is time to set him free. Write the White House today and urge President Barack Obama to pardon Pollard now that we all know the truth. The address is the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20500.

Better still, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments and e-mail the president.