Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

The material I post on this blog represents my views and mine alone. The material you post on this blog represents your views and yours alone.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Pre-Cogs Won't Save Us -- End Sales/Buy Back Killer Toys

Look closely. You have the NRA's well-heeled lobbyists, you have gun fanatics who have never shot a rabbit, and you have most Republican Congressmen who know the preceding are key elements in their holding onto office. (You’re right there with them, Todd Young.) All of the above are taking an other-worldly stand on gun violence in America. And they are increasingly using the "Minority Report" dodge.

You may know "Minority Report" from the Phillip K. Dick story or the Tom Cruise movie. It's a sci-fi  thriller set in Washington D.C. in 2054. Police utilize a psychic technology (Pre-Cogs) to arrest and convict murderers before they commit their crimes. Pre-crime units are loaded with high tech weapons and utilize Pre-Cogs to finger the potential perpetrators. (I have to say, to me, the Pre-Cogs in the movie look like emaciated Trump-Pence-Kellyanne Conway mannequins. And they too float in a pool of scary information that is beyond corroboration. But I digress due to my distress.)

And so today and again, this time in response to the Florida high school AR-15 gun murders, we have Republicans and Trump gun boosters pointing fingers—but not in the direction of the actual triggers on guns. No, the smoke out of the NRA pork barrel is now about a failed FBI follow-up, a failed local police organization, a failed school defense system, failed parents and adults, and especially a failed mental health system. And then they wrap it all up with their usual tired, absurd, one-liner: “Guns don’t kill, people do.”

But when another, then another, sacrifice of the innocents takes the American stage, the line that people (not guns) do the deed has to be gussied up a bit. What we hear is that shooters are evil, deranged, mental cases whose behavior raise red flags that only blindness and incompetence could miss. But keep your hands off of the 90 to 100 million Americans who own guns. They remain the salt of the earth, the responsible citizens, the guardians of our freedoms, the children of mythic frontier fathers. would no doubt chart direct links from NRA member’s DNA to Daniel Boone.

Now enters the clamor for a version of “Minority Report” Pre-Cog-type mental health checks. This non-solution expects mental health agencies and workers to pluck from the vast desert of gun owners those particular grains of sand in control of a gun who represent a risk to society. 

Sorry everyone, hard problems, problems of a long duration, do not have such easy fixes. As Amy Barnhorst, of the University of California, Davis, and the medical director of the Sacramento County Mental Health Treatment Center wrote last week, “ Instead of hoping that imposing mental health treatment on everyone who shows “red flags” will put an end to mass shootings  [Barnhorst describes in detail how this simply will not work. GO HERE], we should focus on ways to put some distance between these young men and their guns.”

Pre-Cogs in any form today are an exercise in wish-fulfillment. And we can be thankful the concept of Pre-Crime arrests is still a no-no in this nation of laws and due process. What we are left with are the facts to face and the solution we continue to refuse to face.

We know the killer at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School purchased an arsenal of 10 guns and a large sack of ammo. We know one of his guns, the human killing machine, the AR-15, killed seventeen, fourteen young students and three teachers. We also know that there are no "Pre-Cogs" to protect us from the guns (270+ million and growing) in this country. We should also know that, with the will to do the right and necessary thing, we can stop selling weapons of death; we can buy back every handgun, every identified non-hunting gun, every non-heirloom gun in the country.

This End Sales/Buy Back solution would be a human protection/safety infrastructure project that works for everyone. The cost? Who knows? Put this expenditure in the Defense budget ($716 billion in fiscal 2019) where big bucks go every year to get lost and die forgotten and unmourned. If lives are saved, and they will be (See the Australian example where End Sales/Buy Back worked perfectly as predicted.), this is a part of the Defense budget I would whole-heartedly support.

The above is my February 25, 2018, letter to the Terre Haute Trib Star on the subject of guns in America. My contribution is the second letter on the page.  GO HERE