Northwest Voices | Letters to the Editor
Solutions, commentary come from all sides after Obama's gun proposals
Reichert doesn’t offer solution
Rep. Dave Reichert’s column about gun violence reads like what it is: the comments of a politician beholden to the Gun Owners Action League [“Let’s work together on gun control,” Opinion, Jan. 16]. He offers absolutely no concrete or practical solution to this terrible problem.
What makes sense by contrast has long been clear: Every firearm should be registered and every gun owner trained and licensed. Every gun transaction should be recorded.
We of course regulate automobiles exactly this way, and our citizens do not fear that the government is plotting to confiscate their cars. No civilian needs a rifle with a high-capacity magazine. No civilian needs armor-piercing bullets. No civilian needs to walk around in public with a sidearm, concealed or not.
Guns and our insane gun culture now constitute a form of domestic terrorism. There is absolutely no reason this problem should be an intractable one. Solving it will, however, require a bit more than the vapid nonsense offered by Reichert.
--Richard Williams, Wenatchee
Obama cannot negotiate with Republican Congress
I want to take Congressman Dave Reichert at his word when he says he wants to work on bipartisan solutions to stop gun violence, but I’m surprised at his naiveté in suggesting that President Obama can work with the Republican Congress.
After all, there’s nothing stopping Congress from putting forward legislation right now that the president would sign into law. But we all know that Republicans won’t touch anything that might upset the National Rifle Association, and the NRA is fanatically opposed to everything except an unaffordable plan to post armed guards at every school.
It’s telling that Reichert had to go back 14 years to find an example of bipartisanship on gun violence. In fact, there’s no reason to expect Reichert to act any different on this issue than he has on nearly everything else; that is, to speak moderately, but in the end buckle to far-right pressure to oppose whatever the President proposes.
--Rick Kosterman, Seattle
Looking at gun violence as a public-health issue
The Sandy Hook school massacre has revived a long-overdue national debate about guns and violence. If we examine this problem from a public-health perspective, deaths from firearms are now the second most frequent cause of nonnatural deaths (after traffic accidents) in the United States.
When we had high rates of deaths from traffic accidents, regulation of drivers, vehicles, traffic rules and highway construction standards were applied to the problem. The steady application of those regulations reduced the rate of fatal traffic accidents. Implementing systematic regulation of firearms by applying some of the same techniques used in reducing traffic fatalities would similarly reduce firearms deaths.
Frequently, gun-rights advocates assert the Second Amendment grants an unlimited right to possess firearms. If one reads the actual text of the Second Amendment, it is readily apparent that the “right to bear arms” is in the context of a “well-regulated militia.” Given that wording, it seems pretty clear that our Founding Fathers thought regulation of firearms an appropriate power of the federal government. Recent Supreme Court rulings support that interpretation. It’s past time we did so.
--Mike Cornforth, Port Townsend
Mental-health clinicians need fewer restrictions
All of us are concerned about guns getting into the wrong hands. Enhancing background checks seems to be one popular approach.
While it may be easy to determine a purchaser’s criminal history, the clarification of mental health may be all but impossible. Various safeguards exist within our mental-health-care laws that safeguard patient identity. The only exception has to do with “the duty to warn.”
Mental-health clinicians have the responsibility to notify the police and intended victims when they get credible information from a patient of an imminent threat to a specific person or target. These situations are rare and may not be related to the latest series of high profile violent gun attacks.
The real problem may have started early in the 1970s. Back then it was fairly easy for a clinician to have a person detained for evaluation if there was a belief that they were dangerous. There were plenty of public facilities open and staffed for this work.
During the next decade funding was greatly reduced for public diagnostic and evaluation centers. There was also a move to enhance patient rights and liberties. The result was that it became extremely difficult to have someone detained and often even if there was sufficient data to warrant it, there was no facility with available space to do the work.
Many of the people associated with the recent high profile acts of gun violence are psychologically disturbed and some have sought or are in treatment. Many of the clinicians working with them are likely concerned. But in many states, unless the person divulges to the therapist specific plans for harm, no action can legally be taken.
It may be time to revisit the balance between the liberties we have granted to very disturbed individuals and the safeguards to public safety. If we handcuff licensed mental-health professionals to act on their concerns, and if we don’t fund public evaluation centers, we may not be able to get the leverage we need to control the acts of disturbed individuals with guns.
--Edward J. Zoble, Port Angeles
Liberal to liberals: stop gun fanaticism
Let me start by acknowledging that I am a liberal Democrat from King County. I am proud to say that I’ve never voted for a Republican in my life and I never miss a chance to vote. Unfortunately, recent events have left me saddened and shocked at the response of my party and other progressives to the tragedy in Newtown. I am not a progressive because I personally benefit from progressive policies. I am a progressive because I always believed that we were both the empathetic and the logical party.
The new wave of gun-control fanaticism and the refusal of progressives to listen to reason has made me question that belief ["Obama unveils plan to tighten gun laws," page one, Jan. 17]. First, we have 300 guns million in this country right now. Rushing to pass legislation requiring this and that will do nothing to prevent those guns from being used by criminals. After all, they don’t follow the law by definition.
Second, what is an assault rifle? Everyone is talking about banning them, but they are banned already. Without a special federal license, citizens cannot own fully automatic weapons. Period. The rifles everyone seems so concerned about are just black semi-automatic rifles. They have the same mechanism that was in the gun I learned to shoot in the boy scouts when I was 11.
Background checks make sense, as do waiting periods. The last thing gun owners want is some crazy person misusing a firearm. I just don’t understand why we progressives want the government out of our bedrooms but in our closets.
--Ben Hildebrandt, Renton