To prevent mass murders, the United States needs to follow the lead of all other advanced industrial nations; while preserving the rights of hunters, we need to enact common sense laws limiting the sale of combat weapons. David Montgomery’s article on February 23rd, by straying into armchair psychoanalysis, irrelevant constitutional arguments and uninformed enforcement arguments confuse the debate and offers no solutions.
“Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the United States’ gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher,” states Carey Templeton, Associated Press. Gun deaths in the US are 50 times higher than in Britain, ten times higher than Australia, five times higher than France, and six times higher than Sweden. Australia, which has a hunting culture similar to our own, once had a gun death rate similar to ours. In 1996, it enacted strict laws forbidding the sale of automatic combat weapons. Australia’s gun death rate is now ten times lower than the United States. Maryland has enacted similar common-sense gun laws which limit the purchase of combat weapons but allow hunters to enjoy their sport. We need to expand these laws to the entire nation.
David Montgomery wanders off into armchair psychoanalysis and tries to link the mental disfunction of the killer at Stonemason Douglas High School with liberal philosophy, a common tactic of the National Rifle Association. This is ridiculous. The motives of Mr. Cruz are not and will not be known for some time. They are quite different from the motives of the murderers in San Bernardino, Las Vegas, and Orlando. The truth is that our mental health professionals are not at a point where they can reliably predict who will become a mass murderer and who will not. Tying prevention of mass murders to mental health prediction will not prevent more school children from dying.
Common sense gun laws are not a Constitutional issue, as Mr. Montgomery implies. Yes, Americans have the right to bear arms, but the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld laws which limit this right. Thompson submachine guns, as used by Al Capone, were outlawed in 1934, and the law outlawing them was upheld by the Supreme Court in the United States v. Miller in 1939. Maryland’s own gun laws were challenged and upheld by the Supreme Court last November. Common sense laws limiting the purchase of combat weapons are not a Constitutional issue.
Montgomery asserts that better enforcement would lower gun deaths. He is correct on this point, yet he seems unaware that the National Rifle Association, whose views he echoes, has worked quietly to limit enforcement of existing gun laws. The NRA originally opposed national background checks, opposed adding terrorists to the National Criminal Background Check System and has consistently advocated limiting funding to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives which enforces the gun laws. Better enforcement of laws like Maryland’s gun laws would help reduce mass murder, but in Florida, the 19-year-old Cruz was legally able to purchase an AR-15 with no checks at all. In Florida, better enforcement will not stop the killing of school children.
Preventing mass murders from combat weapons is not a mystery. All other industrialized nations have lowered their murder rates by enacting common sense laws limiting the purchase of these weapons. These rifles belong in combat, not in our schools.
Carl Widell is a local businessman. His daughters, Svetlana and Katya, graduated from St. Michaels High School. As a lieutenant, Mr. Widell led Marines in combat who carried the military equivalent of the AR-15 combat rifle.