Keeping Guns Out of the Hands of Those Who Would Use Them Illegally


—Richard E. Vatz

     Tell me, intelligent reader, do your eyes glaze when you read the commonsensical-but-meaningless, potentially dangerous and pie-in-the-sky recommendation of this article’s headline?  Do you think, “Well, no one has ever known how to do that even in a limited way beyond background checks for illegal or violent perpetrators, so what exactly are you proposing?”

     Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, not a bad guy if reputation allows accurate inferences, proposes in The Baltimore Sun to combat gun violence with the first refuge historically of politicians who can do nothing about an intractable problem, in this case disarming dangerous people: we must “ensure the protection of our citizens…[including the major step of] effective diagnosis and treatment of mental illness…[w]e need more people aware of the signs of mental illness and what can be done to help…tak[ing] a fresh look at our options to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental illness.”

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     In the April 4, 2013 The Washington Times I wrote: “…some politicians and opportunistic psychiatrists want…to scare the public into believing that we can prevent mass murders through better diagnosing of [mental illness] sufferers…[a]nyone can be diagnosed with mental illness if he goes to the right — or wrong — psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker…[d]o we want to hold a million people or so in preventive detention? We could do that, but even though we would be violating their constitutional rights, there is no reason to believe we could stop the periodic mass murderer.”

       Let’s assume that Mr. Ulman believes what he writes because he hasn’t studied the matter.  His ignorance of the subject doesn’t relieve him of the responsibility for leading credulous people to believe that his proposal is more than just political posturing.

    In a one-party state politicians can present worthless and meaningless solutions with impunity.  Let’s hope that someone running for governor will point out the worthlessness — albeit a danger to civil liberties —  of Mr. Ulman’s proposed solution for gun violence.

     Perhaps it will be a gubernatorial opponent who cares about the problems facing Maryland and not just symbolically looking like one who cares.

     Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2012, 2013)

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