Which bad guys can’t be stopped?

Steve Lopez’s column made me wonder this morning. Here’s a quote from one of his interviewees:

“Whether a gun is legal or not, if bad guys want to get it, they’ll get it,” said the shopper. “You can legislate all you want, and it’s not going to stop the bad guys.”

I think this is silly. As regular readers know, I’m not a great fan of legislation, but when we are talking about spree shooters, we’re generally not talking about professional bad guys–the sort of gun-trading black marketeers who trade in everything from humans to drugs to military grade weapons. We’re talking about either a) long-term military gun nuts and b) callow, mentally ill young men. I doubt you’ll stop (a) no matter what. But (b) strike me as much easier to thwart.

With (b) we’re generally talking about severely mentally ill people who, in a state of anguish or delusion, go into their parents’ or uncles’ or grandfathers’ stash of military-grade weapons, or who amass them from online sellers.

I can’t buy wine online in many states. Come on.

Now, I’m pretty sure that raising the bar for access to military grade weapons would probably put a severe dent in one’s ability to act during a schizophrenic episode. Those weapons wouldn’t be sitting at your mom’s gun closet. They’d be harder to get. No, not impossible. But harder. The shooter in Connecticut would have had to have had connections, made a trip out of his little podunk town, amass some serious coin, and do business with pretty scary people. Instead, woohooo! Everything he needed to make his bad mental health day into the worst thing that ever happened to 20 families was right there waiting for him.

I keep hearing the Fox News types say that the shooter’s mother was ‘a responsible gun owner.’ This does not help me. Because if a ‘responsible gun owner’ has a son who can take her guns and kill her and 27 people at a nearby school, then it’s pretty clear that even ‘responsible gun owners’ too easily become part of a very serious problem.

With 300 million guns already in circulation, I have no idea what to do, but making it harder for mentally ill people to act on their illness strikes me as a place to start.

One final note: people who rag on teachers should stop and think about this shooting and just about every single school shooting we’ve ever had from Columbine to Virginia Tech to this one: educators died trying to help their students. Think about it: these people love your kids enough to die for them. It’s always been obvious they love them enough to work at a job with lousy pay and, as far as I can see, absolutely zero respect from a spoiled-brat American population who worship at the feet of the Gordon Geckos of this world and spit on the people who help build the human capital to make markets run. But educators take bullets. It’s not a straightforward job even on the good days. That’s worth honoring.