"But the deeper truth is that [stricter gun control laws] would have made no difference. Does anyone really believe that the (alleged) gun-show loophole had anything to do with Roseburg? Universal background checks sound wonderful. But Oregon already has one. The Roseburg shooter and his mother obtained every one of their guns legally.
As for the only remotely plausible solution, Obama dare not speak its name. He made an oblique reference to Australia, never mentioning that its gun-control innovation was confiscation, by means of a mandatory buyback. There’s a reason he didn’t bring up confiscation (apart from the debate about its actual efficacy in reducing gun violence in Australia). In this country, with its traditions, public sentiment and, most importantly, Second Amendment, them’s fightin’ words.
Obama didn’t say them. Nor did he seriously address the other approach that could make a difference: more aggressive psychiatric intervention. These massacres are almost invariably perpetrated by severely disturbed, isolated, often delusional young men.
Yet even here, our reach is limited. In some cases, yes, involuntary commitment would have made a difference. Jared Loughner, the Tucson shooter, was so unstable, so menacing, that fellow students at his community college feared, said one, that he would “come into class with an automatic weapon.” Under our crazy laws, however, he had to kill before he could be locked up.
Similarly, the Navy Yard shooter had been found by police a few weeks earlier in a hotel room, psychotic and paranoid. They advised him to get psychiatric help. Advised. Predictably, he fell through the mental health cracks. A month later, he killed 12 and was killed himself, another casualty of a mental-health system that lets the severely psychiatrically ill — you see them sleeping on grates — live and die wretchedly abandoned.
The problem is that these mass-murder cases are fairly unusual. Take Roseburg. That young man had no criminal history, no psychiatric diagnosis beyond Asperger’s, no involvement in public disturbances. How do you find, let alone lock up, someone like that?
There are 320 million Americans. Schizophrenia affects about 1 percent of the population. [But most of these mass murderers are NOT schizophrenic.] That’s about 3 million people. Only a tiny fraction are ever violent — and predicting which ones will be is almost impossible. Loner, socially isolated, often immersed in a fantasy world of violent video games. There are myriad such young men out there, but with different ages of onset, in different stages of derangement. Only a handful will ever harm anyone. What to do? Forcibly apprehend them, treat them, put them on perpetual preventive parole? By the tens of thousands?"