Only blocking access to assault weapons will result in less mass fire
July 4, Independence Day, is America’s most sacred holiday. But this year it’s the 4th of Julyethe celebrations have been infected and desecrated by a unique American disease – the mass shootings.
The action of a solo shooter/murderer in Highland Park highlights the futility of reducing and ending the epidemic of gun violence in the United States by recently passed “bipartisan” gun legislation . It will not now and perhaps never significantly reduce gun violence.
In 2019, Highland Park Police were called to the home of the would-be shooter when a family member got scared. Police took 16 knives, a dagger and a sword but returned them the same day to his father, who told them he had stored them in his son’s cupboard.
The future shooter denied to police that he planned to hurt anyone. Highland Park Police notified Illinois State Police, who entered information into a database but did not use the information. Five months later, with the sponsorship of his father, the future shooter bought an assault rifle.
The Highland Park shooter’s easy access to purchasing guns highlights the weakness of “red flag” laws. They are intended to identify individuals who have demonstrated a loss of self-control.
The environment most likely to observe such breakdowns is the family. When the police are called and engage family members who have called for help to allay their fears, they frequently change their stories.
What was before the police call a major dispute requiring law enforcement intervention becomes a simple misunderstanding between family members. The potentially dangerous family member denies any plans for hostile action. The police leave and file a report, and nothing happens.
Highland Park is just one example of communities around our country. Every community has individuals who feel estranged from society and are cared for by family members who resent or may encourage their anger. They see no danger to others.
The red flag laws have not and will not prevent many of these people from obtaining deadly weapons.
The shooter’s parents’ opinions of their son provided by their attorney dramatically reveal how a family can distort their perception of family members and themselves. This view is particularly poignant when one recalls that they twice called the police for assistance in addressing concerns about their son and their own safety.
They saw no warning signs. To them, he was just their son. He was a bit eccentric. He was into music. He was into art. But to them, he was just their son, and there weren’t really any red flags. They omit other facts: that he was into assault weapons, that he had access to knives, and that he had attempted suicide.
American gun violence is an infectious disease that manifests itself only within the borders of the United States. The infectious agent is an assault weapon.
Just as the only protection against COVID-19 is a vaccination that protects us from the virus, the only effective action against mass shootings is an action, a vaccination, that controls access to assault weapons.
Only blocking assault weapon access will result in a reduction in mass fire. As with COVID when anti-vaxxers prevent effective treatment, assault weapons kill people. These weapons are of no use to civilians.
In the future, we will have to tell a child, orphaned at 2, what happened to his parents during the American holidays.
Dr. Sidney Weissman is a clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral health at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.