Just a note to gun enthusiasts: thank you for your sudden and deep concern for mental health issues in our country. No really. Thank you so much.
It seems that every time someone uses firearms to murder people (nine in Charleston, twenty-six in Sandy Hook, twelve in Aurora, thirteen in Littleton, etc.) gun enthusiasts express their outrage at the state of mental health in America. I’m pretty sure they don’t do this on a daily basis or implore some big lobbying group like the NRA to fight for better psychiatric care, but whenever someone picks up a gun and goes “crazy” with it, then it’s time once again to deal with “craziness.”
It’s not easy. With over 300 million firearms in civilian ownership in the U.S. and over fifty million guns manufactured or imported and sold in the U.S over the past seven years, it’s impossible to keep anyone, sane or insane, from simply stumbling over one. (see HBO’s Requiem for the Dead for the depressing proof.)
But what if…what if we instituted some sort of prohibitive tax on guns and ammunition, a tax so high that no sane person would pay it. For instance, a pack of cigarettes costs roughly thirty times what it did back in the sixties and now fewer people smoke. Economic hardship can be an effective deterrent. But a gun that cost about $100 in 1970 now costs $500—only five times as much. If it had gone up commensurately with the “dangerous and deadly” cigarettes, one might be paying $3,000 for a handgun, or $21,000 for an AK-47. If you’re willing to spend $21,000 on a gun (and you don’t work for the Defense Department, you’d have to be crazy. If you’re crazy, you can’t have a gun. That would probably mean some rudimentary background checks, but hey, if you’re upset at the “craziness,” that’s a small price to pay.
As for the recent terrorist act in Charleston: I did read the assertion that anyone with a bomb could have done just as much damage. Maybe, but when I look in the vacant eyes of Dylann Roof, I don’t see someone who could have constructed a bomb without blowing himself up, or even found a way to obtain a bomb…without blowing himself up. I do however see someone whose birthday money would have been insufficient to buy a thousand-dollar weapon, and to whom the gun dealer would have said (and should have said) “you’re crazy if you think I’m selling you a gun.”
Some cynics might claim that gun enthusiasts are keeping the mental health of Americans in the forefront to ensure that the real problem keeps getting buried. But you’d have to be crazy to believe that…and if so, sorry—you can’t have a gun either.