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Opinion: America’s mentally unhealthy gun culture

Recent bill missed the collective mental deficiency of a culture which worships the power of guns…

  • By Rich Moniak
  • Friday, July 8, 2022 6:46pm
  • Opinion

By Rich Moniak

On Monday, I marched in the Fourth of July Parade with Moms Demand Action, a national grassroots movement advocating for sensible “public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence.” A few hours earlier at a parade in Highland Park, Illinois, a gunman — it’s almost always a man — opened fire and killed seven people. Thirty others were wounded, including 8-year-old twin boys, one of whom had his spine severed.

After police arrested a 21-year-old male suspect, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, proclaimed the “problem is mental health and these young men who seem to be inspired to commit these atrocities. So, I think the bill that we passed targeted the problem.”

The bill McConnell referred to is the bipartisan Safer Communities Act. In aiming at the mental health of individuals though, it missed the collective mental deficiency of a culture which worships the power of guns and the absolute right for almost anyone to own as many as they want, including the semiautomatic weapons used in shootings like this.

The Safer Communities Act did move the gun violence debate a few steps in the right direction. Background checks for firearms purchasers under the age of 21 must now include a review of juvenile records. People who repeatedly buy and sell firearms “to predominantly earn a profit” must now register as “federal firearm licensees” and perform all required background checks. It closed the “boyfriend loophole” regarding gun possession of domestic violence offenders. And it established federal grants for states to run crisis intervention programs and manage red flag programs.

But in this tragedy, it seems none of that would have made a difference.

In 2019, a family member alleged the suspect in Monday’s shooting, Robert “Bobby” Crimo III, had threatened to “kill everyone.” The complaint led to the Highland Police to transmit a report to the Illinois State Police that classified Crimo as a “clear and present danger.”

A few months after the incident, Crimo’s father signed a consent form so his son could apply for the Firearm Owners Identification Card needed to purchase guns or ammunition. The Illinois State Police approved it. During the next three years, the younger Crimo legally purchased five weapons, including Smith & Wesson M&P 15 semiautomatic rifle he fired into the crowd on Monday.

Remember the Michigan school shooting last year. That tragedy occurred after the parents of a 15-year-old boy gave him a semiautomatic 9-millimeter Sig Sauer as an early Christmas present. He was with his father when the gun was purchased. A few days later a teacher reported that the boy was searching for ammunition online. His mother responded by telling him she wasn’t mad about that. “You have to learn not to get caught” she said in her text message.

Then there’s the case of Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old who had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In 2012, he shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, in their Connecticut home. Adam Lanza then took her Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. After murdering 20 first-graders and six adults, he killed himself with her Glock 20SF.

The investigation revealed Nancy Lanza legally owned a least a dozen firearms. They found more than 1,400 rounds of ammunition in her home. And there was evidence that she took her son to multiple shooting ranges.

It’s important to remember that in America, people are innocent until a jury finds them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That applies to the young men accused of mass murder and the parents who are somehow implicated in their heinous acts.

At the same time, it’s incredibly irresponsible not to ask how America’s revered gun rights might have affected the disastrous decisions these parents made. It’s no less irresponsible not to question how that culture might have influenced the many other mass shootings in which young men walked into a gun shop and legally bought their murder weapon themselves.

And let’s not forget that there wasn’t due process for people robbed of life and liberty by a bullet and a gun. Or for their surviving family members whose pursuit of happiness has been forever defiled.

Only a narcissistic culture would prioritize those unalienable rights behind the right for an individual to keep and bear arms. It also exhibits adolescent behavior by expecting full immunity from judgments related to mass shootings.

And until Congress stops acquiescing to that culture, the mission of Moms Demand Action will remain an American imperative.

• Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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