After being on vacation for only a day, I was informed of the shooting at Clackamas Town Center Mall in Oregon. In a somewhat macabre realization, I thanked God that only two innocent citizens lost their lives. In my line of work, one gets accustomed to the depravities of the human condition; it's easy to grow a calloused shell of emotional self-protection in order to move on, and to compartmentalize the horrors as they arise.
Firearms are often a component of the cases I defend, and consequently I've grown accustomed to the destruction they channel. Regardless, my supposed “shell” was soon shattered: As I prepared to leave the resort, a grotesque scene played out on the monitor in the lobby area. Twenty children had been murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
On the plane ride home, I struggled to make sense of such a cowardly act. I make my living working damage control in these situations. I immediately tried to conceive of some defense, some motive, some anything that could give me a frame of reference regarding the gunman, but it was impossible. No logic can be found in the mouth of madness.
The two recent massacres have brought the issue of gun control front and center once again. We hear the calls for action from both sides — those screaming for tighter gun control and the abolition of the Second Amendment, and those staunch proponents advocating their personal freedoms and unfettered right to bear arms. But the problem can't be addressed by such a strict dichotomy.
The abolition of the Second Amendment would divide this country in half and fly in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court's very recent decisions protecting the right of individuals to own and possess firearms. Still, our high court has made its position very clear: We as citizens do not have a right to keep and carry any weapon we choose in any manner we choose. The right isn't completely unbridled, as evidenced by the numerous prohibitions on who may own firearms. Consequently, how do we sufficiently tighten gun control while keeping in mind the protections of the Constitution?
The ultimate problem is relative to the people. Man is a complex creature. We can try our best to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals, but we can never truly single out every threat. We can monitor prior criminal background, but how many individuals suffer from undiagnosed mental illness and other issues? How can we ensure that weapons, even if legally possessed, won't be stolen or misappropriated further downstream, as seems to be the case in both recent tragedies?
I focus on the adage, “Guns don't kill people; people kill people.” There is no way to adequately regulate insidious character traits that may be quite dynamic and deep-seeded. Even if possible, how much regulation would be enough?
Banner is an attorney at the Oklahoma Legal Group.