The Tragedy in Florida Has Nothing to Do with Guns

Those who are trying to take political advantage of the tragedy in Parkland, Florida to advocate gun control measures seem to be ignoring the fact that the perpetrators of the carnage in that town, as in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut were severely psychiatrically ill and could have chosen other lethal means to cause just as many deaths.

Explosives are one obvious example.  The worst episode of school violence was the Bath School Disaster in 1927, caused by a bomb.  Thirty-eight students were killed.

In 1995, Timothy McVeigh used explosives to kill 168 people at the Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. Between 1978 and 1995, Ted Kaczynski used homemade bombs delivered by mail to kill 3 people and severely injure 23 others.

And it isn’t only explosives that killers can use to murder people.  Back in 1982, 12 people, including a 12-year-old girl, died when someone (who has never been apprehended) poisoned Tylenol capsules with potassium cyanide.

Sadly, I could cite dozens of examples.

But, equally important, gun control advocates also ignore the potential widespread psychological harm that disarming Americans could cause.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote to his nephew Peter Carr in 1785, “A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the Body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind . . . “

The right to bear arms is a critical component of feeling competent and autonomous as individuals, rather than relying on the goodwill of a super-powerful, unassailable government.

A disarmed population is, by definition, a population that has completely ceded the power to defend its homes against local, state or federal authorities. This implies a level of trust much more consistent with that which children have for parents than that which thinking adults have for the institutions they have created to perform vital functions like defending the nation, keeping the peace, maintaining schools and providing clean water.

A disarmed population is allowed the toxic luxury of feeling as though our way of life and our safety from oppression comes without the tremendous responsibilities and moral complexities of wielding force. The same people who passively pay taxes that put tanks on the streets and fighter jets in the skies over our enemies’ nations can cringe at the idea of owning guns themselves — projecting their survival instincts onto an all-powerful father figure (the state).

History is replete with examples of cultures in which taking guns away from law-abiding citizens foreshadowed catastrophic abuses of the power thereby invested in government. One need look no further than Nazi Germany.

While gun control advocates point not only to episodes of terrible violence, but also to the toll of accidental deaths and murders involving firearms, I believe such tragedies highlight the need for citizens to take more personal responsibility for the handguns they own, not any justification for them to be infantilized by banning them from owning handguns at all.

It may well be that putting more—not fewer—guns in the hands of law-abiding American men and women and training them to safely store those guns would actually be one immediate way to immunize the population from feeling like potential victims of the likes of Nikolas Cruz, Adam Lanza and James Holmes among us.

And it may be that putting more—not fewer—guns in the hands of law-abiding American men and women would be a way of immunizing them from feeling like passive participants in history and in safeguarding what we value about our way of life.

The psychological truth is that every gun privately and legally owned in America is a tiny impediment to the citizenry assuming a docile, nearly delusional perspective that the world will always be predictable, that one’s home and loved ones will always be safe and that government will always tend toward light and never toward darkness.

Keith Ablow, MD

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Scott Evans says:

    Thank you. Great points well written. I agree 100%.

  2. Dean Fromkin says:

    Dear Dr. Keith Ablow,
    Thank you for posting your article. I agree with your line of objective reasoning for the position taken. Earlier today I submitted an editorial to the local newspaper for publication and wanted to share it with you and others.

    February 18, 2018


    Professionally Train & Arm Citizens

    The only common sense remedy to stopping an active shooter in a school is professionally trained armed men or women. It is infuriating to think that had this policy been in place at the Parkland High School the massacre might have been averted. It is an uneducated weapons mindset that proponents of banning semi-automatic rifles and pistols, first coined “assault weapons” by the left wing media, will eliminate mass killings by sociopath, crazed, mentally sick individuals. A highly proficient shooter can fire off 16 rounds from a double action revolver, including reload time, in less than five seconds using speed reloaders. So what’s the difference? It is estimated that nationwide up to 600,000 guns are stolen each year supplying criminals in what is referred to as the” Iron Pipeline”. Maniacs bent on mass killings have numerous easily available options to carryout their evil deeds; poison gas is easily manufactured, mowing down crowds with a vehicle, or concocting powerful explosives. Timothy Mc Veigh & Terry Nichols Oklahoma City bombing was successful employing their home brew truck bomb resulting in 168 killed; over 800 injured, destroyed or damaged 324 buildings and 86 cars, costing an estimated 652 million dollars in damages. Florida Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd has the right idea by promoting the training and arming of concealed-carry individuals.

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