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OP-ED | Mind Control Needed More Than Gun Control

by Terry D. Cowgill | Dec 28, 2012 4:30am
(8) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Civil Liberties, Opinion, Newtown

In the aftermath of the worst mass shooting of school children in U.S. history, Connecticut and the nation are embarking on an arduous journey every American hopes will lead us to a better place. Never before in my memory has an incident of deadly violence shaken this nation to its core and forced us to confront the lethal realities of mental health and access to weapons of easy slaughter.

Before the victims of the Newtown massacre were even identified, there were emotional calls on social media for an outright ban on ownership of firearms by anyone other than police or the military. Sorry folks. You’d need a constitutional amendment to accomplish that feat. I think the Second Amendment is pretty clear on that subject:

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Some have interpreted the militia clause to mean that only the authorities should be armed, which raises the question of whether you think the clause is proscriptive or descriptive. Note that the first words following the clause are “the right of the people,” not “the right of the militia.” When the Bill of Rights was adopted in 1791, the people were the militia. And just try mustering the necessary votes for a Second Amendment repeal (2/3 majorities in both houses of Congress and ratification by 40 states). In a word, it will never happen.

On the other hand, the courts have consistently ruled — and I think rightly so — that reasonable gun control measures are fair game. So I have no problem with banning military-style attack weapons, armor-piercing bullets, and oversized ammunition clips. But I wouldn’t want it to lull us into a false sense of security.

Banning semi-automatic rifles and pistols of the sort used so mercilessly at Sandy Hook Elementary will save some lives. There are, however, an estimated 300 million firearms already in circulation. Bushmasters and AK-47s would no doubt continue to be manufactured in other countries. And a lot of foreign-made guns would surely find their way into the U.S. black market in the same way heroin and cocaine currently do. To paraphrase an old saying, where there’s a demand, there’s a way.

We could also tinker around the edges. Sen. Beth Bye and Rep. Bob Godfrey have proposed, among other measures, a 50-percent tax on ammunition. But if you’re really determined to get ammo without paying a confiscatory tax, it would probably be worth it to travel beyond Connecticut’s borders to a neighboring state with a lower ammo sales tax. What, then, would be the effect of such a tax beyond adding a few dollars to the state treasury?

So what kinds of solutions are offered by the National Rifle Association? The nation’s largest gun lobby, perhaps best known for its clever rhetorical branding (“Guns don’t kill; people do”), has sidestepped the issue of gun control and instead blamed Hollywood and violent video game producers. Perhaps the NRA should consider a rebranding: “Guns don’t kill; the media do.”

However, unlike a lot of my friends on the left, I don’t think the NRA’s proposal to put an armed guard in every school is completely off the wall. Now I wouldn’t want to see a $10-an-hour security guard roaming the halls with a pistol. But a police officer specially trained in disarming tactics could very well serve as a deterrent to the Adam Lanzas of this world. After all, so many of these mass killers choose soft targets such as schools, movie theaters, and places of worship. Besides, guess who first proposed making federal money available for armed guards in schools? Hint: it was a Democrat who happened to be president in 1998.

While it’s true that Columbine High School, scene of the worst school-child shooting before Sandy Hook, had a sheriff’s deputy stationed inside the school who was unable to prevent the attack, the Columbine assault was atypical. Instead of a lone gunman, there were two attackers armed not only with multiple firearms, but with almost 100 pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails.

Even if a police officer in every school might limit or prevent such attacks, where would we get the money to pay them? No, I think our resources are best spent on mental health. Forty years ago we made the humane decision to close most of our mental hospitals, give the patients medications, and shift them to residential settings. The problem was that people didn’t want halfway houses in their neighborhoods. So, too often the violently mentally ill simply languish until, if their desperate caretakers are lucky, they get nabbed and become part of the criminal justice system.

Perhaps we could ramp up our old mental hospitals. Or establish a network of halfway houses in sparsely populated areas. How to pay for it, you ask? Let’s start with releasing the non-violent substance abusers clogging up the criminal justice system and taking up space in our prisons. Call it the Newtown Manifesto: replace the feckless war on drugs with the campaign to contain future mass murderers.

Terry Cowgill blogs at, is the editor of and was an award-winning editor and senior writer for The Lakeville Journal Company. He can be found on Twitter @terrycowgill.

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(8) Comments

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | December 28, 2012  2:26pm

Well done. A very thoughtful approach to the issue and I agree wholeheartedly. The gun issue needs to be approached with a balanced and intellectual mindset. The truth of the matter is, although I can see merit in the position that assault rifles and large magazines should be discussed, the real problem is the transformation of society over the past generation or so and the influence that ever present violence on tv, in the movies, in video gaming and so on has had on the collective us.

Taxing bullets and banning certain weapons at the state level will do nothing but hurt responsible gun owners.


posted by: ACR | December 28, 2012  3:09pm


>>While it’s true that Columbine High School, scene of the worst school-child shooting before Sandy Hook, had a sheriff’s deputy stationed inside the school….

He wasn’t even on the premises when the attack began.

I attended Jefferson County Public Schools from 1956 through 1967 and can recall it was common to notice various teachers and other staff carrying pistols. It was considered normal as there were only 6 Sheriff’s cruisers on the road at any given time and the county, while among the smaller ones in Colorado is still over half the size of the state of Rhode Island.

Columbine occurred after schools were declared “gun free”.
What sort of convoluted thinking that went into that I’ll never grasp.

posted by: Terry D. Cowgill | December 28, 2012  6:03pm

Terry D. Cowgill

Thanks HST.

Ok, ACR. I stand corrected. The deputy was not inside the school but in the parking lot. I fail to see how that makes a big difference, but you got me.

You are correct, however, that the concept of gun-free schools has been proven to be a complete joke.

posted by: BHirsh | December 28, 2012  6:34pm

“On the other hand, the courts have consistently ruled — and I think rightly so — that reasonable gun control measures are fair game. So I have no problem with banning military-style attack weapons, armor-piercing bullets, and oversized ammunition clips.”

Not so fast, there, Terry.

While it’s true that the Heller opinion held that certain regulations were permissible, banning semiautomatic weapons and their magazines isn’t one of them.

In 1994, the D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago decisions didn’t exist. There was no judicial barrier to passing one. Now, it is precedent that a) the people have an individual fundamental right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes not dependent upon militia service, b) that holding has been incorporated to the states, and c) Justice Scalia (in the Heller holding) clarified what the U.S. v. Miller (1939) decision actually said.

Miller established a two-pronged test to define just what types of arms are subject to Second Amendment protection. It held that small arms “in common use” that “bear[s] some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia” enjoy constitutional protection. Semiautomatic rifles and pistols meet both prongs of this test, hence they are proscribed from any government ban.  Since the primary purpose enumerated in the amendment is to place the people in parity with government forces viz small arms, standard-capacity magazines (erroneously dubbed “high-capacity ammunition clips”) are protected as well because they are design components integral to the efficiency of the weapons.  In other words, the very things that are now scary to the uninitiated are those the amendment was written to protect.

Like it or not, this is the state of the law.

Feinstein and Obama don’t want you to know that, though. They want to pass one and let us fight to have it thrown out in court. Which it would be.

Which brings us to the main point: It isn’t constitutional, therefore it shouldn’t exist in the first place, no matter what emotional motivation is responsible for it.

posted by: ACR | December 28, 2012  10:07pm


>>...concept of gun-free schools has been proven to be a complete joke.


Simply repeal Gun Free Zones and most of the problem will go away on it’s own.

posted by: Paul Bartomioli | December 29, 2012  7:53am

Paul Bartomioli

“So I have no problem with banning military-style attack weapons, “

Stop right there.  What is this firearm you want to ban?  It is a semiautomatic rifle in a black plastic stock with cosmetic features that some politicians and most of the “media” decide make it a “weapon of choice.”  As far as firearm functionality, it works the same as the sainted “hunting rifle that no one wants to ban.”

Let’s have some fun.  Terry Cowgill bought a new car. It is a Rolls Royce.  However, being of the 4th
Estate, such a vehicle is frowned upon by his peers.  So, he removes the iconic grille and replaces it with a piece of plastic.  He removes the hood ornament. Any accessories that mark it as a Rolls Royce.  Does Terry still own a Rolls or not?

In like manner, Senator Dianne Feinstein, she of the CCW permit for San Francisco and the State of California Hypocrite Society, will “strengthen” the bill she will introduce by limiting the bad features to only 1 item, instead of 3/4, 2/3 or some other number.  It is still a semiautomatic rifle or pistol, functioning just the same as Saint Hunting Rifle. Terry, you really believe this will work?  I know DiFi is lying; what about you?

posted by: Chien DeBerger | December 29, 2012  11:12am

Thanks Terry, as a police officer for 32+ years in Connecticut, the “lockdown” policy of schools have been a failure. We don’t lock the kids in the school when it is burning down, why keep them in the building with a mass murderer preying on those cowering in the classroom? Moving targets are a lot harder to hit then what the mass murderer had in Sandy Hook.
Ultimately, society has devolved in its value of human life. When was the last time we have seen such an out cry for those 69 million children aborted since the Roe decision? Until the emphasis is placed back on the importance of the nuclear family (a mother and a father in a household) we will continue to see this mayhem whether it be with a firearm, edged weapon or motor vehicle (The last two methods just occurred in China). The nuclear family has been created to provide the environment to raise children to be responsible and productive members of society. We as a nation has strayed way off course and are now rotting from the inside. Banning the AR15 platform rifle or magazine sizes is not the answer. Anyone with a minimal knowledge of firearms would know this.
With Columbine, police tactics were to treat the situation as a hostage event. Contain and negotiate, that is why the agency did not act as we do now. That event had Law Enforcement change their tactics to active shooter response. But if you look at the history of early intervention of mass shooting events, it is always an armed off duty LEO or citizen who is on the scene when the shooting begins that ends the event successfully. Changing C.G.S. 53-217b; which prohibits me as an off-duty police officer from carrying my sidearm in my child’s school would be a start. Allow those faculty and staff who can legally carry and want to; should be allowed. God help our country.

posted by: Joebigjoe | December 31, 2012  5:57pm

Chien is 10000000 percent right