Guns Don't Kill People...Er, Actually...

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THE TREATMENT NOVEMBER 13, 2009

Guns Don't Kill People...Er, Actually...

People continue to debate what motivated Nidal Malik Hasan to kill so many people at Fort Hood. The discerning education writer Kevin Carey captured the basic puzzle by asking whether Hasan was:

1) An Islamist lunatic murdered a bunch of people he saw as the enemy /oppressor

2) A angry and deeply disturbed employee who gathered up a bunch of guns and ammo, went to his workplace, and embarked on an indiscriminate killing spree.

Was Hasan the first who happened to be the second or the second who happened to be the first?

I don’t know the mixture of motivations and the degree of active planning that went into this atrocity. Maybe the Army or the FBI should have anticipated this. After the fact, there are nearly always warning signs that might have been spotted, actions that might have been taken. These questions must be investigated, making sue allowance for the inherent difficulty of predicting abhorrent behavior.

Whether Hasan was an Al Qaeda mole, a freelance terrorist, or just a mentally disturbed guy, there is one common element to the story: He could not have butchered so many people without his well-equipped quartermaster corps down at the local Guns Galore. Without breaking the law or spending more than $1,000, he apparently bought a particularly lethal semiautomatic pistol, an FN 5.7, at the local gun store. A particular favorite of Mexican criminals, this gun features reloadable 20-round magazines that make it easier to shoot dozens of people in a few minutes.

There will always be sociopaths, insane people, fanatics, and terrorists. We offer an all-too-easy supply chain for whatever bad business they choose to conduct. More vigorous federal and state regulatory policies and background investigation would increase the odds that authorities could detect and stop people bent on mayhem.

Gun policy seems both boring and off-the-table these days. There are many reasons for this. Whatever the reasons, our bipartisan failure to enact sensible public health and law enforcement policies allows thousands of needless homicides to occur every year. The faces of those beautiful people killed at Fort Hood remind us of the accompanying human price.

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