Saturday, April 16, 2011

That Shooting in the Netherlands

A scholar studying gun control issues in the Netherlands tells me that local news coverage indicates the shooter had been diagnosed schizophrenic, hospitalized for ten days after a suicide attempt, and had apparently stopped receiving treatment.  Weirdest of all, since the Netherlands has very strict gun control laws--his gun permit was not revoked after his commitment, diagnosis, and at least one suicide attempt.

I do not think that there is much merit to restrictive gun control laws.  For ordinary criminals, they clearly do not work.  For the mentally ill, they have the potential to work at the margins, perhaps disarming a few people with serious mental illness problems who should not have guns.  However, a recurring problem is that even societies with very strict gun control systems--do not seem to work very well.  Hamilton, the guy who committed the horrifying Dunblane Massacre in the 1990s had a license to own several handguns.  Yet, he was well-known to the police as a pedophile, was not a member of a gun club (as Britain's very strict gun control laws required), and there had been a number of complaints by parents that the guy seemed unhealthily interested in little boys. 

In a discretionary license issuance system like Britain, this should have been the last person who would have qualified for a license to possess a handgun.  It has been suggested that Hamilton's pedophilia may have actually helped him to get a permit--with some dark suggestions that he had similar interests with a number of police officials in the area.  There have been other hints and clues that indicate that perhaps being a member of a fraternal organization with some of the police officials of the area may have helped him to skip the rules that would otherwise have applied.  We don't know, because nearly all the records were sealed for 75 years, ostensibly to protect children that Hamilton had abused.  I suspect that it was really about protecting police officials from answering questions about how this guy had a license.

Similarly, the Martin Bryant mass murder in Australia some years back also involved some very questionable decisions by local police.  At least two people died under at least suspicious circumstances, leaving Martin Bryant enough money to be independently wealthy.  One was his father, who was found stabbed, shot, and weighted down with diving weights in a pond.  That was ruled suicide. 

The other was an elderly woman who Bryant was apparently a gigolo for, who died in a car accident.  Bryant was in the car at the time of the accident--and there were witnesses who said that the old lady had said that Bryant would sometimes playfully jerk the steering wheel away from her while driving.  This was ruled an accident.

In both cases, Bryant inherited significant amounts of money from these dead people--and police seemed not even slightly prepared to investigate any deeper.

Restrictive gun control systems are a bad thing--but there is something worse: and that is when these restrictive systems are not obeyed.  Some people look for deep conspiracies to explain this: "The Illuminati are arranging for world wide gun control!"  But there is a simpler explanation: corruption and cronyism prevents these systems from working, and when a tragedy happens, the solution is not to look at police corruption, but at stricter gun control laws.

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