A law enforcement officer aims his rifle to a building...

A law enforcement officer aims his rifle to a building as he responds to a reported shooting at an entrance to the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, DC. (Sept. 16, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

After the recent shooting tragedy in Washington, politicians and pundits will inevitably renew the chant that weak gun control laws are responsible ["30 deadly minutes," News, Sept. 20].

But are weak gun controls to blame? Or are other government laws and rules facilitating the violent actions by mentally ill people? Blaming guns for the action of insane individuals is like blaming cars for drunken driving.

There are two serious loopholes in federal law that open the door for insane persons to buy guns. Every gun purchaser must pass a National Instant Criminal Background Check. However there are strict privacy rules to protect those who are mentally ill. Mentally ill people can be excluded from the background-check database for many reasons, including that they have not been convicted of a crime.

Washington shooter Aaron Alexis had several arrests for weapons violations. That, combined with his mental illness and poor military record, should have prevented him from purchasing weapons, or from receiving a security clearance to work at the military base.

But because Alexis was a civilian employee, his arrest record didn't come to light -- another federal rule that helped him.

Maybe it's time to look more closely at some of the privacy laws. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." Maybe we can paraphrase: Your right to privacy ends where a threat to my life begins.

Richard H. Staudt, Mount Sinai

It is sad that the strongest country in the world is unable to control killings of its own innocent citizens!

This raises questions regarding the pattern of treatment of people who are mentally ill in this country. Why are the therapists not picking up the warning signs? Either the mentally troubled ones are not able to pay for treatment, or the therapists are not assessing the patients properly or emphasizing the need for appropriate therapy.

Even if the individual decides not to see the therapist as recommended, the therapist should take responsibility to mandate therapy. It is time to retrospectively study the lapses in the psychiatric treatment of all the mass murderers. The families and friends need to cooperate and not believe they have no business forcing treatment on a mentally suffering individual.

It is also time to look into the statistics of violence with firearms by mentally disturbed individuals in other countries.

Dr. Sharada Jyagopal, East Williston


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