Guy W. Farmer: Crazy people with guns

Justice was served last Tuesday when a Reno jury found 45-year-old John Gillane guilty of attempted murder and related charges for opening fire at a Reno Walmart on Nevada Day 2010, wounding three of his workplace supervisors.

Gillane's conviction gave some measure of satisfaction to his victims and reminded us of the horrific September Carson City IHOP shooting spree that left five people dead. Gillane could spend the rest of his life in prison, and whoever supplied guns to the deranged IHOP shooter, 32-year-old Eduardo Sencion, should suffer a similar fate.

Both Gillane and Sencion, who killed himself, suffered from mental health issues, which raises a pertinent question: How do mentally unstable people obtain guns? Sencion had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Gillane, who claimed that he didn't intend to kill his Walmart supervisors even though he shot at them (huh?), told police that he needed psychiatric treatment for "anxiety-related issues."

So how can we keep guns out of the hands of crazy people? Although I don't advocate new gun control measures, I would like to see better and stricter enforcement of existing gun laws. Clearly, we should be seeking ways to keep guns away from potential killers - deranged individuals who open fire on innocent people in public places.

Many have wondered how Sencion was able to buy an AK47-style assault weapon after his mental health diagnosis? We could ask the same question about other dubious characters who obtained similar weapons, including the mental patient who shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona early this year; the deeply troubled Army psychiatrist who went on a killing spree at Fort Hood, Texas, last year; and the nut case who killed eight people in a Seal Beach, Calif., hair salon last month. How did these misfits obtain personal arsenals?

"We take it as a fact of life that sick people will obtain guns," a Reno newspaper editorial opined, "and we won't be able to prevent them from killing someone." In fact, we can't even discuss the issue without raising a huge ruckus. That's why this column will provoke angry reactions from some of my gun-toting friends. Sorry about that.

The mere idea of attempting to keep guns out of the hands of crazy people will trigger a knee-jerk reaction from the National Rifle Association, which opposes any changes to current gun laws, arguing that "guns don't kill people - people kill people." Well, people with guns kill people.

While the Second Amendment guarantees the right of citizens "to keep and bear arms," I don't think that amendment applies to mentally ill citizens.

Unfortunately, as that recent editorial noted, "Americans are so polarized on gun issues that they're afraid to even sit down and talk" about gun control, "so the debate has been reduced to little more than competing bumper-stickers." And that's a shame because we need to find ways to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

• You won't be surprised to learn that Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, isn't a Gun Guy.


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