The Straits Times
Published on Dec 22, 2012

Don't tar mental illness with gun violence


WHILE the loss of young lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut is a tragic incident that should be dissected thoroughly to ensure it is not repeated, one will be doing the victims a grave injustice to simply link it to America's gun culture, no matter how obvious it might seem at first ("America's senseless gun culture" by Mr Lim Ee Cheong; Wednesday).

It has been revealed that the gunman Adam Lanza may have suffered from a mental disorder and spent hours playing video games.

Just as one does not conflate mental disorder with an isolated incident of violence and stigmatise all the disorder's sufferers, it would be unreasonable to institute gun control as a knee-jerk reaction to the incident.

Likewise, just as the majority of video game players are able to differentiate between reality and fantasy, most gun owners are responsible, law-abiding citizens who would not think of hurting others.

Since no one is calling for video games to be banned, it would be opportunistic of the Democrats to politicise a national tragedy to push their gun control agenda.

Those with criminal intent will always find a way to acquire guns through illegal means, so gun control only has the effect of creating more future victims by taking protection away from those who might otherwise be able to defend themselves.

Studies by criminology professor Gary Kleck of Florida State University have shown that widespread gun ownership has a deterrent effect on crime and leads to lower murder rates.

The Sandy Hook tragedy may have grabbed headlines around the world but what goes unreported are the many defensive gun use incidents that prevented other potential Sandy Hooks. America's gun culture is not as senseless as it seems.

History has shown that the masses have a tendency to hand over their liberties in times of great national tragedy, for example, in Adolf Hitler's Enabling Act after the 1933 Reichstag fire and former US president George W. Bush's Patriot Act after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks.

The US needs to safeguard the Second Amendment, which protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms, and not let Sandy Hook be a precursor to greater disasters even as it mourns the victims.

Tan Si An