When public support for gun control peaked after the Newtown mass murder, the National Rifle Association decided to double down.
The NRA called in all its political chips to vigorously and successfully block even the mildest and most sensible of gun reform intended to limit easy access to military style weapons and ammo.
Instead, the NRA offered its own novel analysis of the problem and proposed its own gun friendly solution. It spread the word that our astoundingly high murder rate is not facilitated by the fact that we pack 300 million guns. No, the problem is just the opposite -- the U.S. has too few guns. The best way to prevent mass murder in the schools would be to arm the teachers and the security guards.
The recurrent shootings at Fort Hood have been met with the same 'the-best-defence-is-a-good-offense' NRA strategy. According to the Alice In Wonderland NRA logic, we need to repeal existing laws that restrict guns on military bases and make sure every soldier is armed at all times.
And, following the same logic, the way to make our offices, streets, and homes safer is to achieve a world in which everyone is armed and dangerous.
The necessary corollary to the NRA pitch is that anyone who does kill with a gun must have been crazy. So the solution to the violence problem is not to control the guns -- instead, it is to identify and control the crazy people who are the only ones who misuse them.
The National Rifle Association propaganda has it all wrong. Most violent acts are committed by people who are not crazy. And even when mental illness does play a role, we do not have the tools to identify which person will go berserk or prevent it from happening. Mental health professionals can predict high risk groups, but can't pick out which specific guy is about to go haywire. Murder is too much a-needle in-the-haystack rare event to ever be reliably prevented with psychiatric tools.
Only one thing is predictable with statistical certainty. If there are more guns in the schools, streets, offices, military bases, and homes. more of them will be fired and more people will be killed.
If we arm all the teachers and security guards, the most likely school mass murderers will be teachers or guards who flip out and turn their guns in the wrong direction.This is not a case where we can fight fire with more fire.
Instead, we need sensible laws that allow responsible gun ownership while reducing the odds of wild west shoot-em-ups. A reckless arms race that makes guns ubiquitous will kill those meant to be protected.
Allen Frances MD is Professor Emeritus at Duke University and former Chair of its Department of Psychiatry. He was Chair of the DSM IV Task Force.