More Carnage From Guns; Why?

Jan 17, 2014

Wesley Chapel is upscale. Now the community that spawned Saddlebrook Resort, the home of many tennis greats, joins the list of sites where mindless shootings have erupted.

Marc Yacht, M.D.

There, a moviegoer upset that a man sitting in front of him was texting, shot him dead and wounded his wife.  It turned out the 71-year-old gunman is a retired police captain.

I suspect the gun lobby will defend gun rights. It may suggest that had other patrons in the theater pulled guns, the perpetrator would have been thwarted in his efforts. Perhaps the movie ushers should carry guns. Theater employees could stroll down the aisles ready to shoot or handcuff suspicious characters watching the movie.

The Wesley Chapel tragedy adds to the carnage that Americans have witnessed for decades. The first one I remember is the 1966 Texas University massacre by Charles Whitman, who shot and killed 17 people and wounded 35 more from his perch atop the school bell tower.

Whitman was a former Marine and hunter. He displayed telltale signs of mental illness.

Now, killings by deranged gunmen are commonplace. My recommendations to curb this slaughter remain unchanged:
•    No one should be able to purchase a gun without a comprehensive background check.
•    No one should purchase a gun without completing an approved gun-safety course.
•    All guns should be registered.
•    No military style weapons should be in the hands of the untrained.
•    Magazine capacities should be limited to five rounds.
•    Guns must be purchased through authorized dealers.
•    Severe penalties should be meted out to those who ignore the above policies
•    State mental hospitals and reception centers should be adequately funded and all U.S residents should have access to comprehensive mental health care.

I am not against guns. I own them. As an Army private in basic training during the Vietnam conflict, I trained on many types of weaponry. I practice gun safety at home, keeping them properly secured. Guns are very dangerous in the hands of the untrained or the mentally ill.

What could have prevented this tragedy?

In the weeks to come, we will learn more about the casualties and the shooter. My thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s family; this needless calamity cannot be explained or understood.

Marc Yacht, MD, MPH
marc@marcyacht.com
Retired Director, Pasco County Health Department (2007)