Saturday, July 20, 2013

On Waxman's Open Forum on Gun Violence

Congressman Henry Waxman hosted a forum on gun violence, mental health, and community restoration in Santa Monica on July 15. Joining him were his liberal colleagues LA County Board Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, along with state Senator Ted Lieu (whose new senate district includes Santa Monica ), followed by Santa Monica Mayor Pat O’Connor. From Washington, Pamela Hyde of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration joined the forum, along with Jacqueline Seabrooks, Santa Monica’s Chief of Police, who had previously served as police  chief for crime-ridden Inglewood. Dr. Nancy Greenstein, the Chair of the Board of Trustee for Santa Monica College, followed by Suzanne Verge, Los Angeles Chapter representative of the Brady Campaign to end Gun Violence, also attended.

The company of experts and activists discussed the causes, consequences, and potential cures for the gun massacre on June 7, 2013 in which assailant John Zawahri  killed five people and wounded three more, including staff at Santa Monica City College. Young John Zawahri had been committed in 2006 following a perverse perusal of assault weapons online in 2006. Five years later, he attempted to purchase a firearm, yet following a background check, he was denied the purchased. He then assembled a firearm using parts of a gun, so that his order could circumvent loopholes in California law. A troubled youth, isolated and unable to reach out, apparently lashed out.

Regarding gun violence, Congressman Waxman, his legislative colleagues, and the city leaders who joined him in the public forum should have discussed the merits of expanding gun ownership, not just restricting access to guns. The appalling attention paid to controlling the guns should have dissuaded any serious policy expert from continuing along this hollow path of inquiry. Previous safeguards to prevent gun violence had already been implemented, and yet Zawahri still got a gun. The same sad reality that men and women can remain undetected for long periods of time yet engage in violent acts still eludes the talking heads and reasoning minds of our time. The shooter in Aurora, Colorado had passed every background check to purchase a firearm, and he had no record of mental illness. No matter how many laws our local, state, and federal governments may pass, the evil in men’s hearts can still motivate them to circumvent those laws, arm themselves, and commit crimes.

The premise of many liberals, and one fully manifest among the civic leaders and activists in the July 15 forum, is that human beings and human interactions are perfectible. They refuse to recognize the fallen nature of mankind. No matter how enlightened, no matter how educated, man’s propensity to commit crime, to engage in evil cannot be preempted perfectly. This is a fallen earth, yet the progressive impulse evident in Santa Monica leaders still resists accepting this fool-proof premise. Of course, Santa Monica’s city motto reads on its seal: Populis felix in urbis felic: “Happy people in a happy city”. The assumption that the right government, the proper laws, and effective civic policies will end gun crimes is just ludicrous. Santa Monicans should take note and recall the most repeated phrase at the forum: “It could have been worse.” Rather than focusing on what went wrong, public responses to gun violence need to see what went right: armed personnel subdued Zawahri, stopped the carnage from further Advancing.

Yet instead of recognizing the failures of this fallen world, the forum continued with the unspoken premise of “people are basically good” with right laws and proper interventions. Congressman Waxman suggested “Friendship circles” for our youth, so that they won’t be bullied, then become bullies. For Congressman Waxman is an expert on bullying. His tenure in Congress of shutting down colleagues and blocking dissent in other public forums is well-known. The panel discussed mental illness at length, both causation and control. However, the mental illness problems which plague the greater Los Angeles area touch on the wider issue of homelessness, which Waxman should have discussed, and which relates for his failed oversight of the Brentwood VA. The likelihood has increased disturbingly that a homeless person on the street will be a veteran who has returned home, yet has not received adequate health care.

Because the gunman assembled a firearm with detached parts, Congressman Waxman suggested more gun laws to close those loopholes.  As a former law student, Waxman should consider initiating his own comprehensive review of the empirical literature assessing the effects of gun control. CNN conducted such a study in 2004, and their researchers discovered, confirmed by liberal academics and conservative pundits, that gun control does not work. Not controlling the guns, but expanding access (and empowering armed citizens) discourages future gun crimes. Illinois became the latest state to enact concealed-carry laws, and Chicago’s crime rate dropped. Perhaps Santa Monicans should consider the same.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Homeless People, not Belongings, Deserve Attention, Congressman

According to the ruling in Lavan vs. City of Los Angeles, upheld by two federal court injunctions, Los Angeles retains the authority to remove abandoned belongings on public thoroughfares, but cannot remove goods which clearly belong to a homeless person just because they remain unattended for a period of time. Property owners still wonder about the blight of homelessness in their communities, while civic activists either celebrate homeless persons or worry about the plight of poverty which afflicts them. Lawyers merely litigate the property rights of the homeless persons. Instead of arguing about the homeless man's belongings, why don't city leaders, civic activists, and lawyers attend to a more important issue: why are there so many homeless in Los Angeles?

First of all, the individual may be a veteran who has not received proper care from the Veterans Administration. The Brentwood VA has turned into a private club for pet owners, laundromats, and solar panels, yet tens of thousands of wounded warriors still wander the streets. Instead of discussing gun violence and mental health in a Santa Monica City Council open forum on July 15, Congressman Henry Waxman should have discussed the neglected transient homeless veterans.

Second, the growing problem of mental illness has not been addressed effectively. The gradual expansion of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual has catalogued more diseases, yet has provided no solutions. The governmental expansion into health insurance has decreased quality care and access for practitioners and patients. Waxman's signature legislation, Obamacare, has only exacerbated this problem.

Then there are those who are struggling to find a job and get back on their feet in this anemic economy. A government which taxed less, spent less, did less (that we would see less of altogether), would help ensure more business, more commerce, more opportunities, and less homelessness.