There are four categories of violence in which guns are the weapon. Each category presents its own problems. Gun control is only a minor, in my opinion, solution. Hear me out. Here are the categories.
Massacre in public places by a shooter who gives every indication of being insane and whose victims are not personally known to the shooter
The problem here is identifying insanity before the violence occurs. The dilemma is that confidentiality is a critical component of any treatment and mental health professionals are reluctant to “out” a patient unless there is a clear indication of danger to himself or others, according to strict legal definition.
People with mental health problems may not seek help because of the fear of public disclosure with its implication for employment, etc. There are constitutional issues around the right to privacy and due process.
There is a subcategory of concern and that is the use of psychotropic drugs, that may have the opposite effect. The Colorado shooters – John Hickley, Eric Harris, the man who killed students at a Mission school in Arvada and then went to Colorado Spring church and killed two more, and Holmes – all were involved with the mental health system. I think that all may have been on medication.
The facial expressions on the pix of the Arizona shooter, the Aurora Theater shooter and the Newtown killer are all frighteningly similar. That needs to be investigated.
It is not clear how any of existing or proposed gun laws would have prevented these crimes. Nor is it clear that expanding mental health funding would have helped prevent any of these crimes or future crimes. The dilemma is that these are the crimes that is being used to justify more gun laws and more mental health.
Political violence by terrorists with a specific political target
Abortion murders and attacks on churches would fit into this category.
But, the most horrific crimes were not committed with guns but with bombs
Gun laws, particularly if they included putting suspected terrorists on a Do Not Sale list, might be helpful. But constant vigilance is the real prevention.
Organized crime, gangs, drug cartels as well as property crimes do involve guns.
Stricter gun laws may be preventive. Certainly big city mayors think so. However, illegal gun traffic is a source of income to criminals.
Domestic violence perpetrated by one family member or friend on another family member or friend.
There are already laws preventing the sale of guns to individuals with a record of domestic violence. But early and effective intervention in domestic conflict is the real prevention.
Gun laws requiring universal background checks for all gun purchases might be helpful.