January 18. 2014 1:27AM

Guns & illness: A better way on mass shootings


Adam Lanza, the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., lived in Kingston, New Hampshire, until 1998. Had his mother chosen to stay in New Hampshire, and Adam's life remained the same otherwise, it is possible that the children of some people reading this editorial would be dead by Adam Lanza's hands.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the anti-gun left lifted its banner and ran to Washington to demand sweeping gun control measures. That did not happen, thanks to sensible senators like Kelly Ayotte. The next time a mass school shooting gains national attention, the outcome might be very different. Our Second Amendment rights will be secure only so long as the people demand that they be upheld. But the people can be fickle.

Supporters and defenders of the Second Amendment should be working on solutions that will reduce the odds of another mass shooting (last year's gun control measures would not have) without endangering our rights as a people. Unfortunately, when a bill to do that came up for discussion in the Legislature last week, the most vigorous opponents were self-described defenders of the Second Amendment.

Senate Bill 244 would place on the federal list of people prohibited from gun ownership anyone involuntarily committed to a mental health facility, found incompetent to stand trial, found not guilty by reason of insanity, or having a court-appointed guardian.

The bill needs a lot more work. The list is too long. Having a court-appointed guardian, for instance, is not the same as being too mentally ill to own firearms. What if, as in the Lanza family, a mentally ill person lives with a non-ill gun owner? What protections would be put in place for people whose local police chief is a zealous gun-confiscator?

But the approach is more sensible than the typical gun-grabbing approach.

If we want to curb mass shootings, we need to focus on people with serious mental problems, not on guns.