Reducing gun violence

January 10, 2013

In their Jan. 6 Local Opinions commentary, “The path forward on gun violence,” John McCarthy and Glenn F. Ivey argued that “mental-health-care providers [should be required to] give to state or local police the names of any individual receiving mental health services who would pose a danger if granted a gun permit.”

They suggested that such action is akin to the mandatory reporting of child abuse. However, one necessitates predicting the future behavior of an individual, while the other is in response to behavior that has occurred or is still occurring. And by the way, mental-health-care practitioners already have a duty to warn anyone against whom specific, violent threats have been made by a client.

Promoting additional and accessible mental health services in communities would prove more productive than compiling a long list of people who may or may not become violent. Such a list may offer a false sense of security while further stigmatizing people suffering from mental illness. Also, maintaining such a database of “possible” offenders would violate their civil liberties.

Marijean Berry, Cheverly

The writer is a psychotherapist in private practice.

I appreciated John McCarthy and Glenn Ivey’s ideas for reducing gun violence, but one of their recommendations — increasing mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes — would do more harm than good.

Longer sentences sound like a no-brainer, I admit, but not once you recognize that federal law already includes lengthy, mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes. The main gun statute forces judges to impose an additional five-year sentence on anyone who possesses a gun when committing a violent (or drug) crime. This five-year bump turns to seven years if the gun is brandished, and 10 if the weapon is discharged. If the individual even carries a gun during a second offense, he faces a mandatory 25 years on top of the penalty he earns for the underlying crime. This law is applied so broadly that many low-level, nonviolent offenders have been sent to prison for decades or life.

I strongly support the goal of reducing gun violence and locking up violent criminals, but we need to be smart. New and longer mandatory sentences are neither necessary nor wise.

Julie Stewart, Washington

The writer is president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

●John McCarthy and Glenn Ivey’s commentary should be sent to every politician in the United States. These two experienced prosecutors have seen firsthand the misery and destruction that unchecked gun violence causes. Their common sense and their practical way to move forward are refreshing antidotes to an issue that has become so muddled with political timidity and trash-talking from the National Rifle Association. The real tragedy will be if people don’t stand up and listen, and here are the first steps we need to look at.

Bob Gambarelli, Vienna

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