Saturday, February 13 , 2016, 12:53 pm | Partly Cloudy with Haze 61º

Harris Sherline: Focus on Gun Control Rather Than on Shooters Is Just Crazy

By Harris Sherline, Noozhawk Columnist |

The Dec. 14, 2012, senseless shooting of students and teachers at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., in which 27 people, including 20 children, were killed, has already prompted calls for increased “gun control,” including the outright confiscation of all guns.

But are guns really the problem? I don’t think so.

Since the unfortunate shooting, the media have been blanketed with endless speculation about the shooter. Why did he do it? What was there in his background that turned him into a killer? Blame his mother, the school administration, health-care professionals, the police and, above all, the lack of national, state and local gun-control laws. In other words, the media and most commentators seem to be focusing primarily on guns, rather on the one simple, easy-to-understand the reason for this terrible tragedy: the shooter. In short, the guy was simply unhinged, crazy.

Are we now going to lock up every nut case whom we think may be a risk to others? If so, how do we identify them, and who decides? I have known people whom I felt could become violent enough to shoot a neighbor over seemingly unimportant issues. We never know what might set someone off, and I don’t know of any way to predict it.

But gun-control advocates insist that this latest incident (in Connecticut) is clearly due to the fact that guns are the problem.

Following are the headlines of some of the many articles that have flooded the media since the advent of the shooting:

» “Once Again, the Guns Did It and It’s the Conservatives’ Fault” (

» “Breaking the Gun Control Stalemate” (Wall Street Journal)

» “Taking on Guns Will Be the Easy Part” (

» “Geraldo Rivera (Sort of) Admits: Guns Needed in Schools” (

» “Feinstein to Introduce Assault Weapons Ban at Start of Next Congress” (Vision to America)

» “Piers Morgan on Gun Control: ‘How Many Kids Have to Die?’” (Los Angeles Times)

» “Shooting After Shooting, What Do We Have Left?” (Last Resistance Blog)

» “High Court Fight Looms Over Right to Carry a Gun” (Associated Press)

» “Time for U.S. to Cure Its Sick Gun Laws” (The Globe and Mail)

» “The Solution to Our Nation’s ‘Gun Problem’” (Political Outcast)

» “New Rule: All Teachers Should Be Allowed to Carry Guns” (

» “Left Mobilizes to Politicize School Shooting” (Rush Limbaugh)

» “New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg moved to politicize … school shooting” (Breitbart)

» “Slaughter Triggers Media Push for Gun Control” (

» “How to Respond to ‘Active Shooter’ Spree Murder Events” (Patriot Update)

“The proposed solution to the problem ranges from confiscating all guns from every American to doing nothing. However, we are the only nation that enshrines the right of its citizens to own guns in its founding document, in this case the Second Amendment to our Constitution, which ’ ... protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms.’ It was adopted on Dec. 15, 1791, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess and carry firearms.” (Wikipedia)

All of which brings me back to the question of whether the problem of the random shooting of people by deranged individuals can be prevented by confiscating guns, assuming that’s possible. I doubt it, for the simple reason that no one has yet been able to determine in advance just who is a risk and who is not.

In my opinion, the periodic shooting of unarmed citizens is often caused by people who are simply mentally unbalanced or “crazy.” Nothing more. There are other motives, of course, such as during the commission of a crime or lovers’ quarrels. But the incidents that seem to get the most media coverage are the random shootings.

I don’t know of any way to identify them in advance and keep guns out of their reach. Just thinking that someone might be a risk to others is not sufficient reason to lock them up. If that were the case, I can think of a lot of people who might qualify as such a “risk.”

How about you?

— Harris Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

» on 01.06.13 @ 01:40 PM

Harris - I am always delighted when you voice the hard truths no matter who may be listening.  Thank you for that.

The sad truth is that “lone gunman” assassins are the most difficult threat on earth against which to protect, and any security professional will tell you that.  The argument that making assault rifles or large capacity magazines harder to get will decrease body count has minor merit at best, since a pocketful of pistols would almost certainly remain legal, and would be nearly equally lethal, if not more so.  [In fact, pistols are easier to hide than even short-barreled assault rifles.]

Answers may come, but I fear that gun control will create a false sense of security, and not actually fix the problem.

» on 01.06.13 @ 03:28 PM

The imperfect answer is to prosecute every felony associated with fire arms under Federal statutes (plenty of laws exist).  Then make sure every convicted felon is transferred on a 6 month basis from prison to prison. 

Many supposed tough guys cannot handle to isolation of never getting into a routine, loss of easy visits by family and friends. 

The reader needs to understand in most States where they have assisted and insisted on Federal prosecution, gun crime of all sorts has dramatically dropped.  The laws are there, enforce what we have.  Then turn around and tell the State of California that mental health counselors are required by law to report to data base anyone making statements about killing others.

» on 01.06.13 @ 08:14 PM

Mr. Sherline’s commentary contains two core statements of opinion. “Are guns really the problem? I don’t think so…. the reason for the tragedy is the shooter.”  and “Can the problem of random shooting of people by deranged individuals be prevented by confiscating guns? I doubt it.” By narrowly defining the problem Sherline can easily dismiss the importance of our country’s current discussion about gun violence and how to control it.

I believe the tragic massacre at Sandyhook Elementary raises much broader questions that deserve our full attention, including the following three: (1) How can we make our schools and public places safer from gun violence? (2) How can we reduce the number of times that psychotic individuals harm others using guns? and (3) How can we establish and enforce reasonable limits on the type of lethal weapons, such as guns and ammunition, that can be privately owned?

» on 01.07.13 @ 03:24 AM

It would appear that many comments re this article have been removed.  Why is that?

[Noozhawk’s note: It would appear you’re looking for the Letter to the Editor: Columnist’s Opinion on Guns ‘Repugnant’ post. We didn’t remove any comments and don’t really appreciate being accused of doing so.]

» on 01.07.13 @ 12:47 PM

Gramps, good questions.

(1) How can we make our schools and public places safer from gun violence?

The best method with the most data to support it is to advertise the existence of armed protectors at the school site. Nothing deters a violent gun toting criminal better than knowing some will shoot back.

(2) How can we reduce the number of times that psychotic individuals harm others using guns?

Have much better medical facilities to deal with violent mental health problems. Confiscating guns from sane peaceful law abiding citizens doesn’t work. However, even a suicidal, homicidal nut case knows that the violence they wish upon others is muted if others are willing to defend themselves violently. Nothing deters a shooter better than staring down the business end of a Smith and Wesson 44 or a pump action 12 gauge or the barrel of a 223 semi automatic rifle.

(3) How can we establish and enforce reasonable limits on the type of lethal weapons, such as guns and ammunition, that can be privately owned?

There are no limits necessary unless you are convinced that peaceful, law abiding citizens are some how the problem. You will have to explain the twisted logic in that though, good luck.

Better to have lethal weapons like guns with lots of ammunition and never have to use them, than to be like that poor principal and face down some armed violent lunatic completely defenseless.

By the way, consistently and remarkably missing in all the anti gun rhetoric being spewed forth since the Sandy Hook tragedy is the fact that the guns used to murder 27 people were STOLEN, not legally obtained by the shooter. So much for your control mania.

» on 01.07.13 @ 08:31 PM

@Noozhawk:  You are right.  I apologize and should have known better.

[Noozhawk’s note: Thank you.]

» on 01.08.13 @ 05:41 PM

Mr. Sherline is often a great springboard for lively conversation, as a happy warrior
for the ideology he holds dear.

Two questions -

What if the killers at Tuscon, Colorado, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newtown, or
Webster, NY had been armed with Frisbees, ping pong padels, a Bassoon, a surf
board? How many fatalities would we have seen? Guns not the issue? Get real!

What if Sherline’s political party had not uniformly opposed improved mental
health services and funding in California and in Washington for the last forty
years? Might some of our disturbed, gun-toting mass murders been deflected,
treated, cured without loss of life? Guess we’ll never know, will we?

But as Sherline’s folks adamantly refuse to improve funding or services for the
mentally ill, doesn’t it reason that the easy availability of lethal weapons is the
actual problem, everywhere in America?

» on 01.08.13 @ 06:36 PM

I love it. Another dopy exercise in fantasy land by our local drive by commentator. Hey whack-a-doodle, what if they used airplanes or trucks loaded with fertilizer and diesel fuel? What a complete idiot!

They used guns; there are 310 million of them in our country alone that we know of in civilian hands. If you and your idiot nut case anti gun nut zealots want to wish it weren’t so go ahead. Jam your stupid head so hard into the sand you break yer friggen neck.

Fact, guns already exist in very large numbers. So do accessories and ammunition.

Fact, barring our government turning into a barbaric police state and kicking in every damned door and taking those guns by violent force, you can pretty much guaranty most of them will still be there no matter how much you wish they weren’t.

Banning them now in any way only creates a new criminal black market. Prohibitions don’t work when people really want what you won’t let them.

Fact, if you grow up, take responsibility for your own life and arm your self then you have a fighting chance. Otherwise you are defenseless, powerless and a fool.

BTW – many of your liberal friends own guns and are on our side. This is less about politics and more about personal defense.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.


Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.