The uncle of one of the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary has proposed new legislation designed to reduce future mass shootings without resorting to gun bans.
Lawyer Alexis Haller is the uncle of Noah Pozner, who was killed by Adam Lanza in Newtown, CT last month. Haller recently flew from his home in Seattle to Washington, D.C. to make his case for a series of plans designed to prevent future mass shootings.
Unlike other proposals currently on the table, Haller is not seeking to ban anything. His idea covers everything from before a shooting happens to the grief counseling needed after the fact.
At the core of Haller’s proposal are two new laws. First, he recommends a mandatory reporting law which would require anyone with knowledge of an impending crime involving guns or bombs to notify authorities within 24 hours.
In his written justification for the proposal, Haller notes that mass shootings are rarely spontaneous events. They often involve premeditated planning; according to the government report issued after Columbine, “Most attackers engaged in some behavior prior to the incident that caused others concern or indicated a need for help.”
His other recommendation is a “Firearm Safekeeping Law” which would make it a misdemeanor, or possibly a felony, to store guns in such a way that they could fall into the hands of someone with a mental illness. The proposed law is written so that it only applies in a case where a mentally ill or violent person actually does obtain the weapon, not where they merely could have.
Haller’s proposal defines mental illness as “a person who: (1) has undergone treatment for or been diagnosed with a mental illness or neurodevelopmental disorder and (2) is reasonably believed to pose a danger to others.”
Failure to secure a weapon is punished based on the results. If the unsecured weapon is obtained by a mentally ill person, the owner could be charged with a misdemeanor. If the mentally ill person who obtains it discharges the weapon, the owner would be subject to a felony charge.
Newly published information indicates that Adam Lanza’s mother kept her legally obtained gun collection in an unlocked closet in her home, despite her concern that Adam Lanza needed psychological help. The easy access to these weapons made it possible for Lanza to get the guns of his choice, kill his mother while she slept, and then commit the massacre at Sandy Hook.
Haller argues that, had she lived, Lanza’s mother “should have been subject to criminal prosecution and civil liability” for her failure to secure her weapons away from her son.
No doubt these laws will have their supporters and detractors, but Haller’s proposal is both specific and limited to the problem at hand. It’s an attempt to deal with the actual problem at the root of most of these mass shootings, i.e. a mentally ill individual gaining access to weapons no sane person would want him to have. Compared to Obama’s proposal of politically motivated gun bans, discussions of school “climate,” and national conversations on mental illness, this seems like a more serious approach to the problem.