This little story, which is being repeated in every city all over the country, perfectly illustrates a serious dilemma we're facing.Timothy Courtois' family had been worried about him for weeks. They repeatedly told police in Biddeford, Maine, that the 49-year-old was off his meds for bipolar disorder. And police were also told he had guns. But still, because he wasn't doing anything that rose to the legal definition of imminent threat, police said their hands were tied."We're very limited — very, very limited to what we can do," says Biddeford Police Deputy Chief JoAnne Fisk. "Just because somebody has a hunch, we will investigate it. But everybody has rights, and you have the right to bear arms in this country."It was both frustrating and a relief to police and the family when Courtois was finally arrested for speeding down the highway to what could have been a tragedy. Police found an AK-47, handguns and several boxes of ammunition in Courtois' car as he drove toward New Hampshire, he reportedly told police, to shoot a former employer.
All people, including gun owners, have the right to privacy and should be able to conduct their affairs without outside interference. This is basic. But, when the public safety is at risk, something needs to be done. What's the solution?
In my opinion, the criterion which is generally used now is not sufficient, It says if a person has "ever been deemed by a judge to be mentally incompetent or involuntarily committed," only then would they lose their right to own guns. Even if the reporting of such cases were 100%, which it is not, that would be setting the bar too high. We have daily examples of people who qualify under this lenient ruling and yet wreak havoc with their guns.
The only way I can see to address this problem would require a major overhaul of our gun control policy and attitudes. It would require licensing of gun owners with a "may issue" stipulation by the local authorities. When an obvious situation is developing, the license can be suspended and guns forfeited. Many lives would be saved.
What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.