Guns and emotions
A fatal shooting spree took place in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, Friday, following a similar rampage that took the lives of four people, including the perpetrator, in Sejong City two days earlier. After two deadly rampages, worries are growing over the country’s gun control system. But despite people’s criticism of systematic loopholes in the government’s firearms management system, ending such violence is not a simple matter.
Current laws on controlling personal firearms, swords and explosives stipulate that individuals who want to possess such weapons obtain permission from the chief of the police station in their neighborhood. They must keep their firearms in police stations, precinct stations or dispatch offices and can only remove them for use when hunting grounds are open.
The period for hunting grounds operation this season stretches from November 20, 2014 to Feb. 28, 2015. Gun owners who deposited firearms with the police are allowed to take them out between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. If a firearm owner fails to bring a weapon back, the police track him or her down. No legal flaws were found in the manner in which the latest perpetrator retrieved his shotgun from the police station in his neighborhood. The police stressed that local gun control is stricter than in other countries.
As impulsive crimes arising from people’s inabilities to control their emotions rapidly rise, however, the police are required to make up for newly perceived flaws in their firearms control systems. The police said they will strengthen standards for gun ownership by examining more closely potential gun owners’ criminal records and any tendencies to violence and conduct personality tests on existing gun owners. But one can hardly predict whether this will be effective, especially since it could trigger controversy over the possibility of human rights infringement.
Even if the police enforce tougher standards, they won’t necessarily prevent individuals from using their weapons in moments of personal rage. The police need to listen to advice from experts. Perhaps gun owners should notify the police of their firearm use a day earlier and undergo a face-to-face interview with psychiatrists at that time.
Meanwhile, the fact that a police officer who first arrived at the crime scene in Hwaseong with a Taser to subdue the gunman was killed show how lax our police’s crisis management is. We urge the police to come up with safer procedures to deal with contingencies involving firearms or hostages.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 28, page 30