Opinion | Scott M. Estill: It’s time to stop this insanity

At some point the insanity will need to stop. Why not now? Why not today?

A trip to the grab some butter, find peace at your place of worship, or drop your child off for some lessons on reading, writing and arithmetic should not have to result in an imposition of a death sentence — and it keeps happening.

Republican Governor Greg Abbott in Texas asked a simple question to law enforcement personnel one day after the most recent in a long and never-ending string of mass shootings: “What is the problem?” Answering his own question, he stated, “we have a problem with mental health illness.” It is hard to argue with his assessment. He should know. Texas currently ranks dead last amongst all states with respect to access to mental health care and he recently thought that diverting $211 Million from the State public health department to build a wall at the border with Mexico was a good idea. Don’t cheer too loud for us in Colorado, as we are ranked right at the bottom with Texas.

Depending upon how you define “mental illness,” there is no question that the United States is close to the top (in a bad way) in terms of the percentage of the population with a diagnosed mental illness. With respect to Western countries where psychiatric treatment is somewhat readily available, many surveys place the U.S in a third-place tie with Canada, with only Germany and France having higher incidents of mental illness. It would be an uninformed opinion to suggest that we do not need more resources dedicated to mental health treatment in this country. In fact, 90% of the American registered voters (across the political spectrum) agree that there is a mental health crisis here at home.

My guess is that most, if not all, of the European countries also would like to devote more funding for mental health treatment. Yet, these other countries, while treating a similar amount of people with mood, psychotic or other psychiatric disorders, do not have the mass killings that we have here. If mental illness were the sole criteria for determining mass shootings, each of these other highly “developed” countries would have a similar number of these tragic events. Yet they don’t. To get back to the governor’s question, it would appear that the not-so-common denominator is the accessibility of guns.

Americans currently own about 33% of all civilian (non-military) guns in the world, yet account for about 4% of the world’s population. We have around 400 million guns in circulation today, or about 120 guns for every 100 citizens in this country. If I were debating this issue, I would rather take the position that we have too many guns than not enough. The easy solution, of course, would to be to ban all guns. It would be difficult to argue that we would continue to have mass shootings without any guns.

It is nice to be able to dream of a world without such violence. Yet, this is not the world (country) we live in, and we have two significant issues preventing a gun ban: people obviously want guns and there is a constitutional right under the Second Amendment for Americans to possess certain weapons. What we seem to lack is common sense.

When Madison, Hamilton and 37 other delegates signed the original “We the People” document in 1787, they presumably could not visualize the world today. Without a significantly accurate crystal ball, life in 2022 would indeed look very strange (and unlivable) from the perspective of a white male politician 235 years ago. In other words, a world with automobiles, computers, television, electric light and women voting — and without slavery.

There are exceptions to every amendment in the U.S. Constitution, as each requires interpretation to adapt to changing circumstances. Yet for some reason, the rather vague terms of the Second Amendment are somehow seen as a divine blessing from a higher power. Why are we banning books, which are protected speech under the first amendment, while protecting the weapons that are killing our children? The framers of the Constitution wrote an amazing legal document that permitted flexibility as the future unfolded.

Which leads me back to Governor Abbott. Back in 2015, he tweeted that he was “embarrassed” by the fact that Texas was in second place (to California of all places) in total gun sales and that they needed to “pick up the pace” with their gun purchases. My only response to this tweet is that I am embarrassed that this tweet actually exists (and is not fake news). I am also embarrassed by the fact that he has signed 22 bills into law to make Texas earn the right to be considered a “second amendment sanctuary” state (Alaska, Idaho, Kansas and Wyoming also have this designation). Yeah, but this is Colorado, and it won’t happen here. Not yet in Summit County, but a full 39 out of 64 Colorado counties have adopted some form of second amendment sanctuary status.

There is way too much crazy talk on the Second Amendment. It’s not difficult. This amendment gives Americans the right to “keep and bear arms.” Like every other amendment, this is subject to limitations as history eventually dictates. As great as Benjamin Franklin was, he could not have imagined that he could go to this very moment and purchase a KR-9 semi-automatic rifle (modeled after a Russian machine gun) that can shoot 30 9mm bullets from an interchangeable magazine. All for $1,133.98 (with free shipping). Ben could also finance this purchase for $65.58 per month, assuming his credit check proved he was creditworthy. 

Common sense dictates that we do what the majority of Americans want our elected leaders (elected for us under the “We the People” theme of America). How about starting with not permitting people with certain mental illnesses from being able to legally purchase weapons (favored by 87% of U.S.), making all public and private gun sales (with exceptions to family members) subject to background checks (81%), and banning more than 10 round magazines (64%) and assault-style weapons (63%).

None of this is really terribly controversial and could be implemented without any real political backlash for members of either party. Avoiding political backlash could be a major selling point to those members of congress who have little or no regard to anything that is not self-serving. Unfortunately, this is a majority of our spineless elected officials at this point in history. Golden State NBA coach Steve Kerr labeled the current political climate as “pathetic” with respect to these mass shootings. I agree. It’s time to stop the insanity and begin to right the ship.

And for those working so diligently to protect the lives of the unborn, may you reflect and expend the same energy on those children who have already been born and don’t deserve the fate that the innocent in Uvalde, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Parkland and too many others to list have suffered. Isn’t it possible for all of us to be pro-life on this one issue? It is an insult to evolution to claim that the solution to gun violence is more guns. The now-common “thoughts and prayers” response means little to the deceased victims. It’s mind-numbing to think that more families will have to experience grief of this magnitude again in the near future, if previous behavior is any indication.

And if you are a parent to any of the approximately 3,450 students in our public education system in Summit County, please remember that when your children depart for classes to give them an extra hug and tell them that you love them.

Scott M. Estill’s column “Challenges, Choices, Changes” publishes biweekly on Thursdays in the Summit Daily News. Estill is an attorney, author and public speaker who lives in Dillon when not traveling or attending to legal matters in Denver. Contact him at

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