After another senseless school shooting, this time in Florida, the gun lobby and their politician cohorts are again scrambling to divert attention from the obvious solution to peripheral issues. This time the focus is on mental illness. The contention is that the mentally ill should be denied access to guns.

After another senseless school shooting, this time in Florida, the gun lobby and their politician cohorts are again scrambling to divert attention from the obvious solution to peripheral issues.  This time the focus is on mental illness.  The contention is that the mentally ill should be denied access to guns.  
How this can be done in practice is very problematical.  If my neighbor accuses me of being mentally unbalanced should the police now be able to seize my guns?  How does he prove I’m unbalanced?  Can the police just order a psychiatric exam based on his suspicions?  And if the psychiatrist concludes I’m not 100% normal (are any of us?), how abnormal must I be?  Do I have to be a raving maniac or will occasional mild depression be sufficient to take away my guns?  Will a court order be necessary?  What if my psychiatrist disagrees with my neighbor’s?  And if I am found unfit to own a gun, can my wife still own her assault rifle as long as she keeps it propped against the wall on her side of the bed?  
Remember the second amendment says, ”.... the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  It doesn’t say, “sane people.”  It doesn’t say, “people over a certain age.”  It doesn’t say, “non-felons.”  It just says, “people.”
Some gun lovers undoubtedly developed that affection while in the military.  I was in the Air Force in the early 1970’s and developed a certain fondness for the weapon I worked with - the Mark 11 reentry vehicle, which contained the one megaton warhead for the Minuteman II missile.  It wouldn’t be very good for squirrel hunting, since any squirrel closer than 10 miles would probably be incinerated and any squirrel for many miles beyond that would probably be too radioactive to eat.
Nonetheless, should I be allowed to keep a Mark 11 in my basement?  It would make a great conversation piece. I would, of course, promise not to let my children play with it and to lock my doors at night so it doesn’t get stolen.  Would it strengthen my argument if I said, “thermonuclear weapons don’t kill people, people kill people?”
The purveyors of guns act as if the second amendment is some sort of absolute right.  But no rights are absolute.  Freedom of speech does not give me the right to yell “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire.  Freedom of religion does not allow me to practice the Aztec religion and sacrifice captured people from the next village on a stone altar.  Freedom of assembly does not allow me to assemble with a hundred of my closest friends in your living room.  And the second amendment does not allow me to keep a hydrogen bomb in my basement.
Should I be able to patrol the perimeter of my property with an Abrams tank?  Should I be able to keep a 50 caliber machine gun on my porch to discourage unwanted visitors?  Should I be able to plant Claymore mines in my front yard to keep the neighbor’s pooch out of my pansies?  Should I be able to have a Stinger missile in my backyard to pick off any drones that fly over my house?
The obvious question is, where do we draw the line?  The obvious answer is that we must weigh the value of any weapon to the individual against the danger it poses to society if it falls into the wrong hands.  Polls indicate an overwhelming majority of Americans believe military assault weapons cross that line.

James Rhoades writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.