Mass Murders in America: What Can We Possibly Do?
The heart-splitting mourning starts again, only this time, we mourn for the most innocent of souls, tiny children and their selfless teachers, taken in a most horrific way from one of the safest places they know.
Our grief is boundless. There are no words.
But many will try. Evil, they call it.
I don’t believe there are evil people.
When we label people as evil, we negate the chain of events that happened – or didn’t happen – to cause their outrageous behavior. When we shroud their actions in mysticism, we give them a power far greater than they deserve. The truth is that there are pathological personalities all over this planet, they function among us every day, but if they have in their possession a weapon, they are truly dangerous. The overabundance of guns in this country only increases the odds this will happen.
The semantic game of “guns don’t kill people, people do” is nothing more than that – a game.
It disregards the simple fact that a gun did send a metal projectile through the air with sufficient speed to cause lethal damage – repeatedly. Without the gun, that kind of destruction would be difficult to create single handedly, repeatedly, quickly. So yes guns do kill people.
There are seven guns for every 10 people in the US today, and they are being manufactured and sold at a record pace by a record number of manufacturers, sellers and distributors. Of course that doesn’t mean seven out of 10 people have a gun; a lot of whack jobs are hoarding them and many are being resold outside of the country to questionable groups. Shootings aside, the sheer unaccountability for the production and distribution of lethal weapons should be alarming in itself. Despite every existing effort to educate and register guns (said efforts having been relentlessly watered down or eliminated by the NRA) the vast number of weapons out there makes it impossible to know, really, who is going to gain possession of a gun, or for what purpose.
We’ve tried every angle: limiting the number of gun manufacturers and distributors, targeting methods of distribution, requiring better record-keeping and accountability, background checks, waiting periods, restricting the types of weapons manufactured, requiring registration of ammo.
Some of the guns used in mass shootings are stolen. This means a lot of people who legitimately purchased guns, and perhaps even had training in order to do so, failed to adequately lock their triggers or secure their weapons. It also means too many people are allowing their weapons to be seen or found by young adult men, which I think is an important element.
All of these are obvious prevention tactics, and all have been tried before, often with good results, but then the NRA comes in at the tail end and whittles away at the rulings until there’s nothing left.
So in short, we’ve basically thrown up our hands and handed them out to anyone. That there will be massive kills from such weapons should not be a surprise.
But I’m not blaming the gun.
Guns don’t have the ability to consciously fire themselves.
What causes a person to pull the trigger?
Statistically, the majority suffer from mental illness, personality disorder, peer pressure, bullying, stress, unemployment, family dysfunction, drug-induced psychosis, conspiracy…so many causes.
In many cases, the shooter is bent on suicide – the worst kind of mental health problem – and simply wants to take out others with him, perhaps in revenge for a miserable life, perhaps to avoid just dying in obscurity, an unnoticed, seemingly wasted life.
There are many points in a person’s life where an intervention is possible. Points of contact with parents, teachers, peers, coaches, and law enforcement. But in most cases, the opportunity is lost for fear of “creating a social services case.”
We’ve shredded our mental health programs through budget cuts, but worse yet, we’ve vilified them from top to bottom. Most Americans are now terrified of the idea that their mental state could be called into question, and yet a good percentage of our population needs some kind of help. They are afraid of being “drawn into the system” when they should be openly accepting of counseling and guidance, the primary tools of the mental health professional.
I’m not suggesting mandated mental health, although in practice, at a more focused level, it does already exist. People with severe mental illness can be mandated to treatment and more.
My point is that we have to stop vilifying mental health services such that budgets are cut and ordinary people regard mental health counseling as both a taboo subject and a severe character flaw.
Everybody needs help sometime, and whether you get it from a recovery program, a priest, a counselor or some other method, it’s still a step in the right direction.
I’m willing to bet that the shooter’s mother in this case knew he needed more help than she could give him, but her own sense of propriety and decorum as a school volunteer wouldn’t allow her to reach out for help.
At a higher level, we can see two major trends that are at play here: The intractable power of the NRA and its lobby, and the vilification of social programs. On balance, this makes for a very unhealthy and even dangerous situation.
We’ve driven our society into a mental health crisis of Herculean proportions. We simply can’t ignore it anymore.
Of course, this is the playground of the extremists: The notion that “Government is out to control their minds” and that we should arm ourselves in self-defense. Our society panders to this theme in books and movies and sensationalist news stories.
It’s curious that we celebrate this concept. After all, paranoid delusion is a mental illness.
Perhaps that explains why, in private conversation, many who could and should act boldly to end this national tragedy, will instead tell each other, “on balance, we’d rather have a few school shootings than more gun restrictions, or increased spending on social programs.”
How else do you account for the seemingly heartless denial of the deaths of little children?