What comes to mind when you hear or read the words Sandy Hook Elementary? What about Columbine High School? When you and your family go to watch a movie nowadays does the 2012 Aurora Colorado movie theater massacre come to mind? When you drag your hand across the bottom of the popcorn bucket and pull up 30 kernels of buttery corn goodness, do you stop to remember those who’ve lost their lives in the line of movie-going before shoving the whole thing into your mouth – grateful to have skipped the latest Liam Neeson film? What are people thinking about now that all of the media-hype and sensational reporting are mostly over?
Members of the media and other left-of-center political advocates want you to believe that some “reasonable” level of gun control could have saved these and hundreds of other victims of gun violence over the previous couple of decades but is that really true…or should I say more sensibly, is that really probable? How do you feel about gun control and why? Does the issue of public mass-shootings make you believe that our government should amend the constitution and eliminate the private ownership of guns altogether or pass laws that limit or control gun purchases and ownership?
I have an opinion and I’ll share it with you at the end of this blog but I’d prefer for now to just share some historical facts and ideas with you then allow you extrapolate your own opinions intellectually instead of emotionally. I personally think it’s impossible to write any story about any subject which doesn’t contain some level of writer’s bias and my blogs are certainly no exception because of course I have my own personal life experiences which have shaped and honed my world perspective thus I share my thoughts with you under the inebriation of those experiences.
Politically, few of us are what I’d call dumb. We are all just ignorant of the other person’s perspectives. Although intentional bias does occur, especially when it comes to guns, race, conservatism and religion, most writers do form their opinions honestly and we ALL THINK we are in possession of the BEST ideas. That said, lots of people will disagree with me here and I get that. It’s one of the reasons I seldom write about guns even though no one who knows me would question my expertise on the matter. But controversy aside, I felt a strong personal obligation to write about this subject today.
OK, let’s move on to the more subtle but well-meaning bias…I mean theory. I opened this blog in the first paragraph with a number of well-studied and reported mass killings. What do they all share in common with one another? The number one thing that we all focus on is that they all involved the use of guns. So in theory, if there were no guns then there would have been no mass murders right? But are there other more important commonalities that matter to us more than the issue of firearm ownership?
To answer that question, one needs to study a couple things, motive and causation being two but also whether it could be possible that mass killings would occur without the use of or access to firearms. In other words, do we now know the motives behind the killings and what caused these people to commit seemingly indescribable acts of violence? The answer is yes. After the dust settled, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have pieced together a substantial amount of information related to the perpetrators, their motives, causation’s and other contributing factors.
The answer to the other question about whether killings could occur without guns is a resounding yes. Although one could argue that knives or other weapons may not be as efficient at killing as guns; that has not discouraged a number of people who lacked access to guns to try and mirror what the armed kids have done.
Stabbing deaths and injuries occurred in schools on 17 different incidences just in the year 2014 alone; one of which occurred in Murrysville, Pennsylvania on April 9, 2014. That particular incident involved a 16 year old student, Alex Hribal, who allegedly went on a stabbing rampage through classrooms and halls of the Franklin Regional High School only apprehended after 25 victims were stabbed – 7 with “life-threatening wounds” to the torso and back. That’s an enormous number of student-victims for a kid with a knife which demonstrates just how dangerous any committed killer can be.
If a person is inclined to kill people and committed to die themselves, they will use whatever tools they have available to them to execute whatever heinous agenda they have. That said, it’s a pretty convincing argument when I point out that all of those 17 different incidences occurred in 2014 – not over a decade. I might also sarcastically point out that many of the Neanderthal skulls on public display in the Smithsonian show evidence of death due to blunt force trauma from the very rudimentary weapons of their time. This is to say that it is an historically proven fact that big ole rocks are pretty effective weapons for killing people in the event you can’t get your hands on a gun, knife, bow, deep pit, bluff, billy-club, sword, piano wire, axe, fire poker, frying pan, lamp, aluminum flashlight, spear, shuriken star, sharp stick, or poison.
What then is the other thing I spoke of; the most important thing that all of these mass killings have in common?
Without exception, every single one of these events as well as 100% of the last 20 incidents of mass public or school shootings were perpetrated by individuals who were in some way mentally impaired. The single largest common denominator in all of these shootings is the FACT that all of the perps were either taking powerful psychotropic drugs or had been taking them in the immediate past before they committed their crimes. Additionally, there are scientific studies going back more than ten years as well as internal documents from pharmaceutical companies that preponderantly demonstrate well-known but under-reported side effects from the use of SSRI drugs (Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors) that include suicide and other violent behaviors.
It might be hard for a ten year old to understand all of this stuff but most adults, including myself, have had family members or close relationships with someone with whom suffers(ed) mental illness in varying degrees of severity from depression and eating disorders all the way to bipolar schizophrenia and murderous psychopathy. Many of these individuals are taking these powerful SSRI category drugs.
By far, most people who suffer mental illnesses are benign and non-threatening to the rest of us. There are, however, significant numbers of others who are suffering from delusional thoughts with genuinely felt emotions that include killing and suicide as solutions to personal and community or world-wide problems. Many of them don’t want to be bad, but want to be recognized by others as important figures who brought attention to major societal issues. They know we all think they’re crazy but in their minds they are far from crazy which makes them feel victimized by friends, family and society.
A perfect example of this was Eric Harris, of Columbine High School fame, who suffered from bouts of depression, anger and suicidal thoughts. He was prescribed Zoloft and Luvox – anti-depressants, to treat his growing anxieties but sometime before the shooting decided to stop taking his prescriptions.
The FBI published a report saying Harris was a clinical psychopath and his partner in crime Klebold was depressive. Harris having been the mastermind described by the FBI as having a messianic-level superiority complex and hoped to demonstrate his superiority to the world by bringing attention to the problem of bullying.
I personally think that someone like Eric Harris would have done something just as horrific and grandiose had he been denied any access to firearms – remember they found bomb making materials at his home – but his access to firearms by unwitting and irresponsible parents made his journey ever so easy. The same could be said about Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary. His mother, having grown insensitive to her son’s odd behavior for years with no government options to assist her – a broken marriage and disassociated father – took the path of least resistance which was to emotionally detach herself and try her best to live a normal life outside of her enormous domestic responsibilities to her son. How many parents do you know who fit that description?
If she’d have had options and help, she might have asked for assistance when her son Adam, already diagnosed with sensory-integration disorder, Asperger syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia started to become fascinated with mass-shootings, most notably Columbine High School and the Northern Illinois University shooting in 2008. But, she didn’t see it because she was emotionally missing, much like most of us would do under the same circumstances. So, he took her guns, killed her then drove to school and wreaked havoc on 20 innocent children and the adults who stood between him and his victims. His motive was that he had self-identified (learned through the discovery of his writings) as a pedophile who secretly advocated for the rights of pedophiles and mentally equated sex and killing. Seems odd huh? Of course it does because you’re not suffering from mental illness so you’re incapable of understanding it.
When you begin to get it – let the rest of us know so we can avoid you. I should have said that I would turn you in to the authorities but we all know that the authorities can’t and won’t do anything to help you in a case like that. That’s much of the reason I’m writing about this subject. We should all be smarter than we are – it’s 2015.
The idea here is that no law or rule or catechism of ethical standards could possibly dissuade a person from exercising their will, illegal or not, when that person suffers from that kind of delusional mindset. Additionally, school officials and police had all been made aware of Lanza’s behavioral issues but no laws or rules or procedures now exist nor government facilities that could have caused the Lanza kid to be observed and studied long enough to understand what evils lay entrenched in his fragile mind.
The 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting by James Eagan Holmes is yet another one that stands out. Holmes also suffered from mental illness. One month prior to the shooting Dr. Lynne Fenton, a psychiatrist who treated him, reported to the campus police that Holmes had made homicidal statements to her. Additionally, two weeks before the shooting Holmes sent a text message asking a graduate student if he’d heard of the disorder “dysphoric mania” and warning the student to stay away from him because “I am bad news.” The police knew about this and yet nothing was done because nothing can be done…we don’t have mental institutions anymore.
Does this surprise anyone? I will say it again: We don’t have mental institutions anymore because our government thinks it’s too expensive to provide institutionalized mental care. Now, we have community care programs which are designed principally for those who have no problem following directions, take their meds on their own, and generally live benign lives. What about the population of mentally ill who refuse to take their meds and have dangerous and delusional thoughts of mayhem? Well, those people are summarily denied assistance by the government for their real problems which are health related and instead they’re expected to commit petty crimes and end up in local jails so that local taxpayers are burdened with building new 30 million dollar jails to accommodate a growing percentage of prisoners who really just need a .30 cent pill, regular counseling and some oversight.
We are locking up these victims of mental illness and treating them as criminals when they’re really just sick. We are all afraid of them so no one cares until your taxes are raised in order to build new jails (the new asylums) or when it’s your brother or father who gets locked up alongside rapists, predators and gangbangers for something they wouldn’t ever have done if they’d just had someone to manage their care and keep them on their meds.
No one is saying that we should build scary Victorian looking institutions that conduct forced lobotomies and shock treatment. But we should have places that manage the ethical mental health for those who without appropriate medical supervision and regularly taken medications could carry out destructively deviant acts upon masses of innocent people – just as they are now doing. This is not a local issue, it’s a National issue that should be driven by big government and no longer ignored.
It is already illegal to transfer weapons to someone who is under the care of a physician for mental conditions but these individuals have not been branded on their foreheads with big “M’s” and it is illegal for the government to put these folks on any sort of register or database so in the end gun retailers have no idea that a prospective buyer meets those restricted sale criteria’s unless the purchaser himself/herself chooses to be honest on their application. That’s a lot to ask from a homicidal and suicidal maniac don’t you think?
What differs most between the diagnosed mentally ill and criminals with respect to the typical gun acquisition is that criminals usually don’t buy their guns from retailers and subject themselves to criminal background checks and paper-trails while mentally ill persons usually do buy guns legally but are dishonest on their applications. Since the criminal background checks that gun buyers are now subjected don’t include a registry for the mentally ill, the check only serves to disqualify honest people whose names are similar to convicted felons. The so-called “reasonable background check” advocates don’t consider either of those two issues and the only people who are burdened by these background checks are law-abiding citizens.
Have you called your insurance carrier lately or tried to get in touch with Verizon about your bill? If you do, you’re immediately confronted with a computer that is designed to cut labor costs for the organization you’re dialing and supposedly get you to the right department as expeditiously as possible. What really happens is somewhere between the movie Lawnmower Man meets Healthcare.Gov. The same thing is happening with gun purchases and background checks. Yes, it’s an unintended consequence but it is happening nonetheless.
In Tennessee, if you attempt to purchase a gun today, the retailer enters you name, date of birth and social security number into a State issued device and voilà; a computer which operates much like the one in the above described scenario decides if it shall kick your application aside which has the immediate effect of denial or instead approve you for a gun purchase. The problem is that there are plenty of people who share the same name with you and even the same or similar dates of birth so the computer software is intentionally designed to loosely interpret the data and kick out people who are close biographical matches to bad guys.
Otherwise, people who may have fraudulently obtained biographical data from innocent people might trick the system into approving a purchase. So, the state very intentionally denies innocents of gun purchases every single day which is justified by the low cost and simplicity of a computer doing an inexpensive and less burdensome investigation rather than hiring a number of persons who could simply distinguish individuals by social security numbers – intentionally not considered in the automated search.
So how does the State deal with these mistreated souls? Well, they require you to fill out a form and submit it to them which appeals that automated decision and nearly 100% of them are summarily approved – only like 30 or 45 days later. The good thing for the State is that they get to use this unusually high number of automated denials as a marketing tool that praises the good work done by this knightly and chivalrous computer; keeping guns out of the hands of thousands of suspected criminals. The bad thing is that almost 100% of those suspected criminals turn out not to be criminals at all – just regular Joes’ who happen to look digitally similar to a lot of bad guys. I suspect that the few applicants that make up the rest of that 100% are people who didn’t even file the appeal form in the first place.
Now that we’ve established the reason background checks don’t work, let’s get back to the issue of the mentally ill. The reason we have so many mentally impaired people who are perpetrating these crimes and other crimes is not because we have an out-of-control pro-gun lobby or because the NRA is too powerful. The reason these events are occurring and will continue to occur is because our own government has decided to opt out of the mental healthcare business and leave those problems for families and communities to deal with. Instead of owning their own failures and decisions to get out of the mental healthcare business, they’ve decided that it’s easier and much more popular to make the NRA and the 2nd Amendment their scapegoat than it is to actually solve the problem.
My personal opinion and one that I share with millions of other so called delusional conservatives is that guns are not the problem. We know what the problem is, we just need to acknowledge what it is in an honest conversation and recognize that until we convince our government that it needs to get back into a business it started one thousand years ago, mental institutions, then we will continue to have these unfortunate events occur. The only level of gun-control that would have saved these victims would have been a complete ban and confiscation of all privately owned firearms in America, some three hundred fifty million guns, which is not only impossible to accomplish but is something that is never going to occur in this country nor should it.
There is also some evidence that a restricted and HIPAA compliant National registry or database of persons diagnosed with certain mental disorders be created and available to gun retailers by a simple computer query with a simple YES/NO answer that assists responsible gun retailers in deciding whether to transfer or sell weapons to certain individuals – similar to the one used to perform criminal background checks. A simple fee at the point of sale will pay for the database and search.
The NRA is not the problem. Gun ownership is not the problem. A government which fails to take care of its most vulnerable citizens is the problem. Government officials who prefer to politicize pork projects and cater to special interests, spending thousands of millions of dollars on programs designed to tender votes instead of simply taking care of mentally vulnerable people who have no way to care for themselves is the problem. Local jails with up to 60% of their inmate population diagnosed with some level of psychological disorder and no special beds/dorms/segregation facilities available is a problem which ultimately costs local taxpayers in the expense of lawsuits and expensive new government mandated jail facilities is a problem.
If you really want results instead of rhetoric, don’t waste your time, money, energy and emotions on trying to outlaw guns which is contrary to our constitution, ignorant of the rights and needs of an entire populace, and lacking any hope whatsoever of being effectively enforced. Focus instead on doing something that can be done; should be done; helps innocent children live yet another day; keeps our most vulnerable ill from being further victimized in a jail environment; stops and/or mitigates the senseless acts of mass-violence in our homes, schools, movie theaters, restaurants and other places; saves tens of millions in tax dollars per community in the construction of new jail facilities; and finally, these things will help families to properly love and care for their mentally ill family members in an environment designed to respectfully keep them safe from us and us safe from them.
We need to stop chasing an ignorant socialistic dream which solves no problems yet creates a multitude of new ones. It’s the fully-automatic prescriptions of Prozac that delude our thinking, not the most ingenious piece of political expression known the world over – our United States Constitution.