First of all, I want to make it positively clear that I don’t have ANY answer, easy or otherwise to the problem.
I’m writing this blog post mainly out of sheer frustration as both a citizen and a journalist. On a weekly basis I am forced to report the news that there is an active shooter on a school campus and then follow that up with the death toll. And immediately afterwards – before we even have the names of the victims, before their families have even been notified – I have to deal with an angry population anxiously defending their rights to own assault rifles.
There are so many things about the most recent shooting in Oregon that bother me. From the fact that within 12 hours, he had been declared a militant Christian, an extreme Islamist, a Satanist, an athiest….. to the fact that I have watched people blame everything from his racial background to possible mental health medication – when there’s been utterly no evidence to support the theory that he was either diagnosed with a mental health problem or was taking mental health medication. I’ve read that he had Asperger’s, and expect to see that trotted out as an explanation.
Here’s the truth. He was a sick man, guided by internal motivation. And the Internets will now spend untold fruitless hours analyzing the motivation for his actions while denying any reason whatsoever to examine the tools he used to unleash his fury. Instead, it will be used by the pro-gun lobbyists and those who support that lobby — whether or not they realize it themselves — to say things like “Gun controls mean only criminals own guns”. Even though this particular case, as with the Lanza case, the guns were obtained legally.
I’m not saying “get rid of all the guns!” and I’m not going to blame an inanimate object for deaths caused by an individual. But I will examine the fact that it is presently easier for a person to obtain a gun in the USA through legitimate channels than it is for them to obtain a legal safe abortion, or access to adequate maternal leave or to a domestic violence shelter.
I will state that when examining the gun issue, people focus on the big splashy details of spree killings, and ignore the quiet epidemic of suicide and homicides by guns in the USA. They are so intent on protecting their rights to own that inanimate object that they don’t care if their right to an assault rifle adds to the daily body count. And none of it – none of the tired rhetoric – actually attempts to deal with any of the real causative issues underlying these deaths.
We can talk about the mental health crisis forever. But talk is just talk. It does nothing to address the issues of poverty and fearmongering or a culture of instant celebrity and constant drama. It does nothing to address the number of shelters available to those fleeing violence, and it does nothing to address the suicide crisis.
Indeed…. so far our attempts to bring awareness to mental health issues seems counter-intuitive. While I am not fan of Big Pharma, I do know many people who require psychiatric medications to get through rough patches, and I am not about to judge them…. but so many do, both privately and publicly. Entering mental health into a discussion on gun control is doubly offensive to me, as much of the time gun-related deaths actually only really relate to mental health as a final last step in a long journey to Hell, and because it implies that those who are suffering from PTSD, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or any of a thousand other possible variations on the theme of “mental illness” are likely to commit violence when in fact they are far more likely to be the victim of it.
And when, for the love of God, are we going to stop giving two craps about “what motivated the killers” and start caring about “how can I improve my community”?