In light of shootings like the one at the American civic association in Binghamton New York killing 13 immigrants, the California man who killed his family and then himself, another man also from that state dressed as Santa and opened fire on a family in their home and who could forget school violence like the Illinois campus shooting, it has reopened the debate about guns in this country. From those who want to carry handguns on their college campus to protect self and others, to those who want the government to reexamine the gun laws limiting those allowed to have them, it is evident everyone wants a solution to these kinds of volatile situations. While many voices cry for many things including that guns be taken out of the hands of ordinary people, everyone seems to be at a loss as to how to stop such tragedies. However, in the case of the latter proposed solution of making guns illegal to the general public, not only is it unlikely to happen in a country that has long had the right to bear arms in it?s bill of rights, it would be more apt to create a black market for guns to rival prohibition, something much harder to control. And, contrary to popular belief and media portrayal, guns aren?t the problem; violence is the problem. When incidents like the Illinois shooting make the headlines, it brings out the statistics and criminal instances involving guns, yet it can obscure the increasing number of violent acts that have nothing to do with firearms. A man staying a rural Missouri homeless shelter attacked the persons there with a pencil, a knife and then a chainsaw; further evidence of non gun violence is the man in another rural area hacked to death with a machete. Another recent story to make headlines is the military service woman who disappeared and upon investigation her charred remains along with that of her unborn child were discovered in the back yard of her home; the prime suspect, the woman?s estranged boyfriend. How many stories do we, as the public, see on talk shows, the nightly news of women who have been set ablaze by their psychotic lovers, been locked in burning homes and survived, attempted to leave abusive relationships only for the lover to come to the woman?s place of employment and throw acid in her face? One of the latest tragedies falling into this category is that of a suicidal man being tried for embezzlement who killed his wife them attempted to kill himself and his children in their garage with carbon monoxide, when that didn?t work, he killed them individually before crashing his car into a concrete barrier of a local freeway. The preliminary cause of death for the children was stated to the press as bunt trauma to the head and two baseball bats were being examined as possible murder weapons, proving more than guns can cause problems and more importantly, fatalities.
Likewise limiting and especially removing guns from the general public creates it?s own set of issues, not only taking away both the rich heritage placed in the bill of rights but denying other cultural pastimes in many areas like hunting, clay shooting and other sports that involve firearms. In addition, limiting guns, an idea that gained popularity after it was revealed that the shooter in the Virginia Tech massacre had a history of mental health issues and purchased his guns legally, does nothing to prevent those who steal their weapons from law abiding, responsible gun owners or purchase them on the street to commit their violence. The former being the case with the two young shooters who stole the weapons from their grandparents? home then used the schools fire alarm to lure the students outside then take aim. The Oklahoma mall shooter stole the gun he used from his stepfather?s gun cabinet. Removing guns from civilian society entirely not only takes resources away from violent crimes and other public safety issues, when police have to take part in the initial national round up, it further depletes the police?s ability to protect people when they must go around taking guns away from those who refuse to comply with the new law but have yet to commit violence with or without a gun. And, while taking away the guns may prevent death and carnage in the short term, the backlash could very well be forcing criminals to become more inventive. Seeing both the ordinary household items terrorists are attempting to use to bring down planes as well as the ingenuity demonstrated by those in prison right here in America, in what necessary items prisoners can turn into a shank, shiv or other sharp object to kill or injure fellow inmates, it provides a valuable clue to what could happen out in the rest of the public. If that isn?t convincing enough, try the new trend of teens turning disposable cameras into homemade tasers. While there were five dead in the Illinois shooting in the seconds before police arrived, it could have been much worse and the injuries much more devastating if something other than a gun had been used; proof of that can be seen in what happens around the world with various types explosives, in burns amputations and mass death. We have already seen explosives become a potential factor; in the case of the Columbine shooting, a story that inevitably returns to the conversation, explosives were found both in the boy?s homes and throughout the school although they were never detonated. With the proliferation of the internet people also have access to things like homemade explosive instructions and other deadly tools all courtesy of their ISP. Or consider the maiming that could occur if that Missouri man had been a little more skilled with the chainsaw; crush and other injuries that can occur from beatings with various blunt objects, tools from someone?s own tool shed, almost anything to be turned into a weapon can be far more disfiguring than the simplicity of a bullet hole, even a series of them. For those who still think lack of guns would decrease at least the number of fatalities, it still doesn?t preclude individuals stashing whatever weapons of choice throughout their place of work or school or college campus, as was the case with the Virginia Tech shooter, who in addition to hiding weapons on his person, stashed them throughout the building where the massacre took place. If we want a final piece of proof that removing guns does nothing to curb violence, look at what has happened, in Britain where a rash of stabbings reached global headlines after a Harry Potter actor was knifed to death. It brought out a sobering statistic we would do well to remember that gun crime is in the single digit percentile while a whopping 60% of violence is committed there with a knife.
It also does not bode well to try and arm all or many students in hopes of protecting themselves and others from a potential shooter; having a right to carry on college campuses only increases the violence. It increases the chances that an unbalanced student will reek havoc with their very own licensed gun; it can also create a number of friendly fire situations, should there be a crisis, which adds to the possible loss of life. Having the right to carry also can create a false sense of security for those who are carrying a concealed weapon and the rest of the students on campus; this is also true of campus officials. If they think carrying makes their campus safe, they may over look other things that could better aid students. Further in the even of a crisis, not only does it become more difficult to hit a moving target rather than a stationary practice one, having to take a life is a monumental psychological undertaking. People who are depending on their gun to protect them in a crisis may find they are unable to pull the trigger and thus unduly put themselves in harms way, likely ending up dead. For those who were able to pull that trigger, they would have to live with the guilt and residual psychological effects. Shooting a violent person with a gun also may not stop the shooter only anger them, make them more erratic and more dangerous, not the solution or outcome wanted.
Solutions to America?s violence problem are far more complicated than simply removing guns or adding them; it requires a true social shift. First we must stop driving people crazy, so to speak, in that we are a society that fuels frustration, pressure and negative antagonism; from high stress job environments like postal work, day traders, air traffic controllers to, on a more practical level, whether it?s dealing with the cable company, the phone company, filing our taxes, trying to find simple information on the internet, the world seems unnecessarily designed to try our patients. It has become increasingly difficult to do basic things and get our basic needs met; then there are the larger issues like the social pressures we place on women to be all and do all, likely a factor in the case of the soccer mom who pulled a gun from her glove box and shot someone who cut her off on the freeway. The economic pressures of late have made people more desperate to provide for themselves and their family or get the temporary aid needed to survive as well as the tools to get back on their feet; loss of job is reported to have played a roll in the thinking of the California man who killed his family then himself or the Kentucky man who gunned down people at his job. This pressure and antagonism also manifests itself with children as well; with the increased drive to be successful, the increased competitiveness in all levels of schooling, society has some how duped parents and kids into believing they must be good at everything, they must get perfect grades, they must be involved in nearly every extra circular activity imaginable, increasing the gap between the uber successful high school kids and the perceived losers feelings held by the Columbine shooters and others like them. This uber success of kids and others has also filtered into all of society making high school and college kids feel they are a failure if they do not go to college, have trouble finding a job, or don?t have a romantic relationship and looks down upon them if they can?t do all of these things at once, making it easier for supposed losers, those who don?t stand out to be ignored and thinking a gun is the only thing to get anyone?s attention. Thinking like all the instances above reasonably a factor in pushing the Oklahoma mall shooter over the edge who was living with a friend rather than at home with his parent, who was a picked on high school drop out, who had recently lost his job and his girlfriend. The antagonism in this country has reached a new level when Rosie O?Donnell and Donald Trump are in a mud slinging war of words, Barbra Walters and Star Jones are doing the same, an antagonism leveled most heavily at those who try to change even the simplest of things in their community, as in the case of Charles ?Cookie? Thorton, who after several bouts with his local city council, took a gun and opened fire on a council meeting. If we are going to significantly reduce the violence, we are going to have to reduce the pressure, the ridicule, the antagonism, stop the phenomenon of invisible people, especially in schools, where they fall into the ether until they are holding an assault rifle.
The other large part of curbing the violence is to remove the stigma around mental illness and guaranteeing quality mental health services to those who need it; the clamor for healthcare reform needs to include bringing mental health services up to par with the rest of the health care industry in this country then expanding on theses things to make them what they need to be. It means making people, particularly school faculty, more aware of problems and having the help in place for individuals to get; the Virginia Tech shooter had repeated run ins with both the colleges mental health staff and the local mental health facility but was repeatedly declared not to be a threat to self or others, obviously they were wrong, the Illinois shooter was said to have stopped taking his anti depressants. Clearly things need to change and not just the mentally ill?s ability to buy guns; we need to make sure that those who need mental health services do not run from them for fear of ostracism by friends, family, neighbors and society as a whole, stop looking at people funny because of a failed suicide attempt for example, stop making people feel deficient because they need help or looking down on them for taking psychiatric medication. We need to stop making quality mental health so difficult to reach, substandard for those who have government insurance like Medicare, Medicaid or no insurance at all, stop creating services via insurance coverage, that either don?t cover mental health, don?t cover the type of professional needed to treat your specific condition or combination of conditions, stop insurance programs that will pay for medications but not therapy or will pay for one and not the other, when both are needed. We need more research on treatments for the plethora of mental conditions found in the country and around the world, better medications to treat psychotic diseases, profiles or better profiles of those who commit such crimes so mental health professionals and others can be on the look out for signs and symptoms.
And we need quality mental health professionals, hospital and other staff that will listen when patients are in trouble and brave enough to speak up, like the schizophrenic man featured on a Dateline segment who met with his psychiatrist and repeatedly demanded help or he was going to start killing people. When the man was refused he went on a killing spree in his city that killed at least 3 civilians and 1 police officer; and, there is no excuse for it. This man pleaded for help made threats to others and was allowed to walk out the doors unaided; the Virginia Tech shooter wrote violent plays and other writings that repeatedly disturbed faculty and students yet he was allowed to continue to attend classes without the outpatient counseling repeatedly recommended, again a more passive cry for help ignored. We also need mental institutions that do more than instill fear in their patients, do more than just warehouse occupants, stop the environment where patients are far more helpful to each other than the professionals put there to provide treatment. We need to make sure that these institutions make a concentrated effort to get those who can be, well. Because, if this isn?t done, we are locking up and drugging up people indefinably that don?t need to be; people who have a negative experiences with mental institutions may not seek further mental health treatment or may not tell their current counselor anything that they think could land back there, hampering treatment and setting the stage for possible disaster. Looking at the things presented here no one ever need wonder why people get guns, in the pressure, dysfunction and antagonism of today?s world no one need wonder why marginalized individuals reach for a gun, the only thing that seems to get and keep our attention. And if we really want to stop this we have to stop these things, we have to make real solutions a real reality.