In the wake of the shooting in Newtown Connecticut, pending Washington’s recommendations and actions on certain types of guns, it is all anyone can talk about. From NRA spokesperson Wayne Lapierre’s insensitive press conference a week after the tragedy to another second amendment junkie, Alex Jones, losing it on Piers Morgan; the republican right wing is absolutely paranoid about losing their guns, vowing they will not let an assault weapons ban pass the United States congress. In contrast 74% of NRA members support better gun control, common sense law like if you’re on a terror watch list no gun for you, background checks for every legal gun bought in this country. While the left calls their fellow lawmakers position lunacy, trots out examples such as Australia, who saw massive drops in gun violence, even suicides when they put much tighter restrictions in place, still all anyone can talk about is the gun. Whether it’s banning what gun enthusiasts call the tactical rifle, whether it’s limiting the amount of ammo an individual can purchase, whether it’s getting rid of so called high capacity magazines that not only house an obscene amount of bullets but fire them at an obscene rate for anything other than killing as many people, living things as possible in the least amount of time. All political commentators can talk about is where things will go on gun legislation, which guns will be outlawed, which magazines, the number of rounds allowed; now there is little doubt recommendations presented by vice president Joe Biden and his task force will include common sense things we think we already have, expanding the list of who can’t legally buy a gun to more sections of the mentally ill, those on a government watch list, mandating background checks, expanding what they look for. The real question being drowned out is will it be enough, will it make an effective difference; yes or no?
As unfortunate as it is the right wing and people like Wayne Lapierre have a point; simply removing the gun isn’t going to solve the problem, whether you increase the number of background checks, increase the intensity, the scrutiny of a background check done on someone who wishes to buy a gun, whether you limit types of guns, rounds or capacity of magazine. Once a bad guy has that gun, the only thing that will stop him is a good guy with a gun. Despite his blaming violent, crazy people with guns on violent videogames, movies and television, he also hit another issue squarely on the head when he suggested putting trained, armed security into every school in America. And consequently because few will so much as discuss the idea, what is happening across the country is areas are holding gun safety, gun handling workshops for teachers to carry guns in order to protect their classrooms; school boards and state legislatures are debating whether or not teachers can carry guns into schools to safeguard students. Sadly they have grounds for calling such bans ineffective outside something as old as Columbine, however ingrained in our memory; putting on glaring display the loophole in any assault weapons ban demonstrated by the upstate New York man who set fire to his neighborhood in order to lure fire and police there then shoot them. Said man was already a felon not allowed to legally be in possession of or buy a gun, so he simply conned or coerced someone into doing it for him. Proponents of no change to current gun control had an intriguing story to tell regarding limits to magazines involving a Georgia woman who had a crazed man in her house she had fired 5 of the 6 rounds contained in her pistol like gun at or into the persons head and he was still coming towards her stating she needed something more than a magazine that shot 6 rounds, and had there been multiple assailants her and her kids might not be here. 6 rounds incidentally being one less than the maximum limit just passed by the New York state assembly. Other instances they claim call for assault weapon style guns, huge magazines surrounds chaos in the wake of things like hurricane Katrina, super storm Sandy where you are confronted with gangs of looters and easily added to that is ammo lost in the flood, no money or access to ammo to replenish what you fire.
Perhaps the most appalling thing seen of late isn’t spokes people for the National Rifle Association, who we all knew wouldn’t like anything that would put restrictions on its business, who many recognize as having gone over to the crazy end of the debate; instead one of the most shocking things is an interview ABC News’ Diane Sawyer held with Mark Kelly and Gabrielle Giffords, not that they spoke out, not that they were outraged by congressional inaction, not only considering her tragedy but the sheer number that have occurred in the two years since, not that they want reasonable gun control, not that they have begun their own action campaign, not their views taking into account what they went through. It’s that when Diane Sawyer brought up the counterpoint guns could be bought illegally the non-brain damaged member of that duo, Mark Kelly, said to a national television audience he didn’t believe that. Now considering what he does all day, his former profession it is reasonable to assume he had no way of knowing about the 2 rocket launchers, that are illegal for civilian ownership, recovered in a California buyback program moved up several months in light of what happened at Sandy Hook, or that instances like that are nothing new to police there, unless he is an avid news watcher. Keeping in mind though his answer was given on the heels of reputing the NRA stance on good guys with guns relating the story of a civilian with a gun there in Tucson, Arizona who nearly shot the person responsible for bringing down Jared Loughner. Never mind tiny details like Mr. Lapierre’s comments pertained putting trained police or security in schools, implied references to heroic actions of police officers responding to mass shooting scenes, not any Joe Schmoe who owns a gun and has logged hours at a shooting range. Not that members of the public are exceptionally picky on who tries to save their lives. Similarly Christopher Kennedy Lawford appeared on CNN’s Piers Morgan talking about his new book on how to beat addiction, talking about the staggering number of people with a substance abuse problem, battling addictive behavior also having some sort of mental illness, of course gravitating into the gun debate; Lawford noting that people who do this are quite clearly mentally ill, the goal being to keep guns out of the hands of those same significantly mentally ill. He is another echoing the democrats’ platform, seen by many as the sane platform, on the subject presenting gun control as a means to keep guns out of the hands of the deeply mentally disturbed. Then proclaiming that as your goal, you don’t start by bickering over what classifies as an assault weapon, you don’t begin with wildly unpopular stances on sizes of clips, you push for those things that will keep any type of gun away from an unstable individual; those things include universal background checks, expanding what a background check looks for and additions to the classifications of people who are not allowed to purchase a gun to encompass more of the mentally ill. Sadly Mr. Lawford and Mr. Morgan’s discussion centered instead only around guns, the latter calling them killing machines, and these are the sane people, the people who want the larger debate.
Returning to the opening idea that the NRA and those who support gun control as is, it makes perfect sense up and until you realize theirs isn’t the only solution, up and until it dawns on parents I don’t want a background or routine mental health check on security personnel to become an oversight leading to a trained security person having a meltdown then shooting my kid. Arming teachers may make sense to some communities particularly ones already effected by something like this or those with similar characteristics until they recognize the potential of a teacher having a mental breakdown, much like the ones suffered by aforementioned shooters, and the potential for dead and wounded children that way. It all adds up until you take into account how easy it would be for a frustrated teacher to begin waving the gun he has in his desk, in a locked closet or on his person around his classroom in a desperate attempt to keep order, force unruly children to behave. You begin to understand the importance of having a gun to protect yourself and having as many rounds as you can possibly put into the thing when you see it through the lens of natural disaster, until you start asking where were the police, what are the effective ways to police, prevent looting, violence, vandalized property damage, and why don’t they know these techniques in areas such as New Orleans, accustomed to hurricanes and natural disaster type phenomenon? You deeply sympathize with the Georgia woman defending her family until you again come back to where were the police, how was it this crazed person who could not be stopped with 5 bullets came to be walking the streets to begin with; why is it routinely southern states and small towns who have so much trouble adequately mobilizing a police force? Adjacently why is it we continue to not demand a national arrest record database so that if you get arrested, jailed, let out on bail pending a court hearing in one state or county every other state and county across the country knows your criminal history, something that would have saved 4 cops brutally gunned down in a diner by a man who was let out of jail after serving several years for a violent crime based on his age at the time he committed the crime, multiple letters of recommendation, good behavior and a belief he had turned his life around, who then was arrested for a minor altercation, let out on bail, judge having no clue about his past, for him to go to another state and kill police officers when he should not have been on the street at all. Why is it under 3 strikes laws and their variations nationwide we will put someone in jail for life over writing bad checks and stealing baby formula but won’t keep violent people behind bars or at least insist on keeping a better eye on them if we are going to let them out, a change in perspective that would have saved 2 New York fire fighters since the man who lit his neighborhood to get them there killed his grandmother decades before, was let out of jail, something triggered his degraded mental state leading him to coerce a woman into buying multiple guns, then left a rambling suicide note, talking about his favorite thing being killing people.
But once again we’re not having the conversation that needs to be had; the one where if you put the mental health structure in place, it no longer matters who can legally purchase a gun and who can’t in that context, because these severely mentally unhealthy people are not on the streets to commit their crime in the first place, but rather are locked up receiving the treatment they need. Let’s remember 3 out of 4 of the last deranged people to do this were on the radar of either police or college counseling services; had those situations been handled in a proper way, they would have been remitted to mental health before we ever knew their name. We’re not having the conversation that needs to be had, the one where we have no less than a dozen drugs for erectile dysfunction, acid reflux, ADHD, depression, we always have a new generations of these drugs, yet it took 40 years for a new antibiotic for drug resistant TB; we live in the age of the superbug yet have no new antibiotics to combat them, success only coming from combining existing ones in new ways, strategy that won’t hold out forever. Not one person has seriously mentioned the reality we have no new treatments, therapies, forget drugs to deal with these psychotic people showing up in ever increasing numbers despite facts demonstrating people taking psychiatric medications are the most notorious for going off their meds with disastrous results. Equally never mentioned is why, outside part of the delusion being they don’t need medication, side effects especially long term side effects, make these drugs some of the worst to want to take, leaving people without psychotic tendencies but only capable of sitting in a chair and drooling, schizoaffective drugs leave patients sleepy and generally out of it. Shaking, ticking and other involuntary movements indicating neurological symptoms almost always occur in persons who have been on such medications for years; we don’t think for one minute about improving medications so they are so aversive to take. Worse still, after so many tragedies we have no grater social awareness of people suffering psychosis, what to do about it; mental health professionals remain as unaware as the general public claiming an inability to distinguish between people suffering psychosis and people who will also become violent as a result of that psychosis. Mental illness is still, in the 21st century, stigmatized as a character flaw, still viewed as a contagion worse than any communicable disease, still a source of family shame to be swept under the rug, if at all possible; in patient mental health programs and long term care mental institutions are little more than warehouses orderlies a different kind of jailer.
We refuse to separate types of violence committed with a gun, to acknowledge profound differences between gang violence and mass shooter violence, domestic violence incidents and situations where households with guns shot family members thinking them an intruder, where a child was killed while playing with a gun or where a suicide was carried out with a gun. To the so called sane people having the debate, countering the loud extremists, it all boils down to the gun, trying to dance around the second amendment, the supreme courts latest interpretation of the second amendment and also prevent gun violence, it’s all the same. Control the gun; stop the violence, not true. Violence can be perpetrated with almost anything evident by countries that have banned or greatly restricted guns; violent people simply find another means. Piers Morgan even had the unmitigated gall to compare the Sandy Hook shooting to the knifing in China transpiring the very same day under similar circumstances; both he and Mr. Lawford agreeing the Chinese situation was a victory, because all the children attacked lived. Here is no victory, for children who may be maimed, who likely require surgery upon surgery to be whole again if they ever can; victory is it not happening in the first place. Yet those people pushing for an assault weapons ban assume an even more alarming false sense of security projecting the concept banning said type of gun will end mass shootings, decrease death tolls. Wrong; it will simply cause them to bring more guns to a shooting scene, lean more heavily on distraction like the smoke bombs set off in that movie theater, or finally detonate explosives to achieve their goal Further there are proven methods for combatting gang violence, true preventatives and procedures for handling domestic violence, there are other ways to curb suicides, gun safety not just the absence of a gun is key in keeping children from playing with a potentially loaded gun, forestalling false intruder shootings, just as there are ways to intercept mass shooters before they go on their rampages. The problem is getting officials to use them.