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Mass Murders in America: What Can We Possibly Do?

school shootingThe 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?

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5 comments on “Mass Murders in America: What Can We Possibly Do?

  1. Mary Pacifico Curtis
    December 15, 2012

    “on balance, we’d rather have a few school shootings than gun restrictions or increased spending on social programs”

    Here’s your question, your thesis.

    Readers ask yourselves a few shootings vs. restrictions?

    We now know those kids are our kids. Our world’s little first graders were shot 3-11 times: bullets in tiny bodies.

    The shooter was a flimsy man.

    We again have death on our hands. By gun.

    Legally issued

    Legally gained.

    Do “we”

    change?

  2. bill hpner
    December 20, 2012

    After reading part of the first paragraph, one might assume that I am a supporter of the NRA. Such is not the case. The prevalence of guns within a country does not always a result in high homicide rates. Guns are widespread in Switzerland and Israel, yet these nations have low homicide rates. Gun-control is needed more in America due to the social distance between Americans that renders it easier for its citizens to kill one another. The fundamental problem is therefore not guns, but rather the very cultural soul of the United States, with its emphasis on individualism that separates Americans from one another, rather than bringing them closer together as a society.
    The latest mass murder in Connecticut left me, as it did most, deeply moved and saddened. The ages of the children rendered this violence especially tragic and poignant. Sociological studies, conducted by Geert Hofstede and others, revealed that no nation in the world has a greater shared sensibility of individualism than America. This deeply held value that each individual is responsible for himself rather than a shared responsibility within society is implicitly a national rejection of a sense of community. It is currently reflected in the saying of some Americans “why should I pay for someone else’s health care?”
    Statistics compiled by the United Nations office of drugs and crime revealed that the homicide rate for the United States (4.2 per 100,000) was four times greater than other advanced nations of Europe (Sweden 1.0, England 1.2, Norway 0.6, Italy 0.9, Spain 0.8, Germany 0.8, and France 1.1.) Given the higher incidence of homicides, the United States has its work cut out for it to join the other nations of high human development in achieving a lower homicide rate.
    Strict gun-control is therefore essential simply because it is too easy for Americans to kill each other. There are 12,000 dead Americans in the last year to support this argument.
    However, greater efforts have to be made to help the United States become a nation of shared dreams and aspirations. This will not be an easy task. The spirit of 19th-century rugged individualism runs deeply through the core of American society. The welfare Reform Act of 1995 that resulted in millions of children being thrown into greater poverty was called The Personal Responsibility act. In effect, the message that was sent was, “don’t tell us you can’t get a job, don’t tell us you have no one to take care of your kids, don’t tell us that the job you found does not pay enough to support your family, do something about it yourself. Don’t expect society to help you.”
    If America is to achieve homicide rates commensurate with other advanced nations, social distance between Americans must decrease. Asians, African-Americans and Latinos are more open to having government play a role in their lives than are the majority of Whites, according to a PEW research study. Given the decline of the percentage of Whites in the total population of the United States, there is hope for common dreams in the future, but how long will it take to achieve them?
    (Bill Honer is an Author and Social Activist

    • Dan Holden
      December 20, 2012

      Excellent comment, and very well thought out! I could not agree more. Thank you for your contribution!

  3. Pingback: SiliconCowboy’s Best Blog Posts of 2012 « Siliconcowboy's Blog

  4. Hassan
    May 25, 2013

    I’m very happy to discover this page. I want to to thank you for ones time for this fantastic read!! I definitely savored every part of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff on your blog.

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This entry was posted on December 15, 2012 by in Social Responsibility.
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