It’s Not About Mental Illness Or Video Games – It’s Only About The Guns

us_guns_in_mexicoDuring the all-too-frequent times when mass shooters tragically enter the nation’s conscience, every gun lover suddenly turns into an armchair psychiatrist. People who are as willing to defend to the death their right to not have healthcare suddenly lament our country’s lack of healthcare options. Of course, it doesn’t help when our heart strings are genuinely tugged by a mother’s own plea for help dealing with her own son’s violent tendencies. “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” she proclaimed. The problem, of course, is that while we agree with her that society is complicit in an insufficient health care system, she is not Adam Lanza’s mother. 

Unlike Adam Lanza’s mother, her son has not taken an assault rifle to a school full of innocent children. Unlike Adam Lanza’s mother, she is alive to blog about it.

We know almost nothing about Adam Lanza, yet that doesn’t stop us from speculating. It’s rumored that he might have had Aspergers Syndrome, which basically only means he might have been brighter than average and less socially adept. It certainly is not a clue into the mind of a mass killer.

Like with Columbine, video games and media have been brought to the forefront. While, like many, I felt squeamish watching the season finale of Dexter, Dexter is not the cause of mass shootings. Neither is World of Warcraft. I can comfortably make that proclamation by looking at the other countries that are obsessed with violent video games; Canada and Japan. Neither country has our mass shooting problems.

We know very little of Adam Lanza, but what we do know is that he took three of his mother’s guns – an AR-15 rifle and two handguns; a Glock 10 mm and a Sig Sauer 9 mm – into a school and killed 26 people before killing himself. That is all we know. We do not know what kind of mother he had. We do not know what sort of upbringing he had. We do not know that he was mentally ill – for all we know, he suddenly snapped. We do not know that he was a gamer or that he even watched TV.

Let’s say for a moment that we do focus our discussion on mental health – where, exactly, do we start? Despite the fact that we are leaving a darkly banner year for mass shooters, the vast majority of gun fatalities do not come from the Adam Lanzas of the nation. As a society, we are angry, paranoid and trigger happy. Most people would pass mental health evaluations but at the same time, how many people do you know who suffer road rage or other anger issues? Is anger even a mental illness?

While we do complain of the lack of mental health care options, we are also the most heavily medicated country in the world when it comes to mental health care. We aren’t ignoring mental health at all. Sure, we could be accused of having a superficial and lazy approach to mental health care, but that is another debate and that fix will take decades and a complete change in medical protocol.

Let’s even go deeper. The Supreme Court has decided that corporations are people. At the same time, corporations have decided that people are chattel. Is it really such a stretch to think that we would stop seeing each other as human?

We are in a state of emergency. Not only are people using crowded public places as shooting galleries, people are holding on to their guns as if they are their children, literally. It might be overly blunt but it’s not incorrect to say that for many in the gun world, the massacre of children is a small price to pay for their right to own a gun. Those people are disgustingly and tragically wrong.

The fact is, we can’t afford to take a bottom up approach to this issue. People are dying from guns every single day. All of these crimes have just one thing in common; guns. We need to address the fact that there are 300 million guns in this country in the hands of only about a third of the population. Not only do we need to ban assault weapons, we need to take a serious look at concealed carry laws and in particular, at Stand Your Ground and related laws. It’s simply become far too easy to think of a gun as a form of conflict resolution.

Perhaps it is time to re-think the Second Amendment. We have the largest military in the world and we do have a “well-regulated militia” in each state; it is the National Guard. Even if we were to abide by the intent of the Second Amendment, all guns would be licensed and each gun owner would be well-trained and ready to defend the country. If a gun owner actually thinks their personal arsenal will stand up to the most advanced weaponry in the world, they are dangerously naive on top of paranoid.

This is a complex issue and not one that will be solved by me, the NRA or any politician. While we might not have a solution at hand, we do have a treatment. Guns might only be a symptom of a nationwide psychosis, but they are a deadly symptom. If we can begin to deal with the symptom, we can begin to save lives. Focusing on guns may be a bandaid approach, but bandaids actually do help heal.

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