So, some asshole (no, I’m not going to name him) shot up a school in Florida. And the instant something like that happens people come out of the woodwork citing their pet causes of the issue.
I get it. People want some simple fix to avoid horrid things like this, but that simply isn’t the case.
First, let’s cover the big one. Guns. If we didn’t have guns (or “assault weapons” or “semiautomatic weapons” or whatever the cause du juor is today) then we wouldn’t have these mass shootings.
Maybe. If you magically made all guns go away (and that includes all guns owned by governments as well) along with all the ability to make guns, then it follows there will be no shootings. And if you had magical peace-farting unicorns flatulating love and happiness there wouldn’t be any either. The latter is as likely to happen as the former, maybe more so.
There are on the order of 100 million gun owners in the United States owning between 300 million and a half billion guns. Gun owners outnumber law enforcement all law enforcement, by on the order of 70 to one. They outnumber the entire world’s militaries and paramilitary organizations by three to one. There isn’t enough force in the world, short of leaving your nation a burned out husk to get rid of them by force. And most of them aren’t finding your attempts at persuasion (which largely consist of name calling and accusations of everything from raping puppies to killing off the dinosaurs) don’t seem to be working.
Second, guns are not difficult to make. I’ve dealt with that in a recent post. Australia, for instance, is seeing homemade machine guns turning up in criminals hands. A blow-back open bolt machine gun is one of the easiest types of repeating firearms to make. I was twelve when I independently “invented” one (never actually built it but looking back I’d essentially come up with the Sten gun action). That Genie is not going back into the bottle.
If a 12 year old can do it…
But here’s the thing, even if you did make all the guns go away, or were restricted to those who never, ever, ever, would misuse them. (Who that might be, I don’t know. Are you naive enough to trust governments? I’m not. If you can’t trust your neighbors enough to let them own guns, how can you trust them enough to vote to decided who gets killed?) But let’s suppose.
- Oklahoma City Bombing
- Bath School Massacre
- Happy Land Fire
- Cinema Rex Fire
That’s two bombings and two arsons but I could go on and on. Consider some of the fires that have killed a lot of people. Fires that started accidentally. Fires as bad that someone could start deliberately.
Taking away one method, even if you achieve it doesn’t make the murderous stop. It simply makes them look for other means.
Thus, attempts to ban/restrict guns simply will not work.
So since dealing with the tools won’t solve the problem, that leaves dealing with the killer.
The asshole (again, not naming him) was on depression medications, some folk say. Look how many of these assholes are on psychiatric medicine. Blame the medicines.
The people are on psychiatric medicines because they have mental problems. Generally speaking, when people take psychiatric medications, it’s because they have psychiatric problems. And since no medication is a panacea, sometimes despite the best efforts, they don’t work as we’d hope. And, yes, sometimes they are prescribed when they shouldn’t be. And sometimes they aren’t prescribed when they should be. All because we live in an imperfect world.
Further complicating the matter is that some people behave “atypically” to any given medication. This is why the use of psychiatric medication needs to be monitored by a competent mental health professional, why people near to the person involved need to be aware of possible issues and what to look for to get the person to competent care before things explode out of hand.
Others lay the blame on “turning our backs on God.” Well, if that’s your solution, I just have to ask what restrictions you plan to put on me as a non-believer based on this “God” thing. If “none” then I’m not seeing how this is any help. If not “none” then, well, you might find some resistance from myself and other non-believers or, for that matter, people who are believers but simply believe differently from you.
The problem is there is no one simple solution. There is one thing, however, that we know doesn’t work: Gun free zones.
Nope. Not the least bit useful. Most of these spree killers target gun free zones.
There. is. a. reason. for. that.
All a “gun free zone” does is ensure that the bad guys will face no armed resistance. At most, they’ll face one or two guards/”resource officers” who can be planned for and dealt with. (Old rule of planning for emergencies: one is none, two is one.) Declaring an area a “gun free zone” does not prevent any crime and does not save any lives.
So what can be done?
First off, stop making these assholes famous. In many cases the notoriety is a part of their motivation. Take that away from them.
Second, yes, mental health is an issue. As I mention above, people on psychiatric medicine need to be closely monitored to make sure both that they’re taking the medication and that it is actually helping. We also need to make sure people close to the individual: friends and loved ones, co-workers, teachers and counselors, know what to look for in case the medication and treatment is not working or if they’re having an atypical result (responding to antidepressants with rage as an example). Doing this requires de-stigmatizing getting help for this kind of problem. And part of that means we need to be able to honestly assure people that getting help with their emotional problems doesn’t permanently strip them of their rights.
Related to that is we need to bring back involuntary hospitalization for those who won’t get the treatment they need. I know this carries a bad name to it, and rightly so, for the abuses that were performed in its name. But we’ve gone too far in the other direction, making it near impossible to get someone whose issues make them dangerous to themselves or others into the care they need. Due process to protect the rights of the person being considered for hospitalization needs to be in full force, but it still needs to be an available tool.
Those would go a long way toward dealing with the spree-killing mass murder problem.