The Roots of Newtown, Part III: Where the NRA has it wrong

By Wright for the Palm Beach Post

By Wright for the Palm Beach Post

The National Rifle Association’s steadfast defense of the Second Amendment right to bear arms is prefaced on two assumptions: that all people are sane, and that all people are adequately socialized.

Under scrutiny, neither of these assumptions turns out to be true.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “mental disorders are common throughout the United States, affecting tens of millions of people each year, and that only a fraction of those affected receive treatment.”

Department of Justice statistics indicate that, in 2010, there were approximately 725,000 people incarcerated under state jurisdiction for a violent crime, and that number has increased since 2000. In 2011 (the latest year for which full data are available) there were 8,552 murders, 124,606 robberies, and 138,336 aggravated assaults nationwide involving a gun, with 59 percent of all murders committed using a firearm. That’s in just one year.

Clearly, based on these data, not all people are sane or adequately socialized.

But that is what background checks are for, gun proponents argue, which is true in regard to those who’ve already been convicted of a crime or diagnosed with mental illness. Neither was the case with Adam Lanza. Which is why such checks will not catch the next mass murderer.

Gun proponents press the issue by saying that guns don’t kill people—people kill people. Again, this is true, except that it is undeniably easier to kill everybody in the room with an assault rifle and a multi-round magazine clip than with a  knife or one’s bare hands. Any casual student of combat will notice that weaponry has evolved to place more and more distance between the combatant and his target. What began as hand-to-hand or sticks-and-stones became blades, then arrows, and now guns, artillery, and drone aircraft.

The point being that a gun conveys a distinct advantage to the shooter over an unarmed victim.

Furthermore, when the Second Amendment was written, the pinnacle of modern firearms was a single-shot, muzzle-loading rifle. By my guess, it takes about eight seconds to reload and fire one shot from a muzzle-loader. Today, we have semi-automatic weapons never contemplated by the Framers of the Constitution. Depending on the estimate, a shooter can fire a semi-automatic somewhere between 40 rounds per minute and 3 or 4 rounds per second.

Using the NRA’s logic, if people are the key to whether gun violence happens or not, then a solution hinges on what we offer those people. Why is it easier, then, for a criminal, or someone with mental illness, or a socially awkward young man to get his hands on a gun than for that same person to find a program that will serve their needs and truly benefit the individual and society? I don’t know of anyone who can satisfyingly answer that question.

In the meantime, while politicians and special interests spar about what ought to be done, another confused boy is playing video games and withdrawing from purposeful contact with others. One day, he will reach for his legally-purchased semi-automatic weapon and enter whatever place where people congregate that he’s chosen—a school, a movie theater, a church or mosque—and he will use the skills he’s honed alone in his basement.

“At last,” he will think as he aims his piece at the moving targets, “someone will notice me. I’ve achieved what I set out to do.

“Won’t they be amazed….”

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6 comments

  1. lwk2431

    You wrote:

    “The National Rifle Association’s steadfast defense of the Second Amendment right to bear arms is prefaced on two assumptions: that all people are sane, and that all people are adequately socialized.”

    Not true. It is based on facts, for example, that evil people and governments exist and people have a right to defend themself against both.

    And:

    “According to the National Institute of Mental Health, ‘mental disorders are common throughout the United States, affecting tens of millions of people each year, and that only a fraction of those affected receive treatment.'”

    There is no blood test for mental disease. Mental “illness” is whatever a psychiatrist says it is based on their diagnostic manual. One perversity of the system is that professionals who’s job it is to help people with mental issues _must_ diagnose some illness to get paid by insurance. They are highly motivated to diagnose an illness, and again, it is all on their opinion.

    How about this, let’s put limits on the First Amendment where if you are diagnosed with a mental disorder your Facebook and WordPress postings may be censored?

    I agree we have mental health issues. I am not comfortable with how easily some would strip people of basic rights on the opinion of a professional motivated to find an illness for monetary reasons.

    And wrote:

    “… 59 percent of all murders committed using a firearm.”

    The U.K. has largely banned firearms and Piers Morgan touted something like only 35 gun murders in the U.K. in one year. He didn’t mention that the overall murder rate did not decrease due to the gun ban. What difference does it make if you are killed with a gun or a knife? Dead is dead.

    Also the U.N. said that the U.K. was the most violent country in Europe. No guns, just violence and a crime that exceeds ours in other respects murder.

    And:

    “…it is undeniably easier to kill everybody in the room with an assault rifle and a multi-round magazine clip than with a knife or one’s bare hands…”

    It is also easier to defend yourself, especially if you are small person or a woman, with an AR-15. The AR-15 carbine is arguably the best firearms for home defense. See:

    Who Needs An Assault Rifle?
    http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/who-needs-an-assault-rifle/

    And:

    “The point being that a gun conveys a distinct advantage to the shooter over an unarmed victim.”

    Which is why the concealed carry movement has been a huge success. Every state that has fully implemented has seen a decrease in violence in public.

    And:

    “Why is it easier, then, for a criminal, or someone with mental illness, or a socially awkward young man to get his hands on a gun than for that same person to find a program that will serve their needs and truly benefit the individual and society? I don’t know of anyone who can satisfyingly answer that question.”

    People with mental illness of the kind that causes these problems rarely seek help. As a society back in the 1970s or so we decided it was better to drug people – a “chemical straitjacket” as some described it – than actually try to treat people.

    Back then they discovered a whole lot of drugs that helped control symptoms and psychiatrists main job now is to prescribe drugs. In the meantime we have closed down many of our hospitals to treat these people.

    One problem today is the huge amount of psychotropic drugs prescribed to young kids. Just about every mass shooter we have reliable info on was using, or withdrawing from one of these drugs (like SSRIs). Many of these drugs have serious warnings about symptons, for example drugs prescribed for ADHD:

    Aggression/hostility
    Agitation
    Depression
    Hallucinations
    Hypersensitivity
    Increased irritability
    Insomnia
    Mania
    Mental/mood changes
    Psychosis
    Suicidal thoughts
    Violent behavior
    “Zombie” demeanor

    See:

    http://www.cchrint.org/psychiatric-drugs/stimulantsideeffects/

    Do you suppose it is possible that 1 in 100,000 (or some number) of kids with yet undetected serious mental issues that will later bloom in bipolar disorder or schizophrenia or something similar might be turned into a remorseless “zombie” with violent and suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, and that might lead to an Adam Lanza?

    Why are we not investigating that? Is it because the drug companies are immensely richer and more powerful than Smith & Wesson or Colt or Glock?

    lwk
    http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/

    • Matthew Taylor

      Thank you for your comments. I hope you also read parts I and II of this series of posts, as they are meant to be read together.
      I won’t address all your points because I stand by what I’ve written. I’ll just say that I reject the idea that a person can wake up one day and decide to be evil, or a criminal, or insane, as if they are choosing a career. People become these things. So the question is why, and how do we, as a society, deal with this?
      More guns will not solve the problem, any more than more freeways solved the problem of gridlock in Los Angeles. It is time to consider other options.

      • lwk2431

        You wrote:

        ” I’ll just say that I reject the idea that a person can wake up one day and decide to be evil, or a criminal, or insane, as if they are choosing a career. People become these things. So the question is why, and how do we, as a society, deal with this?”

        One of my suggestions was we look at “what has changed,” and I suggesting looking at psychotropic drugs that are being massively prescribed to young boys for ADHD (“ADHD” sounds to me a lot like just “being a boy” in many cases, although I am aware it can be more severe – my wife is a teacher of very young children).

        We can try to treat the symptoms of gun violence by massively violating civil rights, or we could perhaps start looking for things that changed. When I was a kid in the 1950s and 1960s we had tons of guns, often loaded and in the closet. My neighbor might have an M1 Garand battle rifle from WWII or Korea loaded with cartridges massively more powerful than the 223 used in an AR-15. Or my neighbor might have an M1 Carbine with a 20 round detachable magazine.

        As a kid I could buy a German battle rifle collected off the battle fields of Europe in 1945 from beside the dead bodies of German soldiers not yet buried. I could buy that rifle, and ammunition for it, mail order from an ad in the back of a comic book. I bought my first .22 rifle at 16 in a retail store without a background check or even a parent there to approve.

        The availability of guns hasn’t particularly changed. Something else has changed. If you are sincere about wanting to do something about it then ask “what changed?” Also ask yourself what is so wrong about letting responsible adults carry firearms in schools to protect kids. Until we figure out the root cause doesn’t that make more sense?

        Remember, my wife is a teacher of very young kids like those killed at Sandy Hook, except they are more “challenged” and could not hide quietly in a closet. I would like my wife to be able to get a concealed carry permit and be able to carry a small handgun in school – concealed of course.

        lwk

  2. lwk2431

    I read your other two posts. I certainly agree with the idea that young boys need direction and purpose.

    You wrote:

    “Department of Justice statistics indicate that, in 2010, there were approximately 725,000 people incarcerated under state jurisdiction for a violent crime, and that number has increased since 2000. In 2011 (the latest year for which full data are available) there were 8,552 murders, 124,606 robberies, and 138,336 aggravated assaults nationwide involving a gun, with 59 percent of all murders committed using a firearm.”

    What I have read indicates that the crime rate has been decreasing for the last decade or so. For example:

    Hard Times, Fewer Crimes
    “When the FBI announced last week that violent crime in the U.S. had reached a 40-year low in 2010, many criminologists were perplexed.”
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304066504576345553135009870.html

    Crime in the United States
    Crime rates have varied over time in the United States. American crime rates generally rose after World War II, and peaked between the 1970s and early 1990s. Since the early 1990s, crime has declined in the United States,[5] and current crime rates are approximately the same as those of the 1960s.[6]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_the_United_States

    America certainly does incarcerate a lot of people. Personally I would favor putting criminals who use guns in crime in jail for a long time. If that required letting out a lot of non-violent criminals (maybe on parole with ankle bracelets?) to make room for violent criminals who use guns.

    For the most part we have two major gun violence problems. By far the majority of homicides are committed by young black men in inner cities in gangs, and/or in the illegal drug trade. Something like 50% of homicides are committed by blacks even though they are 10% of the population. I am not saying that to say being “black” is at the root of the problem. Social disintegration is largely to blame along with an un-winable war on drugs. Thomas Sowell said that modern welfare policies have done more to destroy the black family and society than Jim Crow ever did. You have tons of young black kids growing up without fathers and where the obvious role model is a gang banger or drug dealer. You have an economy on the skids and horrendous unemployment for these young kids.

    Taking a rational look at the drug problem, counter-productive welfare policies, and getting the government out of the way for the economy to recover sounds like a more plausible alternative than figuring what guns needs to banned.

    I have already mentioned that we ought to look at drugs being pushed on kids today. That is the other visible problem – young white boys turning into mass murderers. It is a tiny fraction of the kids killed in the ghettos, but obviously gets a lot more sympathy than dead black kids fighting over drug turf.

    lwk

  3. Angela

    Please stop picking on mental illness. There is a broad spectrum. It is unfair and discriminatory to put all people with mental illness in the same category. The vast majority of whom are not violent. Further, there are several reasons why the severely mentally are untreated: 1)one has to do with stigma; 2) under-diagnosis of mental illness or misdiagnosis, 3) lack of effective treatments; 4) medication that produce or can make mental illness worse; 5) lack of training by medical providers in diagnosis and treatment.

    We need to qualify mental illness – define what we mean by mental illness. I hate to see the term used indiscriminately.

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