We can decrease the mass shootings — if we all get our heads out of our ideological posteriors.
Listen, Left: yes, increasing mental health services, particularly in schools, is important. Almost all mass shootings are suicides by troubled people whose self-hatred turns outward to whatever group (immigrants, blacks, women, gays, rejecting classmates or co-workers) might be responsible for their misery. (“I’ll take some of those XYZs with me!”)
Listen, Right: of course the easy availability of weapons of war is a factor, and taking steps to impede the easy flow of such weapons, while imperfect, will help.
Lefty: (1) you ain’t getting rid of guns (there are way too many, they have their uses, and the 2nd Amendment ain’t going away); and (2) racism isn’t the main focus. Some shooters make vile racist proclamations, but their trauma and self-loathing lies deeper than their racism. Plenty of racist jerks live 60 to 80 years without shooting anyone.
Righty: (1) most of us don’t want to take your guns, and we couldn’t anyway, so jettison that NRA fable; and (2) calling these kids terrorists or “pure evil” is evading the truth. They’re troubled youths who experienced early violence, sexual abuse, or other trauma. That doesn’t excuse their conduct. But calling ‘em evil blinds us to the identifiable causes of their actions.
The day before some kid was pure evil he was another kid in class, maybe troubled, but a kid you talked to. Identifying those seething with self-loathing and anger could help cut down on these tragedies. (I mention mostly youthful mass murderers here, but the same pattern marks almost all shooters.)
We need to make serious therapy easily available to kids in schools. Identify some potential shooters early and help them find another course. Yeah, that’ll cost money, in tough times; but it’s important.
The Right is right that mental health is critical, but that’s no excuse to ignore other critical issues.
Societal problems are complex. “Cars don’t kill people, people do!” sounds absurd. We recognize that keeping drunks or folks with Alzheimer’s from driving is important, that laws and insurance help diminish road deaths, and also that we should continue making cars safer.
A popular meme points out that after Jayne Mansfield died driving under a tractor trailer, laws required those vehicles to have DOT bars to prevent that; that seven fatalities from tampered-with Tylenol gave us caps you need a Ph.D. to open; and that one clown’s failed shoe-bomb attempt has everyone removing shoes in airports.
Guns kill 168 people every two days. (Cars kill about 250.) Our thoughts and prayers aren’t accomplishing much.
The Right is wrong to fight all safety measures, including: expanded background checks; mandatory waiting periods; banning some guns and gun features that make it absurdly easy for anyone to kill dozens of people; upping the age for purchase of some weapons to 21; red flag laws; and mandatory insurance. The facts are clear that (as logic would suggest) states with the weakest gun laws have the most gun fatalities per capita.
If we focused on this issue as on escaping the Depression or building the A-bomb, we’d lick this too, saving lives but respecting law-abiding gun-owners’ rights and needs. What if all citizens worked together?
Ain’t gonna happen. Most people on both sides are reasonably sincere; but a profits-hungry gun industry (and cynical NRA) is scaring the hell out of gun owners, and buying up politicians.
Las Cruces resident Peter Goodman writes, shoots pictures, and occasionally practices law. His blog at http://soledadcanyon.blogspot.com/ contains further information on this column.
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