Guns & Mental Health: Missing the Point Again

As we all know by now, there was a horrific school shooting in Florida on Feb. 14.  17 students and teachers were killed when a former student shot them with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

There have been 34 mass shootings since January 1st of this year…and it’s only February 21 (“Mass Shootings”, Gun Violence Archive website).

Total stats on gun violence (from January to February 2018), including “unintentional” shootings and “defensive use” are as follows:

Total # of incidents: 7,481

# of deaths: 2,072

# of injuries: 3,543

# of children (0-11 years) killed or injured: 79

# of teens (12-17 years) killed or injured: 395

Home invasion: 308

Defensive use: 213

Unintentional shooting: 240

This doesn’t include suicide, police deaths, or death by cop (Ibid.).

Contrast these numbers with the pediatric death rate (so far) during this year’s flu season (December until now in February): 84.

And this is considered an epidemic.  People are being urged to get a flu shot, get their kids flu shots, wash their hands, be wary in public spaces, and so on.  As well they ought to be.

But talk about gun violence?  Sure, as long as no one mentions guns.

I think that’s crazy.  “Deaths due to guns” is the only topic I can think of that doesn’t usually address what is a major reason for all these deaths – guns.

7 of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in the country have involved the AR-15, or similar weapons:

The Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada (Oct. 2017, 59 killed, including the shooter)

The Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida (June 2016, 49 killed) *

Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut (Dec 2012, 27 killed, including the shooter)

First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas (Nov 2017, 27 people killed, including the shooter) *

U of Texas, Austin, Texas (Aug 1966, 19 killed, including the shooter) *

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida (Feb 2018, 17 killed)

Inland Regional Center in San Bernadino, California (Dec 2015, 16 killed, including the shooters)

*Weapon used was similar to the AR-15.

The point is, semi-automatic weapons can kill a lot of people in a very short time.  That is their purpose – to kill people.

They are not used for hunting.  They are military weapons.  There is no need – I don’t care who you are – for a private citizen to own these types of weapons.

If you must buy a gun, buy a handgun.  Buy a shotgun.  Buy a hunting rifle. You can defend yourself with any of these.  Banning assault weapons or military-grade weapons does not violate anyone’s Constitutional right to bear arms (“Supreme Court Justices Allow Ban on High Capacity Guns”, Lyle Denniston, Constitution Daily website, 11/27/2017).

Which brings us to the “mental illness” component.

Many people, including the Idiot-in-Chief, are calling for stricter controls to prevent “mentally ill people” from buying guns.

Aside #1: You ought to be wary of any stand 45 takes, as it inevitably is the wrong one.  This case is no exception.

Let’s look at this logically, ok?  For which mental illnesses are you going to prevent people from owning guns?

Depression?  Ok, that’s 8.2% of the population (19.4 million adults).

Anxiety/panic disorders?  Ok, that’s (in total, all forms of anxiety) 22.3% of the population (49 million adults).

PTSD? Ok, that’s 3.5% of the population (7.7 million adults). (“Facts & Statistics”, Anxiety and Depression Association of America website)

And those are just the people who go for help.  The actual numbers are higher.

“Well, hey now,” you might be thinking, “I mean really crazy people, like psychotics or people with bipolar disorder and the like.”

Ok, here are more facts for you:

Only 3-5% of all violence, including gun violence, can be attributed to people with severe mental illness (“Gun Violence and Mental Illness: Myths and Evidence-Based Facts”, Joel Miller, American Mental Health Counselors Association website, 10/3/2017).

Most gun violence is perpetuated by people who are, well, violent.  As in, people who engage in domestic violence, have severe problems with drugs and/or alcohol, have a history of being violent towards others in general…you know, the kind of people who often get referred to “anger management classes”.

Having conducted those kinds of classes, I can tell you – they don’t work.

They don’t work because people who are violent do not see their anger as unreasonable.  They don’t see it as odd, or a bad alternative to other ways to handle conflict, and sometimes they see it as “self-defense”.

As in, “He called me a (insert insult here) so I hit/shot/threw something at him.”

I cannot even count how many times I heard that.  They really think that retaliating with physical violence against any form of disrespect constitutes “self-defense”, and no amount of reasoning can convince them otherwise.

And that point of view cuts across all race and class lines.  I’ve seen every kind of person express that idea, from the Mississippi Delta to inner city Memphis to Central Pennsylvania, and beyond.

It’s not a big leap to imagine that someone with a grievance against someone – or against people in general – who has that attitude towards anger and revenge is going to go out and buy a weapon that can kill as many people as possible.

Is that “mental illness”?  No, in my opinion, that’s not clinically “mental illness”.

Some could argue that yeah, it is, no doubt due to a personality disorder.  I might agree with that, as there are aspects of that kind of thinking.

But if we made that the criteria, who is going to evaluate folks for that?

Most people with personality disorders do not seek treatment.  They don’t see anything wrong with the way they think.  And, quite honestly, they are notoriously treatment-resistant if they ever do find themselves in counseling (usually forced by family or the law).

We even reward people with personality disorders in our society.  Look at 45.  Look at a lot of famous and wealthy artists/musicians/actors/politicians/CEOs and so on.  Many have personality disorders because the kind of profession they’re in lends itself to a certain ruthlessness involved in rising to the top of it, and attracts people with personality disorders. They can behave very badly and most of the time they get away with it

Aside #2: Let’s face it – a diagnosis of some kind of personality disorder is not going to carry the same kind of stigma that other mental illnesses do.  Some people now even brag about having one, or try to make nonclinical distinctions between “malignant narcissism” and just regular plain old “non-dangerous” narcissism.  Any clinician who has treated folks like that, or any victim of folks like that, knows that this distinction is bullshit.

How about people who have been committed to a psychiatric facility?  Even those who are held for 72 hours against their will for being “a danger to themselves or others”?  Surely they should not be able to own guns?

Besides the problem of the profit hospitals make from involuntary commitments – and they do, I’ve seen this in my workplaces – there are also the facts above that I mentioned about violence.  Most people are committed due to “suicidal ideation”, not usually “homicidal ideation”.

Should someone who is suicidal have access to a gun?  Well, no.  Usually we tell family members to get guns out of the house or lock them up.

But we don’t usually say, “do this forever, he/she is never going to get better.”  Especially in hunting country, that would just be stupid.

Aside #3: I am not a hunter.  I am not a fan of hunting.  I do respect people who hunt for food, as many do in rural places.

And what about involuntary commitment for false reasons?  I’ve seen that, too.  That goes on your permanent health record, you know.  So someone who has no reason to be committed other than due to a dispute over an elderly “patient’s” money, or in other suspicious circumstances is marked for life and cannot get a gun if he/she needs one (like in the case of abuse)?

Or how about medical records of any kind that mention a mental illness?  Are you going to tell me that a woman with PTSD or depression due to domestic abuse hasn’t the right to get a gun to defend herself in case her abuser tracks her down?

See, I am not against gun ownership.  I am against owning firearms that are used to kill a lot of people.  This is not a “ban all guns” vs “gun rights” debate – that’s a false dichotomy the NRA promotes.

This is about innocent people dying.  And the common denominators are semi-automatic rifles.  Rifles that are not necessary to own.

Let’s take those out of the equation.

Weird news of the week: This is why the British are considered so civilized – “Police Officer Accused of Taking the Biscuits”, Sky News website.  The article states that “it has not been clear what kind of biscuits he took” and the representative of the Met Police is quoted as stating that the theft “showed a fundamental lack of integrity”.

(Well, heck, if they were Penguin biscuits, I would definitely agree!)

Recommendation of the week: The Shibutani’s skate to Coldplay and a bronze medal. It’s worth sitting through the Coke commercial, trust me.

https://www.nbcolympics.com/news/maia-alex-shibutani-make-history-their-own-pyeongchang

Be good.  Be kind.  Don’t let anyone scapegoat people with mental illnesses, it could be you or someone you love someday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Guns & Mental Health: Missing the Point Again

  1. charlies5169

    After yesterday, we’ve been enlightened by the Florida legislature, and we now that assault rifles are not the problem. Pornography is.

    If more people carried guns, they could shoot everyone who watches pornography and things would go back to the “good old days”. You know, that golden era when women, kids, and minorities understood where there place was.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Victoria Post author

      They’re unbelievably screwed up. And hearing the head of the NRA say that the FBI is trying to foment socialist revolution almost made my head explode – what planet do these people live on??

      Like

      Reply

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