Posts Tagged ‘tucson shooting’

h1

Gun Control and Mental Illness: Can We Prevent Another Tucson?

01.15.11

Jared Lee Loughner’s horrific decision to whip out a Glock semi-automatic handgun on a group of people in Tucson one week ago has caused the national conversation to examine our political rhetoric, mental illness, and gun control.

And just like I never called for more regulations on free speech in the wake of the shooting, I don’t see how banning semi-automatic weapons will make any difference.

A couple things that should be looked at, however are:

  1. How many bullets a cartridge should hold
  2. Screening gun-owners for mental illness

The former wouldn’t be too difficult to do once the law went into effect. The latter, though, opens up a whole new conversation — one that I’m not nearly educated enough on to provide some sort of recommended game plan. Suffice to say that there are a number of factors that would need to be addressed regarding mental health in America: how we treat those with mental illness, and then how to then create proper screenings to prevent those with out the capacity to handle a firearm from obtaining one.

It seems the the main issue is the lack of knowledge on mental disease in general. There’s a growing population of people who think that psychiatry is an evil practice — Scientology comes to mind, with their alternative being to pay them a fortune to have your alien ghosts cast out of you. Given the two options, I’ll go with psychiatry, thank you very much, but that’s a different conversation.

This is a factor for why many people just don’t understand mental illness — or even brain injuries (just ask how the Marines handle TBIs and you’ll see how much people think of them) — and those afflicted have a high chance of getting cast out of society because it’s such a taboo subject. When people mention someone having bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, its almost always in hushed tones followed by a long, dreadful “Ohhhh.”

People fear what they don’t understand; and, frankly, most of us don’t get mental illness. We mistake disease of the brain – the organ – with an ugly dimension of the mind, the psyche. As if those with mental disorders speaks more about the darkness in their souls rather than being something wrong in their body. The more we can study and educate, the fewer people will go untreated. And hopefully the fewer people will go off on violent rampages, all without having to restrict freedoms granted to Americans by the second amendment.

While I see zero reason for the average American needing to own a semi-automatic handgun, much less an unbalanced 21-year-old, since the only thing that weapon is designed to do is kill another human being, I also don’t see much good coming from banning them — those who want them would still be able to find them on the black market.  And if someone wants to unleash hell on a group of innocent people, they’ll find a way.

Or they’ll just pick up a cartridge extension:

Still, as a society, we should make it as difficult as possible and try to limit the carnage as much as we can.  I see the shrinking of cartridges to hold fewer bullets and the outlawing of clip extensions as a good compromise that would prevent a would-be assassin from being able to spray 30-plus rounds without having to reload without rendering them completely ineffective for those who wish to own them for self- and home defense.

Photo courtesy of jyoseph’s Flickr Photostream.

h1

On Handling Negativity in Politics and the News

01.14.11

The aftermath of the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords sure has lit up the blogosphere, the Twittersphere, the Facebook-o-sphere, and the 24-hour-news cycle with those pointing to violent political rhetoric as being a factor to those vehemently defending the rhetoric with as much vitriol as was blamed.

And then there’s the average person.

Only the truly radical, extreme, unbalanced people in the world could’ve ever wanted a tragedy like this to happen.  That means that all of us, including those who engaged in the harshest debate with other candidates or public officials, find this event heartbreaking, appalling, and absolutely condemnable.  While not something remotely wanted, it is something we can all agree on regardless of our political affiliations.

But, it won’t last long.  If it lasted at all.

After 9/11, there was a palpable unity amongst Americans.  We all felt attacked.  We all felt connected.  We all knew someone who knew someone in New York.  We all felt that some sort of recourse needed to be made, no matter which party we tended to vote for.

I didn’t sense that after Saturday’s atrocities.  Almost instantly, and understandably, there were people pointing out the dangers of such a toxic political climate.  And, as expected, the defense came nearly as quickly.  Never was there that moment where everyone just shook their head in shame and pity and disbelief at the horrors of innocent people being gunned down in the middle of the day, in the parking lot of a supermarket.

It’s because the villain this time isn’t some faceless foreigner.  It’s one of our own.  It’s an American. And it wasn’t an attack on America in the symbolic sense — it was an attack on America in its most personal sense: that of a Congresswoman and those Americans expressing their civil freedoms that America provides.  While there were people of all races and nationalities and political affiliations in the World Trade Center, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was a Democrat who had just gotten done running a successful re-election campaign that saw her being attacked – both physically and psychologically – from her opponents on the other side of the political divide.

Naturally the reactions were going to be what they were.

You’ve got those on the left blaming the right and their rhetoric.  And then you have the right pointing fingers at the left for blaming the right.  And in the middle – or even on the far sides, even – there are those of us who just want it all end.

It’s exhausting and it’s depressing.  Every now and then, I get to the point where I think about just being done writing this blog.  What good comes of it?  It’s rarely positive in any sense.  Even the positives are spun to be not enough, while the negatives are nation-ending decisions.  Rarely do you hear more smug, know-it-all people than you do when talking politics — everyone’s an expert and everyone loves making it known that you’re wrong more than they love finding out what’s right.  And it’s almost always with things that aren’t easily proven one way or another.

Even writing this, I can’t help but think that there will be someone who reads it with their cynical mind, smirking at what I’m writing and finding naive idealism in it or who knows what else that shows that I just don’t have the think skin for politics or I just don’t know how the real world works.  But, I don’t care about those people.  I don’t have the energy for it.  If you want to take pleasure in the negativity, then it’s all yours.

The tragic events in Tucson didn’t change my way of thinking.  It just reaffirmed it.  I’m interested in positive, ambitious people who care more about the intangible ways that make life worth living rather than those only about personal gain and monetary wealth.  I’m interested in facts.  I’m interested in learning.  I’m interested in ideas and new perspectives.  I’m interested in people with humility and patience and understanding.

I won’t always be positive.  I won’t always be right.  I won’t always be the bigger person.  I’m human.  And I know that’s how we all are.  But I will try to be all those things more than not.  Because no matter how much we may disagree on things, we all want the same thing: to live in a better world than we were given.

So really, we’re all on the same side.