Tag Archives: Guns

Gun Violence and Mental Health

It’s a depressingly familiar pattern here in the United States. Social media blows up with news about the latest shooting. Whether it’s at a school, a bar, a movie theater, or literally anywhere, it is always the same story. A white man walked into a place and opened fire. Numbers start climbing. 2 dead, then 5, then 10, then 21 until finally the numbers plateau at one that is too high and too depressing. Finally, the shooter is identified, a white man with a deranged look in his eye.

The pattern continues as we discuss the tragedy, and try and make sense of the pain. Lots of people, conservatives and liberals both, start a discussion about mental health. Because only a crazy person would use an AR-15 on an innocent crowd of people, right? Maybe the shooter is a lone wolf, or maybe he was in the boy’s scouts. Maybe he was bullied. But he was certainly mentally unwell, deranged. Mental illness is thrown around as the one true cause for this horrible tragedy.

But here’s the deal. Those shooters aren’t mentally ill. According to the American Psychiatric Association people with serious mental illness represent less than 1% of all yearly mass shootings. It’s not the crazy people doing this. It’s the angry, privileged, white men who see others as deserving of their violence.

There’s a serious problem with equating mental illness with violence. It produces an awful stigma for people diagnosed with mental illnesses, making getting help and treatment difficult. People with mental illnesses need our support, not the constant stream of news that tells them they are the problem. Mentally ill people cause about 3% of all violent crime annually, and very little of that involves guns.

It makes no sense to have laws that target the mentally ill when it comes to gun control. It won’t change anything. Keeping guns from them won’t stop the real perpetrators. We need comprehensive gun control; laws that will keep everyone to the same high standards for gun ownership. Targeting the mentally ill only increases the stigma around these disorders and lets the problems with gun violence in America continue unchecked. It doesn’t help anyone.

Arm Teachers with Books, Not Guns

As the students and victims from the Parkland shootings march to advocate for stricter gun laws in order to protect themselves and others in school, a new measure has been suggested to prevent school shootings. Add more bullets to the shooting in progress and create an undeniably more dangerous situation. Or as others would like to put it, we should arm teachers so that they can shoot the shooter. Somehow, the people who would argue for arming teachers do not see the danger in adding more guns into an already dangerous situation, or the way that their stance reveals that they care more about guns than the lives of children.

If a person’s stance is to arm teachers rather than pass stricter gun control laws, then they are saying the endangerment of children, and the loss of their lives, is an acceptable price to pay to keep guns around. Here is the issue with arming teachers; they cannot shoot the gunman until the gunman has already fired. They will not be aware that there is a shooter until he has already fired. You cannot expect teachers to spend the entirety of their class constantly looking out a window or door looking for a potential mass shooter. They cannot do their jobs if they do. So they would have to wait until after a gunman has fired and potentially killed at least one child, if not several.

You could avoid the entire situation from taking place by passing laws for stricter gun control. If a potential shooter cannot get assault rifles at all and has to wait at least several days to get a regular gun, then the threat will reduce significantly, almost to the point of wiping it away completely if the gun laws are made well and appropriately strict. Arming teachers is a passive response that does not solve, or really address, the issue. Rather, if lawmakers make the selling of assault rifles illegal, or at least vastly more difficult to the point that the average person could not buy them, as well as incorporate background checks and waiting periods, you can prevent the problem from occurring in the first place. If we do not give mass shooters the tools to commit mass shootings, then the problem gets solved and prevented.

 

Graphic from the Colorado Independent

Outcast

Loneliness is a public health concern [1]. Loneliness is linked to depression and suicide [3]. Adult, white, heterosexual men have the least friends of all groups [2]. White men kill themselves at higher rates than every other demographic [4]. Half of all suicides are carried out with firearms [4]. Registered gun-owners are more likely to be “white, male, married, conservative, older, and from rural [re: non-inner city poor] areas”[5]. They are also more likely to feel “socially alienated”[5]. This social alienation has roots in economic and education levels, but I won’t explore those roots here as there is already a lot of literature about what it’s like to be poor and white [6][12].

When people are alone, they tend to have more inflammation and stress hormones [11]. Most cults recruit people during especially stressful times in their life [13]. Indeed, many terrorist recruiters can turn lonely people into “violent extremists” by capitalizing on their fears and insecurities [14]. The things people do to fit in somewhere and be accepted, huh?

So when I hear people say things like”…since he was in middle school, it was no surprise to anyone that knew him that he was the shooter. Those talking about how we should have not ostracized him, you didn’t know this kid! We did!” I don’t think they really understand their own position on the subject. Part of a larger speech [8], the words of Emma Gonzalez have been described by many as powerful and moving.

Many see it as a galvanizing call-to-arms in the aftermath of one of the worst tragedies to rock this nation since Columbine. It is natural to think this justifies throwing aside the fact that Nikolas Cruz was a social outcast. It is immaterial to the main point. The main point being that “Guns are Evil”. This assertion is of course central to the ineffable magnificence of Progressivism and the inexorable pull of civilization to cleanse our great nation of hideous violence through gun control. We, the eminently beneficent Left, just “know better than you” [9].

I don’t know if simply including Nikolas Cruz in the reindeer games of high school would have prevented him from doing what he did. Hell, remembering my own high school days, I remember seeing plenty of teary-eyed miserable teenagers with tons of friends who might have harbored thoughts of ill-will toward their cohorts. But when 92 of the last 95 mass shootings were male [7], and 54 were white [7], I wonder. Are guns really the cause?

 

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/22/upshot/how-social-isolation-is-killing-us.html [2] http://www.jstor.org/stable/30038995?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents [3]https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hidden-motives/201305/suicide-loneliness-and-the-vulnerability-men [4] https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/ [5]https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/11/study-white-men-facing-money-trouble-tend-to-cling-to-guns-for-power-identity/ [6] https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/09/the-original-underclass/492731/ [7]https://news.sky.com/story/why-are-white-men-more-likely-to-carry-out-mass-shootings-11252808 [8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxD3o-9H1lY [9] https://www.vox.com/2016/4/21/11451378/smug-american-liberalism [10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_ethnicity_in_the_United_States [11] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/11/well/mind/how-loneliness-affects-our-health.html [12]https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/01/white-working-class-poverty/424341/ [13] https://people.howstuffworks.com/cult3.htm [14] https://www.fbi.gov/cve508/teen-website/why-do-people-become-violent-extremists

Las Vegas

When more than 95 people die and more than 6,000 are injured daily [1], I never see a militarized media response to it. There is no soul-searching, there are no pontifications of what lies in the dark hearts of men that drive them to such mindless violence. Certainly there are no suggestions on increasing the number of regulations regarding the means by which such a tremendous number of lives may be snuffed out.

We just call them “car accidents”.

Gun violence is mostly not an accident, certainly not in the case of the recent shooting in Las Vegas. The worst shooting in modern history is a light day in car death terms. But the fact that it has become such a rallying cry in a way car accidents never have, makes me think that the motivation for such disproportionate focus is largely political in nature. It certainly cannot be empathy for the victims; I find it hard to believe the grieving families have approached every political media machine and begged, “Please use the deaths of my husbands, wives, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, and cousins at your earliest possible convenience to make sure such tragedies never happen again.”

“Gun violence is mostly not an accident, certainly not in the case of the recent shooting in Las Vegas.” – Photo from CNN

No, I find the root cause might be much more basic: we are more ubiquitously in love with our cars than our guns. If you’re a liberal, you may look to Musk’s Tesla, Toyota’s Prius, or the Chevy Volt as a vehicle worth attaining. If you’re poor, you may look to 1980’s-1990’s era vehicles for the ease of maintaining them. If you’re rich, you make look to the stylish new Mustangs, Challengers, and or Porsches. Whatever your tastes, even with declining Millennial interest in getting a license [2], you probably can appreciate the freedom owning a car provides, or at least utilize it.

Less so with guns. Guns have always been used to kill people; there is little ambiguity there. They are used for sport, war, relaxation, and self-defense. “God made man; Samuel Colt made them equal” as the saying goes. No political issue in our country’s history more divides our nation than one’s stance on gun control, save women’s suffrage and slavery.

Because they are not viewed as universally beloved a facilitator of freedom the way cars are, firearms receive less care and more scorn. The real issues aren’t mental health, gun control, or even what the founding fathers meant in their 2nd Amendment wording. Perhaps it’s just how willfully blind we are to the negative consequences of the things we love while remaining critical of the things other people enjoy.

 

[1] http://www.nsc.org/NewsDocuments/2017/12-month-estimates.pdf

[2] https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2016/01/19/drivers-licenses-uber-lyft/7899452

 

Cover Photo from CNBC

The legal trouble with 3D printing

You wouldn’t download a car, would you? This is the question one recent anti-piracy ad asked. While the possibility is very unlikely until the distant future, printing useful objects from blueprints is possible now.

For $4,000, one can purchase a 3D printer themselves. Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing works under the same principle as a paper printer. It takes data from a computer and transmits it into a tangible duplicate (for example, a spreadsheet in a normal 2D printer, and a new wrench out of blueprints found only with the 3D printer).

This technology could very well change the world. Continue reading The legal trouble with 3D printing

Trayvon Martin case: One year later

The first anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death leaves many unanswered questions about the gun control debate as well as the “Stand Your Ground Law” which was showcased in Martin’s death.

Trayvon-Martin-2
Photo from Chron.com.

Correspondent of Bet Jonathan A. Picks conducted a question and answer segment with Martin’s mom, Sybrina Fulton. Some of the questions pertained to her attempts to amend Florida’s well-known “Stand Your Ground Law,” which she says, “allows you pursue, chase, follow someone, be the aggressor and then say you were standing your ground when you shoot and kill someone.” She is calling this the Trayvon Martin Law because this is what led George Zimmerman to kill Martin. Continue reading Trayvon Martin case: One year later

Pro-gun advocates might visit RU campus

Pro-gun advocates from the Virginia Citizens Defense League are planning to speak at several universities next month to promote the legal carrying of concealed weapons on campus, according to the organization’s website. Campuses they plan to visit include James Madison University, Virginia Tech and Radford University.

Virginia Citizens Defense League. Photo by Creative Commons.

VCDL is a non-profit, grassroots organization that was formed in Northern Virginia in October 1994. The organization encourages our constitutional right to bear arms, as stated in the Second Amendment.

Their campaign, Operation Campus Safety, will discourage the banning of firearms in places such as parks, public businesses and college campuses.

While a ban is intended to promote safety among the students and faculty, VCDL believes that any citizen with a license to carry a concealed weapon should be allowed to exercise their right to defend themselves anywhere.

According to a press release from VCDL President Philip Van Cleave, the plans for the campaign are to target campus funds. The statement encourages alumni, parents and students to refuse any donations to a campus that does not allow concealed carry on premises.

“When a university or college asks for money, tell them: No guns? No funds!” Van Cleave said.

Van Cleave used the April 16 Virginia Tech shootings as an example, faulting the campus gun bans for leaving the victims unprotected.

“Just one armed permit holder in one of those classrooms under attack at Virginia Tech on that fateful day in 2007 could have stopped Cho,” he said.

VCDL will advocate at Virginia Tech on Nov. 17. The group is hosted by Libertarians at Virginia Tech and the event will take place from 11:30 a.m.- 4 p.m. This is before the last home football game of the season for the Hokies, so advocates will present to both students and visitors in town for the game.

The Defender, VCDL's newsletter. Photo by Creative Commons.

Reaction from Radford University students has been mixed. Many students feel negatively about the idea, saying that the dangers of guns on campus far outweigh any positives that are proposed.

Student Kimberly Gerard immediately shook her head when she heard the idea.

“People are just too irresponsible,” she said.

Elizabeth Dreher believes that local violence is already out of control.

“Two people were jumped outside of Madison [Hall] at 3 in the morning,” Dreher said. “If people were allowed to carry guns, it would just make things worse.”

“It’s too easy to lose your temper,” Laura Strickland said in agreement. “We don’t want too many people out there with guns. It just creates too much opportunity.”

A few students did acknowledge the positive side of carrying concealed weapons, within legal reasoning.

“If someone is able to go through the legal system to carry a concealed weapon, then they are responsible enough to carry it,” said Evan Walters.

Another student who wishes to remain anonymous agreed with the proposal, claiming his Constitutional rights. “You should be able to carry them anywhere!” he said.

Many of these students have a strong belief about this issue, but there are a few who are still on the fence.

Radford University has not yet scheduled an event for VCDL. According to the press release, campus visits will be announced on VA ALERT one week prior to the event.