Tag Archives: Laws

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.

Pursuit of happiness: Love for all

If you could, would you allow two people to be purely happy? Or would you stop them because of society’s values? Same-sex marriage has been a largely debated issue for our generation. According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, there are an estimated 9 million Americans that identified themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in 2011. Continue reading Pursuit of happiness: Love for all

Is hazing still an issue?

Is hazing a big deal? Photo from Creative Commons.

On college campuses around the nation, hazing is still prevalent, but is it as bad as it once was? Every year since 1970, there has been a reported death due to hazing according to the University of Connecticut’s Greek Life website. There are a lot of hazing cases that don’t get reported but are still harmful, causing physical and psychological damage.

What is hazing? According to Virginia law 18.2-56, hazing is defined as, “an abusive, often humiliating form of initiation into or affiliation with a group.”

According to the University of Michigan, 55% of college students involved in clubs, teams and organizations experience hazing.

If someone were considered a pledge brother or sister, why would they be hazed? That’s the question Sigma Nu fraternity asked in “40 Answers To Common Excuses for Hazingwhich took place on Twitter.

According to Tracy Maxwell, the executive director of HazingPrevention.org, it was huge success. There were 5,000 tweets in 40 days. Some popular excuses for hazing were “pledges have to pay their dues to become a brother or sister,” and “hazing weeds out those that who don’t really want to be there.” All 40 answers can be found here.

Photo from Creative Commons.

The most popular reason was that hazing is a tradition.

If fraternities and sororities think it’s OK, can it be stopped? Hazing expert and self-proclaimed international watchdog of hazing Hank Nuwer believes the way to stop hazing is for the underclassmen to snub thought of it. If students stood up and said that hazing isn’t acceptable and dangerous, it would stop itself.

Dr. Tracy Maxwell believes that to stop hazing, schools need to do something at the campus-wide level for every organization, until people really take a hard look at hazing.

According to the National Study of Student Hazing done by Dr. Elizabeth Allen and Dr. Mary Madden in 2006, 40% of Greek Life organization members admit knowledge of hazing activities. Allen believes hazing has become a social norm in social Greek Life organizations. Hazing is glorified in movies like Dazed and Confused, where the upcoming freshmen in high school get chased and hit with wooden paddles.

On many of the Greek Life organization’s websites, they explicitly state that hazing is not allowed and will not be tolerated. Is this a rule they stick to? Many students say no.

Sam Mason was a sophomore at Radford University in 2010 when he died because of ethanol poisoning. He was pledging Tau Kappa Epsilon and lost his life. Seven TKE brothers were later indicted and charged with hazing and supplying alcohol to an underage person.

“I feel a lot has ended due to the death of Sam Mason, but I believe hazing will never truly end,” said Senior Becca Barteau. “It is a tradition in most of Greek Life and I highly doubt it will ever end.”

Dr. Tod Burke, a Radford University professor of Criminal Justice, spoke about the dangers and effects of hazing on WSLS TV and National Public Radio in Roanoke, Va. in July 2011. He touched on the fact that anti-hazing laws tend to be relaxed until something tragic happens, and that’s when action is too late.

“Hazing can be prevented, but everyone involved has to take the right steps to make it stop,” he said. “It won’t just stop on it’s own.”