I’m sure we have all heard about the latest mass shooting. I’m equally sure that most of us are sick of it but don’t know what to do about it. I don’t have all the answers either; but I do know one thing. This morning I heard police are looking for a motive. This is what I know: there isn’t one.
Is the perp mentally ill? Absolutely! Does that mean we should all be afraid of people with mental illness? Absolutely not! Here’s the deal about mental illness: most people experience it at one time or another. Have you ever had the flu? Probably. If you are reading this, you survived it. However, every year 30,000 or so people don’t. Similarly, the vast majority have experienced symptoms of mental illness, even if it is “only” anxiety and/or depression. Most are able to get back on track. Many suffer in silence; thinking that to name it is to give it power when the opposite is true. These people generally live lives that are less fulfilling than they could be. Those symptoms are trying to tell you something. You should listen to them. The answers to these issues are simple: 1. Get rid of the stigma of mental illness. People with mental illness are people like everyone else—not less than. They can and do recover. 2. Spend more money on mental health. People working on the front lines in the battle against mental illness are among the lowest paid, and unfortunately often you get what you pay for. I can hear the opposition now: “You liberals always think the answer to any problem is to throw money at it.” That may have some truth in it, but I know that a society that values professional athletics more than the safety, health and happiness of individuals will have lots of taxpayer funded fancy stadiums and lots of people with mental illness—some of whom will pick up a gun and shoot people.
If you have a society where violence is often condoned and accepted as a viable solution to problems, you will have a small percentage of people with mental illness who will pick up a gun and shoot people. If we want to stop mass shootings each of us needs to examine our attitude toward violence. There is a lot of violence subtlety interwoven into our language.
Getting back to my contention that there was no motive in the latest mass murder: At any given time in this country there is a small minority of people who, because of their mental illness, entertain fantasies of killing people they don’t know because they think it’s cool. In a society that sends mixed messages about violence this is inevitable. When those people have easy access to military style assault rifles it is inevitable that from time to time one of them is going to carry out this fantasy.
So, if you want to stop these tragedies do these things: 1. Put more resources into mental health. 2. We must each look at our own attitude toward violence. 3. Make it less easy for people to get assault rifles. In 1776 it was not possible to go to a crowded place and shoot ten people because you had to reload after each shot. Modernize the Second Amendment.