On Monday, President Barack Obama spoke in Newtown, where just a few months ago — as you well know — someone brought an assault rifle to Sandy Hook Elementary School and shot 26 people and then himself. Some people blame easy access to guns. Other people blame this country’s treatment of mental illnesses. I think they’re both right — but I also don’t think that the existence of one problem excuses dealing with the other.
What follows is a selection of statuses that appeared in my Facebook newsfeed following the events of last December. I’m citing them as a representative sample, since I’m way too lazy to search the internet for others. But I’m sure you’ve seen this sort of thinking before, so I’m not going to lose too much sleep over being somewhat less than scientific:
There are definitely changes I would like to see to gun laws in the United States. But I am saddened that there is so much talk about that and so little about the lack of a good enough societal and mental health safety net to notice and help the perpetrator of this heinous crime before his life had to end like this.
I agree with almost everything people have been saying about guns. But I think more importantly we need to figure out what the hell is wrong with our society that people keep wanting to go on killing sprees.
I don’t think the problem is with gun control, I think the problem is with the people. Strict gun control won’t change that… The US government should instead focus on the underlying reasons that cause those events instead of gun prohibition.
It seems to me that these shootings are becoming more and more common, and yet the availability of guns has been relatively constant (and according to some sources, going down)…this speaks to a cultural issue, not an access to weapons issue.
the real problem isn’t guns, it’s insufficient treatment for mental illness
Say all you want about gun control, it can only go so far… these tragic mass shootings all have a common thread in that their perpetrators were troubled or disturbed individuals who desperately needed psychological treatment and social outreach. There are always signs that an individual is withdrawing from society before something like this occurs, and it is on us to notice them and speak up, or even try to reach out to the person.
the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun
OK, that last one was actually courtesy of a spokesman for the NRA, but what can you expect from the NRA?
In short, these statuses seem to agree: guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Or more charitably: guns kill people a little bit, but really it’s the people so focus on them.
Again, I agree that more should be done to help mentally troubled individuals. But I don’t think that means we should dismiss proposals for stricter gun control out of hand.
And here’s why I feel comfortable saying that: This morning, fourteen people were wounded in a series of attacks on the campus of Lone Star College in Texas.
The similarities between the tragedies in Connecticut and Texas are arresting. Both incidents took place in a school. Both happened at the beginning of the school day. Both were perpetrated by young white men, and police discovered no motive for either attack.
But more illuminating than the similarities are two crucial differences: in Newtown, 21 students were shot, and only one survived. In Texas, 14 were attacked, 12 were admitted to the hospital, and every. single one survived. I’ll repeat that: Every. single. one.
Also, the attack in Texas was perpetrated with a knife.
I have to imagine these differences are somehow related. Yes, knives are a deadly weapon. But there’s a reason humans invented assault rifles, and it’s probably because they’re a lot more efficient than everything they’re meant to replace.
So sure, bulk up on mental treatment all you want, but the difference between meaningful gun control and what we have in this country today is whether one crazy person can walk onto a campus and maim 14 students — which is, of course, horrifying — or whether he can choose to simply end their lives.
And if you feel like you’ve read this post before, you’re basically right: I published What we can learn from that *other* horrific schoolyard incident on Friday — with substantively similar text to that found in the present post — the day after that horrendous incident took place. Apparently, we still haven’t learned.