In the ongoing debate on gun control – or more accurately, control on the sale and use of military assault weapons and magazines that have large numbers of bullets – we are hearing that there needs to be more attention paid to mental illness. Mandatory background checks are being touted as a way to weed out people who should not be allowed to purchase guns, and those background checks supposedly would be able to identify the mentally ill.
But WHO is mentally ill, and who is not? How does a background check really identify people who are really mentally ill, even if evidence does not say so?
What prompts this is the interview that Piers Morgan of CNN had with radio host and filmmaker Alex Jones last week. I was stunned by what I was watching. Alex Jones was completely out of control; his face was contorted and he would rise off his seat as he “warned” Piers that “1776 would will commence again” if anyone tried to “take away our guns.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtyKofFih8Y)
It was horrible to watch. I kept thinking that Jones himself …was mentally ill. I kept thinking that he was such a hot head that he probably didn’t need to be walking around with a loaded gun.
Some people have been diagnosed with classic mental illnesses – including schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, but many people are probably walking around with those ailments who have never been diagnosed, and who lead relatively harmless lives. Would their illness be caught?
Maybe and maybe not, but what is more troubling is that many people who are not technically mentally ill have some mental “issues” that might make them dangerous with a gun. There are people who carry deep rage against spouses or former spouses, against the government, against a former employer. All we have to do is review the sad cases of an estranged spouse showing up at a workplace and taking out the one whom he apparently “loved.” There are people who do not know how to handle conflict, sadness, rejection, betrayal…and they become desperate. How would those people be screened and identify? And isn’t it a fact that any of us are capable of doing something horrendous, given the right set of circumstances?
There are police officers who probably should not carry guns. They are legalized thugs, some of them, and others are apt to shoot first an ask questions later, depending on a given situation. What does one do with them? They can carry guns legally. All they have to do is show a badge, I suppose, in any gun shop or at any gun show, and they are free to purchase what they want. What about men who rape? Are they mentally ill?
Yes, the nation, the world, needs to pay more attention to mental illness. We need to stop making it a shameful thing to have a mental illness and accept the fact that it is just that – an illness. Perhaps the gun massacres, especially this last one in Newtown, Connecticut, will get serious discussions going and plans in place to handle mental illness differently than we have. Maybe there will be ad campaigns that let the people know that having a mental illness is not something to be ashamed of, but is, rather, something that should be treated, like diabetes or hypertension. It is long past the time that we, the supposed greatest and strongest country in the world, change course in the way we deal with mental illness and in so doing, encourage the rest of the world to do the same.
Actually, the conversation swirling around controlling the sale and use of assault weapons are interesting. Nobody is talking about taking away the right of Americans to “bear arms;” the conversation is about controlling and perhaps banning a certain kind of gun. Is it a sign of mental illness when one cannot “hear” what the conversation is about? There is no conversation at all about taking away the right of people to purchase and own guns as a general right. Are those who are ranting, like Alex Jones, mentally ill?
It will be interesting to see how the conversation about mental illness goes, and what decisions are made in determining who is and who is not mentally ill. I would suppose that more people than we know are really mentally ill, and it is high time that we look at that fact and deal with it.
A candid observation …