Who Is Mentally Ill?

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 …

 

Second Amendment, Abused

Why do people go into populated areas and start shooting?

Walther P99, a semi-automatic pistol from the ...
Walther P99, a semi-automatic pistol from the late 1990s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am reeling with the news of the shooting in an elementary school in Connecticut, where it is certain at this moment that there have been “multiple fatalities,” including children and adults. The number keeps fluctuating, but it doesn’t matter. That anyone died in this manner is unconscionable.

Supposedly there were two gunmen. That has not been verified as I write this, but it doesn’t matter. The one alleged gunman who has been killed was wearing a bullet-proof vest, and reportedly had four weapons.  A witness said she heard about “100 rounds” shot. The news is just devastating.

There will be the usual call for gun control, and the usual protests against it, with proponents citing the Second  Amendment as the justification for people – anyone who wants to, basically – purchasing as many guns as they want. But when do the Second Amendment people wake up and smell the roses? Something is horribly wrong in this country.

Bob Costas got much criticism when he spoke up for gun control. He said nothing that does not make sense. He was not proposing that guns be disallowed entirely, but he did speak up for there to be control of the sale of certain kinds of weapons, like semiautomatic guns.

There is never a reason to go into a school or mall or church or post office and begin shooting, and there really is no reason for a civilian to own an automatic weapon. We are not a police state…are we?  Gun ownership proponents defend anyone who wants to be able to own any type of gun he or she wants, but why? Why is there not intelligent discussion and action going on to get semi-automatic weapons banned for sale in this country?

In the mall shooting that happened earlier this week in Oregon, the gunman had a semi-automatic weapon. A guest on the Piers Morgan program this week defended people owning semi-automatic weapons, repeating the oft-heard rationale, “guns don’t kill people. People kill people.  That’s true, but people with guns kill people, and in too many cases, the shootings have nothing to do with self-defense, which is why anti-gun control proponents say gun ownership is necessary. Having the right to bear arms does not mean you have a right to commit mass murder.

In this, the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” the “free” and the “brave” are taking advantage of this constitutional right. Perhaps there ought to be a review of the Constitution, or at least a review of this amendment, and perhaps a new amendment ought to be made that prohibits the sale of semi-automatic weapons in this country. Perhaps that amendment ought to say that the “right to bear arms” is limited to people owning handguns for self-defense and rifles and/or shotguns for hunting.

That would allow people to own guns and disallow people to purchase weapons for the “mass destruction” of human life.

There is no justification for what happened in Connecticut today. Children who woke up and went to school are now dead; some families’ lives have been changed forever. A principal and school psychologist are dead. Just who were these children and school officials threatening?

I think that no matter how bitter the thought, those who believe in gun control ought to speak up. Yes, I know the National Rifle Association (NRA) is a strong lobby with lots of power, but sooner or later the people have to speak truth to power, and the truth is…America’s gun policies are encouraging either sick or bad people to commit mass murder. A trial after the fact is not enough. A trial cannot bring back a beloved family member, innocently gunned down because someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed, or someone didn’t take his or her meds…It doesn’t bring the loved one back. Surely, gun control opponents understand the tragedy of that reality? Surely they sympathize with people whose lives have been ruined because someone decided to shoot a bunch of people they didn’t even know?

I think of Jim Brady and Gabby Giffords, whose injuries and changed lives we have all seen because of their name recognition, but I am also thinking of the families whom we do not know, families like those of the children and adults killed this morning, who have been thrown into despair. I don’t think the Second Amendment was meant to defend acts that bring that kind of despair on innocent civilians. That amendment was made in a time when new Americans were facing a hostile England, who wanted to take them down. That’s a very different situation than what we have now.

I cannot imagine being a parent shocked into the reality that his or her little child is gone because someone decided he had a right to take lives. The Second Amendment does not give anyone the right to commit mass murder.

A candid observation …

The SKS is a semi-automatic Russian rifle
The SKS is a semi-automatic Russian rifle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)