On gun control, mental health & society
After the recent killings the social networking universe has of course of late been full of calls for tighter gun control in the USA. Apart from the standard “but it’s our right” argument, another take has been those calling for better mental health care. This of course has led the reactionary attacks from those who say there is no link between gun crime and mental health.
This is true, there is no clear link according to my admittedly quick scan through the abstracts of some peer reviewed papers on the subject. On the other hand we all know statistics and “scientific reviews” often aren’t worth the paper they are written on.
I do agree with calls for tighter gun control, the USA has pretty slack gun laws and also has a ridiculous number of gun-related deaths.
Is everyone who shoots someone dead suffering from mental health problems? Absolutely not. Is everyone who goes on a killing spree in a junior school or cinema suffering from mental health problems? Well, you’ve got to wonder.
At a simplified level it’s easier and arguably morally fairer to control guns rather than people with mental health difficulties. Let’s assume for a moment that this guy involved in the most recent school shooting was suffering from some kind of mental health issue. He could have undergone every test in the world and been found “sane”. Even if not, and he was given treatment, he still could have gone out and shot dead 28 people. If his Mother hadn’t been able to stock pile guns because she thought the world as we know it was about to end then it stands to reason he would have been much less likely to carry out his crime.
Switzerland, for example has a much higher proportion of gun ownership as all men (and women if they request) are conscripted in to their defence force, where afterwards they get to keep their rifle. However gun crime is proportionally low. (An interesting side note is that the use of these rifles in “domestics” i.e. The man shooting his wife in the home are proportionally high). So it is hard to draw a clear conclusion between gun ownership and gun crime. Where one appears to exist though, is where people have built up arsenals of guns. In Switzerland you get one and on the whole that’s your lot, In America where people have gone on gun rampages they are often able to access large numbers of firearms. Obviously it is quite possible to have a large number of guns and never even fire any of them let alone go on a killing spree, so there must be more to it than simply access to weapons.
Also there was recently an attack in a school in China where someone went on the rampage with a knife, 20 people were injured but nobody killed. So like the title says Guns don’t kill people, but is sure helps.
So apparently, according to the Facebook preachers “It’s society, stupid!” But what the hell is society anyway?
Society is everything that has any level of effect on our lives and how we interact with all these factors. Some societal factors are imposed on us, others we have differing levels of control over.
So can society make people become mass murderers? Yes and no, I mean lots of people were bullied at school or played too much Grand Theft Auto or listened to Marilyn Manson or became disillusioned with capitalism or had their mother stockpiling weapons. I know I’ve overly simplified it here but no one, or even multiple societal factors will make people go on a killing spree. One-off killings out of passion or anger or greed or cold blood, yes, most definitely but not shooting dead 20 six and seven year old children!
Which is why I find myself back, slightly unwillingly at the mental health debate. Mental health issues affect a lot of people both directly and indirectly, they also cover a wide range from those who can live perfectly normal lives with little or no need for treatment through to those who need to be separated from the rest of society for the safety of themselves and/or others.
But still I feel we are missing something here, and that is to uphold the argument that there is no link between mental health issues and violence you are required to buy in to the pre-ordained criteria of how “normal” and “mental health difficulties” are defined.
But what is normal? Am I normal just because I can’t name a condition I have or point to the medication I have to take? I sure don’t feel normal at times, and when you ask other “normal” people they will definitely say the same. Just because the person next to me has a named condition and takes tablets or goes to see someone once a week or gets kept in a secure ward am I supposed to believe that this person is what? Abnormal?
It’s crap, so if it is society as people claim, it is society choosing, or more accurately society letting the state choose who is normal and who is not.
As I said earlier, with all the factors of society and the modern world bearing down on you, you still won’t choose to kill 28 people, there has to be another factor. You need to have justified your actions to yourself or otherwise be (temporarily) insane. Some people say this guy was Evil, but evil is not real, if you have been able to justify mass murder to yourself where the majority of society could not, it stands to reason that there is something happening in your brain that is not “normal”.
Though I think mental health treatment is an area that needs increased funding I’m unsure how much of a difference it will make to cases such as this. Diversity of life exists everywhere and clearly how people’s minds function will sometimes stray outside the narrow boundaries or societal norms, while not falling within the criteria of requiring monitoring, treatment, or a fancy name for a condition. It is not just every person with mental health problems that has the capacity to mass murder, but every one. We can over-think this, like clearly I already have, we can worry, and pray, and bring in more laws, fund treatment, and lock people up, and it may well help, but we can’t get away from the simple fact.
People Kill People