As I was listening and watching to news on CNN of the attack on women and children at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, I saw a tweet from Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, “NRA staffers will have to come in on Sunday to issue statements about why guns had nothing to do with Sikh temple shootings.”
I had planned to write about a message I received from a local Democrat running for the NC Senate, Sig Hutchinson, anyway. Sig, not unlike many others, does not understand the focus of folks like me who think that future prevention of the many mass murders as of recent years is rooted in the purchase of automatic weapons and the clips with as many as 100 rounds.
The quote above is in a nutshell Hutchinson’s take on the shooting in Colorado, one of the worst on record:
…my brother [who] was 58 years old, of which I was his guardian and was schizophrenic since adolescence passed away two weeks ago. So on the outset, it is very important to me that you know how important this issue of mental health is to me and how irresponsible the state have been, particularly in the past few years, towards mental health in NC. I was particularly touched by a recent piece by David Brooks of the NY Times when he was talking about the Aurora Killings and how so many people are tying the killings to guns and the prevalence of guns, when in fact, this is not an issue of guns but an issue how we are treating our citizens with mental problems. That’s the real issue here
I have thought a while about this message from the candidate on Friday in response to a question about the disposition of the Dix Property in Raleigh. As I wrote back to Hutchinson, I respect his passion for the issue of adequate treatment of mental illness and access to health care for those with a mental illness. But, as I told him, I disagree with his assertion that “this is not an issue of guns…”
As a person who has a history of mental illness, I am myself prohibited from owning a firearm of any kind. It has been that way in Wake County and other counties in NC for decades. But how much has such a prohibition helped to preventing violent crime? Not much from what I can tell.
It is hard to compare and contrast gun regulations from state to state or country to country at the micro level, but it is obvious that the US does indeed have a gun control problem that has allowed innocent people to die many times in the past couple of decades.
Would providing mental health services more widely and in better methods avert some killings? Perhaps. But as history has made clear, even experienced professionals have serious difficulty predicting “dangerousness” among patients in time to prevent these murders.
At the very least what we are seeing is a convergence of at least two separate but simultaneous threats: lack of mental health treatment for dangerous persons and the unregulated access to rapid fire weapons and ammunition—even over the internet—it is time to unravel these intertwined issues and to begin to focus on how to better regulate gun sales in the USA.
(More on how to deal with the other piece of this puzzle, untreated mental illness, to follow in a separate piece.}