TBD on Ning

History is what happens, or more likely, what we tell ourselves happens. Some events are easy to look up, document and analyze. Others, not so much. As I have lived my own life, I've often mused on why I seem to forget some things, or some truths that I really should remember. Why do humans have to learn so many things "the hard way?" Here we are, once again, as a nation, shaking our heads and trying to deal with the aftermath of yet another mass shooting. After all the similar incidents that came before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, it seems that we still haven't learned the lessons (or as one Native American grandmother called them, "the instructions"). Take whatever iteration of them you choose, they are not complicated, yet we continually forget them. Sandy Hook has taken a figurative two-by-four and struck us solidly between the eyes. I am very sorry to say we probably needed that.


We live in a society, as social creatures. That fact alone should be enough to remind us that we are our brother's keeper. We are, indeed, in this together. We have, in fact, failed our children and ourselves in many ways. While I by no means intend to gloss over the positive steps that many people and organizations have and are taking to better communities and the lives of the people in them, we have a persistent tendency to focus on insignificant minutiae and petty concerns while the members of our society we (consciously or unconsciously) consider to be "other," fall through the cracks.


A friend said it best, "I don't have access to mental health care. I can buy a gun though."


Is the problem complicated? Yes. Can we prevent all mass gun violence? No. Is the problem insurmountable? No. Can we take commonsense steps to curb gun violence? Yes. Will we? Maybe. The innocents were dying from gunshot wounds long before Sandy Hook. People around the world have suffered the kind of hell that the victim's families are suffering in Newtown, CT. Was their suffering any easier for us to bear, or any less painful because they weren't American? Perhaps that is an unfair question, but it is one that I wish us all to consider. Our "history" around this issue isn't looking too good to me right now. President Obama acknowledged that this was the fourth such event he has had to deal with since he was elected, and he hasn't even begun his second term. Twenty children and six adults murdered. It's too much.


It is not just gun violence that bedevils us. The House of Representatives is having trouble reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Why? To not do so, protects the rapists at the expense of women (mostly women of color, including and especially Native Americans). Why in the world is it controversial to protect women from violence? Do you see how lost and confused we are?


The President was right. "We can't accept events like this as rountine," he said. "We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end, and to end them, we must change"  Critics say that President Obama has not lead on this issue. I say that you can't lead people if no one will follow. Before Sandy Hook, the American people seemed unwilling to be led toward any step aimed at curbing gun violence. Last night, toward the end of his remarks, the president spoke the names of the children murdered in their classroom—a difficult, but I believe necessary act to bring home to the nation, the gravity of what we're trying to wrestle with here. We must find a better balance. Where we're at now isn't working.


I would like to suggest that we address mental/emotional health for all of us. Recent legislation starts to address this issue. I would also suggest that we all reflect on the ways we treat each other. Either by actions, inaction, or tacit approval, we are all complicit in designing the society we find ourselves in, and so are responsible in some measure for what that society manifests. We now have 26 more reasons to try our best to get it right.


Just my opinion.


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Comment by Vernon Windsor on December 19, 2012 at 12:07pm
Who among us has not been "mentally ill" at least momentarily? I know I have. I also know that when I have needed to talk to someone about what I was going through, it was very difficult to know where to turn. I don't dispute the assertion that mental illness and guns don't mix. I just wish to point out that, for many people, there is no apparent "mental illness" until it is revealed by an action that most of us would deem outside the bounds of normative behavior. Mental illness or abnormal behavior is a continuum. It is often easily hidden. Even when there is no clinical mental illness, passions can run extremely high. The difference of having a gun in one's hand, at such times can, for some people, make the difference between peaceful resolution and tragedy. I have a friend who says in all seriousness, "I can't own a gun because I would be tempted to use it."
We live in one of the most violent nations on earth (by the numbers). That's on us. It is also on us whether we continue to condone that violence or act to curb it. We'll see, won't we?
Comment by Mandy Muffin on December 19, 2012 at 9:45am

There should not be and issue: mental illness and guns don't mix.  Normal people may fantasize some form of retaliation against a person or institution when they feel they have been mistreated and otherwise powerless but they don't act out.  Mentally ill people do.  My best friend was killed by her brother on Christmas Eve some 43 years ago.  It feels like yesterday.  They lived in the country and David was a manic depressive (I believe).  His mother was his controlling element but she died six months before, so on Christmas Eve he went hunting, as often did.  When he came back to the house he got into a fight with his sister who was visiting here Ohio home from Arizona where she taught school on a Indian Reservation.  He took the shot gun and shot her full in the face.  He is probably still in a mental institution or dead today.  Jeannie, at age 24, lost her life.  I had three children in my marriage.  I would never have allowed a child of mine with any form of mental illness to have a gun. As a matter of fact, none of my children had guns at all, and I wouldn't have one in my house. 

Comment by exedir on December 19, 2012 at 9:11am

There are a lot more than 26, everyday we there are between 250 and 350 shot, not necessarily killed, and no,it isn't spread equally across the country.  And no, places that have the highest gun ownership are not the places with the highest gun shootings, that is more a matter density and opportunity than just a matter of geography.

So, where to start, deal with the motive or the means?  Most would probably adjudge the means in that firearms are subject to seizure and destruction where as motive is how to judge a person as to potential to do harm to the person or any one else.  

Since we have been here before, it would seem that at best means well be dealt with a series of limits and regulations, and each will face a legal test.  As to motive, much more difficult business in that individual rights are going to be set against the public welfare.  We have in recent times looked at potential differently than in the past potential meant commitment.  However, viewpoints changed in the wake of books and movies such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to see those with mental problems...er....challenges as having rights, the right to freedom from commitment and treatment such as electroshock or water baths.  And yes, we have come a long way, a long way to seeing what mental health and mental health treatment can do and can cost.  

In the last four decades we have also seen what mental health services can't do, identify every one with serious problems and treat every one effectively much less be cost effective.  

And yes, it is also the climate we live it, saturated with violence, insensitivity to others and dissociative behavior.



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