When Mentally Ill Guns Kill People

When Mentally Ill Guns Kill People

The list is long. Of things that humans want; not the least of which is safety. Humans want to feel safe. It's only natural. Just as surely as we desire a full stomach, we likewise seek protection from physical harm. However relative, if not fleeting, of a concept as it may be, human beings desire security.

Unfortunately, humans can also be violently aggressive; so much in fact that it's other members of our own species from whom we need protection. Which begs the question: who among us is responsible for your security? This, I think, is the pivotal inquiry that underlies the ongoing contention around guns, mass shootings, violence in general; and potential solutions thereto.

In the aftermath of yet another horrific tragedy [and another], emotion usually prevails over logic. Cognitive dissonance sets in. Practical solutions be damned. And as the lumpenproletariat cries out for even more ineffective gun control, human blood continues to spill and the bodies continue to pile up.

Firearms are an easy scapegoat. They're loud, they're scary, they're destructive, they must be to blame. Every year, in the US alone, gun usage accounts for over 30,000 homicides, suicides and accidents. Guns are also easy to operate, fun to shoot and are, by far, the most effective instruments of self-defense that humans have ever had at our disposal. In fact, these same United States sees guns being used for defensive purposes over a million times a year. And in a place that's awash in over 300 million firearms, I think it's clear to see that guns are not going anywhere anytime soon. Nor should they, in my opinion. A world without guns is a world in which a 100lb, 85 year old woman is essentially helpless against a violent 200lb, 25 year old man; a world where predators comfortably feast on defenseless prey.

Another relatively easy culprit is mental illness. Day to day crime doesn't quite grab headlines and attention. Public outrage is usually reserved for these sensational atrocities we call mass shootings, with the killer ultimately branded as mentally ill. However, just as the majority of gun owners are not bloodthirsty, most people who suffer mental illness are not violent. A mass shooter, almost certainly, has to experience some level of mental deficiency. Though we’ve seen how blaming mental illness for these massacres not only fails to mitigate the carnage, but serves as an excuse for peaceful people to be disarmed.

The problem here is not guns, nor is it mental illness. The problem here is you. The person who hopes, prays and begs for Congress to pass another law or for the president to sign another executive order. The person who insists on trusting State mercenaries with their protection, while at the same time complaining about police brutality. The person who would scapegoat mental illness and inanimate objects, rather than face their fears, look evil in the eye and deal with it. You are the problem.

You are also the solution. At this very moment, you can change your mind about the issue and take a different approach. You can table your emotions, be honest and acknowledge that, at this stage in human evolution, complete prevention of violent crime is merely a wish. You can, however, embody the cultural paradigm shift required to alleviate these tragedies. You can adopt a defensive posture that criminals would rather avoid than attack. You can advocate for effective changes in public policy while also recognizing that those changes are no substitute for personal responsibility. You can arm yourself and defend yourself – and innocent others – like so many of our species often do. You can act like your individual choices affect the community at large and understand that any fingers of blame for society’s problems need be pointed squarely and only in the mirror.