So it’s official. The Republican Party, or at least its putative Presidential candidates, has decided that the key to eliminating gun violence is to get rid of the nuts, not the guns. The idea that gun violence has nothing to do with the gun and everything to do with the crazy people who on occasion use guns, has been floating around for a long time. But after last week’s Virginia ambush, first The Donald and then every other red-meat Republican (a redundancy if I ever wrote one) fell into lockstep proclaiming that the real culprit was a mental health system that still needed to be “fixed.” Here’s Bridgegate Christie explaining it to dopes like you and me who actually believe that stricter gun regulations should be in effect: “We need to have more information about people’s mental health background, but we don’t need new laws to do that.”
Just for a moment I’m going to pretend that these jerks know what they’re talking about and go along with their stupid and pandering idea that ‘fixing’ mental health will ‘fix’ the problem of gun violence. So let’s take three instances of horrific gun violence and see if the ‘fix mental health’ bullshit has even the slightest connection to reality or not. The three instances I’m going to mention involved three shooters named James Holmes, Adam Lanza and Elliot Roger. Together, these three ‘nuts’ shot 126 people, of whom 41 died either at the scene or in a hospital following the attacks.
What did these three young men have in common besides their ability to use a gun? They not only had documented histories of some degree of mental distress, but had all been seen by mental health professionals in a short period of time before the actual shootings took place. The official report on the Sandy Hook episode indicates that Adam Lanza’s mother dragged him hither and yon for mental health consultations; Elliott Roger’s diary contains numerous references to treatment by shrinks. In the case of Holmes, who committed the worst massacre of all, his psychiatrist actually reported threats he was making to the University of Colorado Neuroscience Department because he had flunked out of school, reports that were forwarded to the campus police who took no action at all.
When we look at instances of individual shootings, we find a similar pattern wherein the shooter made contact with professional caregivers prior to the event, expressed concern about what was going to happen, disclosed the possibility of violence, but then was allowed to go about his business as if the discussion had never taken place. I cited a case earlier this year in which a severely-agitated young man visited no less than seven different medical facilities in and around Fargo, ND, complaining that his room-mate was trying to poison him but was told in every visit to go home and take previously-prescribed psychiatric meds. The cops then encountered him wandering in front of his apartment at 1 AM, but after he told them that his room-mate had a gun they decided that no crime was about to be committed and told him to go back home. Three hours later, this young man shot his room-mate to death.
Every single state has a system whereby certain designated individuals must report suspected child abuse. And once reported, the agency designated to deal with the problem must take action to see if the report is true. The Federal Child Abuse and Prevention Act defines abuse as: “An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.” And notice the word ‘must.’ Not maybe, not perhaps, must.
We don’t need to cop out on the issue of gun violence by pretending that the NICS system should get better reports on which nuts are walking around who shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. We need to acknowledge that anyone who expresses anger or possible violence becomes an imminent threat if he has access to guns. And the guns must be taken away. Not maybe, not perhaps, must.