Is it Guns or Mental Health? Maybe it’s Both… or Maybe it’s Neither!

The rash of gun violence in the united States has everyone up in arms. Particularly heinous is the seemingly endless string of school shootings. Before I ring in on my position on this, I want to talk about something related to my position on this and any issue thrust to the forefront of political discourse: opinions. In my view, there are two types of opinion. There is the type of opinion that is just based on a person’s preference, like “green is the prettiest color,” “Demi Lovato’s latest album is crap,” or “the second Austin Powers movie is better than the first.” These opinions aren’t really disputable, per se, as there are no “facts” behind them that drive these opinions. It simply depends on what an individual finds pleasing or funny. To each individual these opinions are truths, but other people might hold different opinions, and that is okay because there is no right and wrong. I call this a Type I opinion. A type II opinion is rooted in fact. It is an opinion you hold based on some reality, or based on as many of the facts to which you are privy. Physicians often give medical opinions that direct patients’ healthcare decisions. The action taken on these opinions may or may not be the correct actions, but we typically listen to them based on the practitioner’s professional knowledge, or we seek a 2nd opinion from another practitioner with perhaps more experience/better results in that particular area of medicine. These type II opinions, based on data and fact, should change as we get more information about the truth of something. For instance, when Drew Brees was reported to have left a $3 tip on a $74 restaurant check, public opinion was that Drew Brees was a cheap bastard. That is, until it came out that this restaurant check was in fact a take-out order. Public opinion rightly quickly changed afterward. Therefore, we must understand that a type II opinion has value only if the fact on which that opinion is based is true. As is the case so often, people think they know the facts, generate an opinion based on it, and without realizing it, have a worthless, incorrect, erroneous opinion. Such is the current case with the gun violence issue.

Some people say the school shootings and gun violence is happening due to guns; others say it is a mental health issue. I say that somewhere out there there is a truth about the cause of gun violence and it is our responsibility of everyone whether or not they support our second amendment rights to find out what that cause is. We need to do a study NOW and use the information from that study to take immediate action, whatever that action may be. There is no point holding an opinion on something when there is a fact. We just don’t know what the fact is. Just look at your Facebook wall and you’ll see the sheeple arguing about what it is. “It’s guns.” “No, it’s mental health.” Anyone who already has determined the cause without participating in a research study is fooling themselves.

To those who say this is a gun issue,  ask yourself – did I do a study of gun violence? Yeah I know it LOOKS like guns are the cause, but do you REALLY know? Yes, you see gun violence in the news, and it’s pretty easy to make a connection – no guns, no violence – but… is that really the heart of the matter? If you think of Columbine as being the first of this type of violent episode – you DO realize that automatic weapons existed before columbine, right? So if the guns are to blame, why is this happening so much now? And why is it happening with more frequency? Guns themselves can’t make this decision, so is it possible there is another force at play here?

To those who say this is a mental health issue, ask yourself – what do I really know about mental health issues? Have you done a study that examines mental health deficits and shows how they are responsible for violent outbreaks? Have you conducted full psych exams on the perpetrators of these crimes to determine if they truly have “mental health” issues? One of my undergraduate degrees is in Psychology, so am I an expert? No, I am not an expert, but I probably know more than the average person. And what I know about mental health is that people who have mental health issues are more of a danger to themselves than anyone else. That doesn’t mean this isn’t a mental health issue. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an emerging field in psychology that deals with this specific phenomenon that I wouldn’t be privy to since it is happening after I received my degree. But I am saying that before anyone decides that this is a mental health issue, before you lump all people with mental health issues together (yes I see this happening in our society of know-nothings) get the facts. Your opinion, that this is a mental health issue, carries zero weight, for starters because you are likely not someone who is qualified to make such a judgment (like the physician offering a professional medical opinion), but especially when there is a fact out there, the fact that points to the true cause of this issue, and that fact could point to something else entirely.

All that said, being a responsible gun owner, my true concern with issue is not as much the cause as it is the solution. What will be done about it when we figure this shit out? Because when we do finally find the cause, you’re going to find out peoples’ true colors. Right now, nobody seems to know for sure what the root cause is. But boy, when we do find out, and people don’t change their stances on the issue, you’re gonna see more friendships fade and families torn apart than during the civil war.

To those who are anti-gun and want some sort of legislation enacted against guns, let me ask you this – if a study is done and it is discovered that accessibility of guns is NOT the problem, will you give up on finding out the cause? Will you call for a ban anyway? Or will you bury your heads back in the sand the way you always do?

To those who tout the 2nd amendment and are against legislation of any kind, if it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that guns, specifically automatic weapons and their ubiquity in society, are the primary cause of our epidemic, would accede to public outcry that common-sense gun laws be passed banning assault weapons? Or would you continue your steadfast defense of your right to own such weapons? My sense says they wouldn’t care even if the evidence overwhelmingly points to the automatic weapons, and that’s pretty messed up considering these are largely the same people who tout themselves as being “right-to-life.” I didn’t see you championing the right-to-life of the schoolchildren at Sandy Hook, and I don’t believe those children had any less right to life than an unborn fetus. These are the questions that keep me up at night.

But there’s another option. In my experience, there is seldom one reason and one reason alone for anything. My personal, unprofessional, type II opinion is that it’s a mix of causes. Think about the entertainers – musicians, actors, comedians – who overdose on drugs and die. Is it usually one drug that kills them? No, it’s usually some kind of cocktail – a mixture of alcohol, barbiturates, prescription meds, and street drugs – given at just the right strength combined to be deadly. This is not to say that one drug can’t kill someone – many people OD on heroin alone. But the drug epidemic indicates mixtures of drugs are more deadly and responsible for more deaths. I believe it is the same with this. If you read my older stuff, you’ll see I’ve been fairly pro-gun. I’ve believed in the mantra that if guns are outlawed, then only outlaws will have guns. But this isn’t a problem with criminals and outlaws – people who make a living off other people’s suffering intentionally. This is a problem with ordinary, every day, average people who just seem to snap. I’m no longer afraid of the criminals. I’m more worried about sending my kid to school, or going to a place of religious worship. I think this issue is a toxic mixture of ease of access to automatic weapons, people feeling they have nothing left to lose, who do not feel as though society accepts them. All of these problems need to be addressed, not just one. We need to address guns, mental health, and look at what why this is happening now, as opposed to 30 years ago.

Personally, I could do without automatic weapons. I think if people are allowed a handgun and a hunting rifle, that should be sufficient. When I was in college, I was friendly with a lot of the local students and I saw firsthand how hunting brings a family together. I don’t do it myself, but I would have trouble seeing how this activity has any impact on the incidence of school shootings. I also believe that handguns are neither the cause of, nor the solution to, this problem. Arming a bunch of teachers/students/everyone isn’t going to make this problem go away, for unlike the perpetrator of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas HS shooting, the school that was right around the corner from where I used to live, the school in which my mom worked for three years, most school shooters’ end game is to off themselves anyway. So if you think you will solve the problem by arming people, guess again. Let this scenario play out: Imagine you are in a public place and you hear gunfire. Because you are now strapping, you decide you want to find out what is at the center of this fracas, and put a stop to it. You have a gun, now go be the hero!! While you’re on your way to doing that, 3 other people with the same idea have moved toward the source of the shooting. One person sees the shooter and starts shooting at him. The next person sees the 2nd shooter shooting at the first and doesn’t realize there are now 2 shooters, so s/he starts shooting at the second shooter. Now the fourth person shows up and then you. You see a bunch of people shooting. If you decide to start shooting at someone, is that move likely to be helpful or harmful? We have enough trouble with the police, who are trained, shooting people when they shouldn’t. Now we’re going to ask everyday, untrained citizens to shoot also? This is a really bad idea! Teachers need to deliver curriculum, not carry loaded weapons. Because there is no getting around this – whether or not you think guns are the cause of this, one thing is true – guns sure as shit aren’t the solution!

So I think this needs to be studied extensively by neutral parties with no allegiance either way. I want the facts, and if the facts say guns are not the issue, then I say leave it alone and find the cause. But if at any point it is determined that guns are the problem, then we need to take action on the second amendment. Those who came up with amendment 2 created that law for the protection of the country, not so someone can go into an elementary school and shoot a bunch of kindergarteners. If they had the foresight to see this happening, they sure as shit woulda thrown some provisions in there. James Madison is turning in his grave right now. If this sounds unconstitutional to you, remember, nothing in the bill of rights is in the original constitution. They were amendments to the constitution, and some amendments have been repealed. So stop talking like this is the final word. It’s not. If a right is not being used properly, we can’t have a conversation about what it is and why we have it? Not even a conversation? The flip side of any right is a responsibility. Any right given to the collective carries with it a collective responsibility. If there are some of us not using the right correctly, it is up to all of us to modify that right so that this right is no longer being abused. For example, free speech is a right, but there are social/career consequences when you use your free speech to say things that you shouldn’t say. This is how society maintains its collective right to free speech, by using its collective responsibility to hold people accountable for the things they say. Anytime a mass shooting happens, nothing is done. We are not using our collective responsibility to fix this problem. If we can’t handle our responsibilities, then we can’t have the rights that go with them. Even if you yourself feel you are not personally contributing to the problem. Forget about the word “militia” for a second. What about “well regulated?” That implies licensed and trained. There is nothing well-regulated about what is happening right now. I don’t think the amendment says specifically what arms are, but I’m pretty sure that automatic weapons aren’t the kind we’re supposed to have. I think the right was made very general and it is up to us to place a common sense meaning on those rights, and adjust them as necessary. So I don’t think the 2nd amendment rights are the impediment to common sense laws that some people them out to be, and I don’t think for a second that the issue will go away if and when we ban assault weapons as others purport. All I know is, the issue will not get any better if we sit around arguing with each other about what the cause is when we should be more concerned with the solution.

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