The recent and hopeless spate of pronunciamentos on gun violence shows a terrible skewing toward the Left for depressing the ubiquity of military weapons, so beloved of the Right. It skews toward the Right for screening out crazy people.
So who is crazy? To those on the Right, it is very clear: anyone who has ever received a diagnosis of any form of emotional, developmental, mood, or thought disorder. If one time you felt down and went to your PCP and got a prescription, at her insistence, for an anti-depressant, there go your gun rights. If you school counselor suggested the parental arguing was causing anxiety and that got into the school records, there go your BB guns and AK-47s. Should you be diagnosed a flaming personality disorder like Trump, there go your side-arms for self-defense and your hunting rifles.
IOW, most people have no conception of what mental illness is. To them it is a wild-eyed person yelling at the birds and throwing rocks at cars. When told that psychotic people are the victims of crimes, not the perpetrators, their minds go to those movies of bizarre people with bloody knives and axes and they dismiss the notion.
That does not absolve us of looking at mental health as an element in gun safety and anti-violence measures. Given that few people know the term “clinical” as a qualifying term or understand the conflicts between psycho-psychiatric and legal practices, let alone the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist, there is little to look forward to in educating the public. The only thing to save us is that very ignorance which would spread a net so wide that most congresspersons would be swept up as well.
Two examples will suffice.
One school year as I was planning to return to classes as a teacher, I noticed a sharp decrease, almost to zero, in my normal enthusiasm for the return. I mentioned this to my trainer at the gym and he asked if I had changed anything in my diet or medications. The only meds I took were a half aspirin a day because someone recommended it. Stupidly, I began the regimen. My trainer said aspirin is a depressant. I stopped the regimen and within a day or two my old excitement was back. What if I had gone to a doctor complaining of feeling “down”; common practice is to CYA and dispense meds, which cannot be done without a diagnosis. There goes my deer rifle.
In another situation, a student in my class was the center of a sixth hour coterie of jocks. He was the center and we all got along fine. One day his joking around got out of hand and I finally said this was amounting to a call home, something I almost never did. The reaction on his part, on his face, was clear: I had hit home. So, maybe no need, but to reinforce that his buddies paid me a visit at some unusual time to implore me in all earnestness not to call his dad. They assured me that bad things could and probably would happen. Dad was an administrator in the district and no doubt enjoyed a good reputation for being a hale-fellow well-met, knowing all the ball scores on Monday morning, maybe playing on a team himself, and certainly encouraging his son in athletics. So why would he resort to measures that struck literal fear for their friend in these young men? IMHO, it is the reliance on punishment in our society, the belief that the way to alter someone’s behavior is to punish them, the John Wayne mentality. Pop a smart aleck in the mouth and he’ll stop acting like that, at least until you are out of sight. I think this accounts for the reputations of cities like New Orleans, Las Vegas, New York City, Cancun, etc. as places of license; you are out of supervision and all those behaviors are still there. No one taught you why getting drunk, gambling your money away, and having one-night stands with strangers are not good ideas. Just beat the crap out of you and you’ll stop.
So back to gun control. Executing mass shooters will not stop the next one because people who decide to commit such an act cannot be screened out on mental health issues and are not deterred by the threat of punishment. In fact, many commit suicide in order to put themselves beyond the reach of punishment. The abusive father I told of above may or may not have a problem other than a twisted idea of discipline. His son may adore him and he may be in other ways a doting and effective father. But maybe not. Maybe he is suffering himself from a disorder and I won’t list the possibilities here. I recall the former commander of Oliver Stone in Viet Nam. He objected to Stone’s depiction of returned vets as having problems, PTSD and so forth. The officer said most men just shake it off, come home, and return to normal lives. The attention to PTSD and the vets of Iraq and Afghanistan have revealed the scope of dysfunction being in warfare can bring. Yet the officer declared most men deal with it OK. My suspicion is that a survey would go something like, “I’m fine, no problems, now where’s my Jack Daniels?” A quart a night does wonder for those bad dreams, anxieties and black holes. Half of gun deaths are suicides.