Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Revival of the Gun-Control Discussion

It is hard to imagine anyone feeling anything but empathy for Richard Martinez, the anguished father whose statement following the murder of his 20–year–old son Friday night must have been the embodiment of every parent's fear.

I feel for him, I really do, just as I do for anyone who loses a loved one to random violence. And that is what Friday's killings were — random. I have seen no evidence that Elliot Rodger shot at anyone he knew. Apparently, he did stab three people to death, and he knew at least two of them because he lived with them, but the rest of his victims seem to have been strangers to him.

Just like the children in New Town were strangers to their murderer.

Just like the victims in the Colorado theater were unknown to their killer.

Just like most of the victims at Virginia Tech.

That seems to be a common link in these kinds of stories. The attacker is seething with rage over something, but rarely is that murderous rage aimed at the person(s) who committed the perceived slight.

Well, it should be obvious that if a person is irrational, he/she will take an irrational course of action.

Another common link between those cases and the one in Isla Vista, Calif., last Friday is this — mental illness. The perpetrators are almost always mentally unbalanced.

If the mentally ill are intent upon attacking others, they will use a gun if they can, but they will use something else if they must.

Rodger clearly demonstrated this. He stabbed his first three victims. He proceeded to shoot most of the others, but he also used his vehicle as a weapon.

He was clearly mentally ill. Could there be any doubt? Have you read his manifesto?

Or have you seen his "retribution" video, the one he apparently made about 24 hours before he went on his rampage? He was eagerly anticipating what he was about to do.

I suspect he would have used anything that was available to him to achieve what he wanted. If you're willing to stab three people to death — which is about as up close and personal as a killing can get — you wouldn't hesitate to choke someone or pummel that person to death with something that could be used as a club.

In the aftermath of something like this, there are always a couple of knee–jerk reactions with which I find myself losing patience.

I suppose it is only human to look for reasons why something like this happened, but among the usual scapegoats are violent movies and video games. Rodger apparently played video games as a form of escape, and he lived in the land of make–believe, the movie culture of southern California. Both his parents were connected to the entertainment industry.

Well, millions of people play video games, and millions of people watch action/adventure movies, but very, very few of them become multiple murderers.

When something like this happens, a cry goes out across the land to ban automatic weapons. That demand consistently ignores the facts that (a) none of these crimes in recent years has been committed with an automatic weapon and (b) it is possible to acquire an automatic weapon, but existing law already forces such a gun buyer to jump through all sorts of bureaucratic hoops.

Any gun legislation that would be proposed as a result of this would be feel–good legislation that would have no affect.

What would have an impact? Well, I think one thing that needs to be done is to evaluate the state of mental health in the United States — and start giving people the treatment they need.

That's not going to solve the problem — I don't know what the long–term solution is — but renewing our commitment to defeating mental illness will get us closer to solving it than we will ever get with more gun–control legislation.

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