As you know, it took the great minds at the NRA only one week of seclusion to come up with a plan to make gravy out of the blood from the shooting of children in Newtown. As I write that last sentence I feel dirty, but I am truly trying to reflect what is going on in the evil bastion that is the NRA.
Anyway, what they came up with is a two-pronged approach to the problem of innocents getting murdered by guns: more guns, and target the mentally ill.
Lest they sound callous, and NRA Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre did indeed take that tone in his first crawling out from under the rock speech one week after the shooting, the NRA wants us to believe that they are simply speaking out of concern for future victims of gun violence. How can you not agree with the catchy, "...only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Took him a week to come up with that, it did.
This whole focus on the mentally ill seemed to me such an apparent diversionary technique that I was put off whenever some panel on MSNBC started to talk about the mentally ill. Nice to know that there is a term for this, as per Cooper:
Trolling has become subtle, and one of the more elegant methods of subverting debate is "concern trolling." This is where you pretend to be deeply concerned about something that concerns you not in the slightest, so that you can undermine the conversation, derail it, and ultimately destroy it.
In my past life as a psychologist in a Long Island High School, I worked with a staff that was extremely tuned in to the students, and students who very much trusted the teaching and guidance staff. So, over three years, I met with the most depressed, anxious, troubled students in the school. There are some things you need to understand about mental illness:
1. It is a really obscene catch-all phrase, that actually means nothing.
2. Most of us, even in 2013, are unnerved by the thought that someone may be "mentally ill" and will do anything possible to avoid admitting that someone they know has a "mental illness."
3. Especially when it's themselves.
Here's something that that idiot LaPierre may not know: the more disturbed a person is, the less likely they are to be willing to seek help, the more difficult it is to be helped, and the fewer resources are available. It also affects the way people will treat you, and your ability to live a productive life, even if you are capable of being totally functional and productive.
There's another part of this "mentally ill" issue. Those who are depressed, psychotic, anxious, while they may be the ones who might seek help, or be referred for help, are in fact not the ones who are most likely to plot and follow through a massacre.
As Dave Cullen described in his really well-researched book about the Columbine shooting, the actual brains behind the massacre was a psychopath. Psychopaths don't get better. They are very likely to be well disguised from authorities, and when caught, can seem to respond to treatment, while merely learning how to play the game. Cullen describes how, when the pair who would commit the shooting were caught in a theft and referred to a treatment program, it was the depressed boy who was deemed to have benefited less from the therapy, while the psychopathic partner played the therapist and was touted as a stunning success.
The book The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson, is a fascinating look at attempts to identify and treat psychopaths, with a focus on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist devised by Dr. Robert Hare, who is mentioned in the Cooper article. Interestingly, a psychopath is more likely to make a killing at Goldman-Sachs than with a semi-automatic. Or head up the NRA.
So what does all this mean? It means that we can let Wayne LaPierre lead us around with promises to teach teachers how to use guns in order to be safe, and lull us into believing that all we need to do is find the mentally ill and we won't have a gun problem. Or we can recognize the reality that identifying and treating the mentally ill will never be something that will be easy or inexpensive, and even though we should be doing it, it will not solve the problem of gun violence.
The most effective way to reduce gun violence is to reduce the number of guns -- and to remove assault weapons from circulation altogether.