Friday, January 4, 2013

What He Said

While I was taking a much needed break from writing about the tragedy of gun deaths and the comedy of Congress, Douglas Anthony Cooper wrote a much better article than I was planning on writing about the NRA and mental health.

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. 

1 comment:

  1. I normally don't bother in responding to these kinds of blogs, but from the beginning, with the distasteful remark on the death of the Newtown schoolchildren, to the end I found myself wishing we were talking in person, sans the gift if courage in internet anonymity. Firstly, removing assault weapons will not reduce 'gun violence' immediately or effectively, if at all. Certainly, it will create a black market demand where gun runners and terrorists will have supplies to distribute at costs double normal market value. To remove something from the picture entirely has hardly ever amounted to success, why would firearms differ? Secondly, semi-automatic rifles are hardly ever the weapon of choice; in Newtown, an easily concealable handgun was used, while the rifle was left in the car. Why? Because you cannot stroll into a school, or anywhere in public, with an assault weapon without garnering attention. In Newtown's case, if a rifle, not a concealable handgun, had been used police would have been notified immediately upon visual, possibly preventing the massacre. Thirdly, the NRA has a legitimate point that cannot be ignored and brushed aside with a counter-argument concerning semantics. As an owner of a semi-automatic, and the daughter and sister of 3 veterans who train in gun safety, it is probably 1 in 500,000 that purchase a firearm or assault weapon with the intent of harming innocent people. That one person who does, diagnosed as psychopathic or not, is not well in their mental thought process. That is, to the layperson, they are mentally ill. The problem is not the gun. As the infamous tautology goes, guns do not kill people, it is people that kill people. Revoking America's 2nd amendment right (remember, you owe the people respect that have died for you to have that right...many more than have died as a result of it, and because of its value in those lives lost you owe that right its due respect, whether you want it written in our bill or not..) will not do anything but limit your ability to defend your life from threat. The founding fathers included the right to bear arms so that you will be able to defend yourself againt invasion, mutiny, the government, and immediate danger. If we outlaw this right, you are not protecting or preventing the 1 person in at least 500000, you are just making his/her task more difficult, considering the black market won't be easily accessible (which it probably will be). The solution to 'gun violence' (a phrase which in itself is illogical when guns do not have the capacity for violent attitudes) is not a reduction in human rights, but to ease the conflictions in society that lead to psychopathic minds (something a psychologist should know more about) and create abroader access to affordable mental health treatments. The only way to 'cure' this problem is to treat with prevention- not prohibition. Remember, you may be fortunate to have not needed to risk your physical health or life in ANY way that contributes to the bettering of this country (no, spending thousands of dollars in school tuition only to lead to a life dedicated to poorly written and researched blogging does not better anyone further than you), but others have sacrificed life and family for you. Please, be responsible and considerate when deciding political action. Your words may incite a movement grounded in subjection and irrationality.