In the history of our nation, our individual citizens have never possessed such lethality. Guns are available to anyone, even children. At the same time, our federal, state and local governments have cut back on social programs, including mental health programs. The combination of the two is certain to ensure that more mentally ill people will be able to act on their inner demons with extreme violence and force.
The young man in Santa Barbara is a prime example. His parents knew he was mentally disturbed. They desperately sought help from law enforcement. But, under the circumstances, there was little anyone could do to stop him. He was able to convince police that he was not a danger. And anyone who is mentally ill can buy a gun as long as they have not been previously confined. So he was able to legally purchase three semi-automatic handguns and more than 400 rounds of ammunition.
As a result, a number of promising young lives were snuffed out. Even those who survived or witnessed the event will be forever changed.
Responsibility for these deaths falls directly on the gun industry, the National Rifle Association, other gun groups and their members. (To be clear, I have owned guns most of my life, but I’ve never carried one and I’ve never embraced the anti-government paranoia of some gun owners.) Because of the NRA, we have been unable to reduce the lethality of available guns; unable to conduct universal background checks; unable to track the transfer of guns between individuals; unable to keep records of the number of shootings and deaths from guns. Thanks to the NRA, in some states pediatricians are even banned from discussing the potential problems of guns in the home with parents.
Had it not been for the greed and paranoia of NRA leaders, the parents of Elliot Rodgers might have been able to deny the shooter’s ability to obtain guns by notifying authorities of the potential danger and entering that information into a database to prevent him from purchasing a weapon. Had it not been for government cutbacks on mental health programs, his parents might have been able to force the young man to get help.
Where has the money for mental health programs gone? Most states have put the money into prisons. Indeed, prisons have become the American substitute for many social programs. By allowing people to commit crimes, we can house them in cells where they receive no treatment and no counseling. They are a danger to no one but the detention officers and themselves. And they contribute to the economy by generating profits for private prison corporations.
Sure, this system is inhumane. Sure, it results in more crimes and more deaths of innocent people. Sure, the system causes unimaginable pain to the families and friends of the mentally ill. Sure, the rest of the world is puzzled by such callousness. But this is the USA. We’re the world’s only super power. We can be as stupid and as mean as we want!
So get used to mass shootings. Get used to the sensationalized news stories. Get used to the deaths and the severe wounds. Get used to the anguish of families and communities. Get used to the mourning. Cover your eyes and ears to the horror. Close your minds to the obvious solutions. This isn’t about right and wrong. This is about maximizing the profits of the gun industry. It’s about business, power and politics.