Saturday, December 15, 2012

Crazy everywhere, well-armed here

By Frank Moraes

Everyone wants to know why it is we have so many mass shootings -- one every five days on average. Most of all, I want to know. Brad Plumer wrote what turned out to be a disappointing story over at Wonkblog, "Why Are Mass Shootings Becoming More Common?" It was disappointing because it turns out that we don't know. 

One of the more compelling theories is that mass shootings are contagious. I'm serious. Plumer doesn't say, but I think I know how it works. A mentally unstable person sees the news coverage of a mass shooting. He thinks, "Maybe that's what I need! Maybe that will fix me!" I know that line may sound cavalier, but I don't mean it that way at all. I know what it's like to feel that you have no control on your emotions, and the desperation that goes along with it. Luckily, my mental dysfunctions do not go along with a confused sense of reality. But I can see how these people would follow others who have gone before. 

It is much too convenient to hang all of this carnage on the media, however. For one thing, according to Richard Florida's work, there really is no correlation (within the United States) between gun deaths and mental illness. But he did find a correlation between gun deaths and loose gun regulation. To be clear: the more restrictive the gun laws, the lower the rate of gun deaths. So gun availability -- and this surprises no one, right? -- is a critical issue. 

Brad Plumer provided an amazing comparison. Yesterday, another mentally ill man attacked a group of children. Twenty-two of them were injured -- some of them badly. But none were killed. This is because it happened in China and the man only had a knife. 

People are crazy all over the world. We need to do something about that: for them as well as us. But the biggest social problem with the mentally ill here in America is that they are too well armed. 

(photo: "History of gun violence in America grows" at NBC News)

 (Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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