Saturday, December 15, 2012

It's not about being "crazy." The Connecticut shooting did not happen in a mental-health vacuum.

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Well, here it comes... as we knew it would.

The connecticut school killer, Adam Lanza, was insane:

He was dark and disturbed, a deeply troubled boy from a wealthy family who unnerved his neighbors and classmates.

Mass murderer Adam Lanza, 20, was a ticking time bomb, people who knew him told the Daily News. 

"This was a deeply disturbed kid," a family insider told the Daily News. "He certainly had major issues. He was subject to outbursts from what I recall." 

Lanza, who friends and officials said suffered from Asperger's syndrome or a personality disorder, had a tortured mind.

This may all be true, but it's also the way America in general and right-wing gun nuts and their various supporters and enablers in particular refuse to take any responsibility for violent crime, especially gun crime.

It's not the guns, it's never the guns, it's the crazy guy -- this is the standard refrain. And if we all had guns, we'd be able to stop the crazy guys with guns -- this is what inevitably follows.

Whether it's Lanza or Jared Lee Loughner or James Holmes or Jacob Roberts, just four of the most recent perpetrators, it's about the craziness, not about the culture of violence and gun obsession that allowed them to commit their heinous acts. This is what conservatives tell us all the time, refusing to address any deeper socio-political problem, and it's how they control the narrative, with willing media often playing right along. And if you dare talk about the problem, and the need for gun control, as for example Bob Costas did recently in the wake of the murder-suicide in Kansas City, you're accused of politicizing a tragedy, and worse.

As I wrote last night, though, about the Connecticut shooting:

This was not an isolated incident. This was not some one-off committed by a lone psychopath with no connection to anything else going on in society. No, this was yet another horrifically violent act, mass murder committed with guns, in a violent and gun-obsessed culture that refuses that deal with its own violent obsessions and tendencies.

This was worse than anything I can remember, including Columbine, yet it was also more of the same. 

Associated with this is the problem of mental illnesss generally, which isn't taken seriously enough and certainly isn't addressed in meaningful enough ways by society at large. (And using words like "crazy" doesn't help, I know.) Again, I'm not saying these people don't suffer from significant mental-health problems. Most of them surely do, though I would note that many supposedly "sane" people have also committed horrendous acts.

But whether the person in question is "crazy" or not, the more fundamental issue here is that America is a violent, gun-obsessed country and that it's too easy to get hold of guns.

And don't fucking tell me that if it weren't for guns these people would find other ways to harm people and so it doesn't make sense to ban guns. Because the simple fact is, not all weapons are the same. If this guy had had just a knife, he wouldn't have been able to commit anywhere near this level of violence, and there wouldn't be nearly as many people -- as many children -- dead. 

Same in Arizona, same in Colorado, same everywhere. Sure, such massive violence can be committed with, say, poison gas, but we ban that, don't we? 

And yet in America guns are everywhere and guns are glorified, and people keep getting killed with them -- both by people with obvious mental-health problems, even if often untreated, and by people who seem fine. 

If you don't see this, and you don't think something needs to be done about it, you're just too fucking stupid to have an opinion that should be taken seriously.

And if there's one silver lining in this whole horrible tragedy in Connecticut, it's that maybe, just maybe, simply as a result of the scale of the horror, we'll finally isolate the gun nuts on the right and have a sensible discussion about guns, gun control, and gun-obsessed America -- and that maybe, just maybe, something meaningful will actually be done to change things for the better.

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  • Your article ignores the fact that in the worst mass casualty attack on a school in US history no one was shot!

    Reasonable gun restrictions are necessary, but no one left or right are propossing reasonable or legal restrictions.

    Data has shown gun bans don't work, neither do I think it is a good idea to develop a wild west mentality.

    We continue to ignore the real problem, we as a society are turning out significant numbers of individuals who have no respect for others, screwed up core values, and when they don't get thier way they kill people in a homocidal tantrumn so it again, is all about them!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:18 PM  

  • Everything you say is wrong.

    Many people, mostly on the left and center, but also a courageous few on the right, have proposed sensible gun laws.

    Research shows that states with gun laws have lower rates of gun crime. And of course gun crime as much lower everywhere else in the civilized world -- and everywhere else has significant gun laws.

    Okay, you're right about society and individuals with serious mental-health problems, but we aren't doing nearly enough about mental health -- and the fact is, if there are so many people with such problems, it's even worse that there are so many guns. You destroy your own argument.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 5:53 PM  

  • I have just realized the significance of the TIME magazine cover. Look carefully at the date. It says February 6, 1989. The point is, despite all the massacres, despite all the tragedy, nothing changes. Ever.

    By Anonymous Mark, at 9:37 PM  

  • Yes, that's one of the reasons I posted it.

    Time actually has quite a few covers devoted to guns and gun violence over the years.

    You're right, nothing changes. It's disgusting.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 12:52 AM  

  • I always wonder what part of Well Regulated Gun Nuts don't understand. It's in the constitutuion.

    By Blogger Grung_e_Gene, at 9:35 AM  

  • "We continue to ignore the real problem, we as a society are turning out significant numbers of individuals who have no respect for others, screwed up core values, and when they don't get thier way they kill people in a homocidal tantrum so it again, is all about them!"

    Michael, Anonymous did NOT destroy his own argument. Your statement is only YOUR opinion.

    I agree (with you) that we have a real gun and violence issue in this country. However, the TWO issues here, guns/violence AND mental health/disconnected people are NOT independent of one another. There is a definite connection between the two. Millions of people walk around in a daze, glued to their fucking cell phones, unable to look each other in the eye, much less, SPEAK to each other in a manner recognizable by HUMAN BEINGS since the dawn of the spoken word AND the all-to-easy access to weapons of mass destruction (the semi-auto rifle with 30 round clip). The gun is, and has always been, an inanimate object requiring a human being's digits to operate it. The "people" operating these crude tools are so fucked up as to utterly lack the HUMANITY to recognize that what they are doing is horribly, nightmarishly WRONG. I believe that is what Anonymous was driving at and I resent the way you so smugly dismissed his point. Perhaps you were too busy texting on your “smart phone” to receive his/her message?
    I don't disagree with you in principle but you are the atypical FAR LEFT ‘type” that IGNORES anything that does not support your particular and immediate agenda. That makes you as guilty as the FAR RIGHT “types” who operate in the same manner. We have a real problem in America and it is the systematic dehumanization of and disconnection from one another ala “LEFT VS RIGHT”, “American VS Canadian”, democrat VS republican, and on and on. It is THAT problem, not a fucking piece of metal that spits bullets (but, yes, too many and too easy for virtually anyone to aquire), which is at the very HEART of these horrific events. This is the conversation we, as a nation, badly need to have and for as long as it takes to BRING PEOPLE CLOSER TOGETHER.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:38 AM  

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