Sunday, July 22, 2012

Aurora - Last Friday

It is unacceptable that every few weeks there is a murder spree by someone who’s mentally unstable and in possession of assault weapons.

Much of the commentary on the latest mass shooting by a madman in Aurora, Colorado, has focused, correctly, on the availability of guns. Some of the usual apologetics for keeping guns in anyone’s hands that can hold them have tried to shift the conversation to the fact that the shooter was clearly crazy.

Both are the problem: too many people in need of help aren’t getting it, but they can get guns.

John Ballard covers the lack of help and institutionalization for people with serious mental and emotional problems. He picked up on the same quote I did:

A San Diego woman identifying herself as the mother of Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes told a news crew Friday morning that authorities "have the person," ABC news reports.

The woman, who said her name was Arlene, had awoken unaware of the news of the shooting and had not been contacted by authorities. She immediately expressed concern that her son may have been involved.

"You have the right person,” the mother said, speaking on instinct. “I need to call the police. I need to fly out to Colorado.”

That last quote echoes one of the worst fears I’ve heard from friends with mentally disturbed children. The other of their worst fears is that their children have been killed by someone else. Ballard explains in much more detail, with links to several articles on the subject.

Of course, the people who feel that guns and other implements of death should be available to all are frequently also the people who feel that we shouldn’t be taxed to pay for, say, community mental health services. They also tend toward the unthinking libertarianism that insists that the mentally ill should find their own way, outside of institutions and medication.

Commentary has focused on the extreme availability of guns that have no possible use beyond killing people and the influence of the National Rifle Association on the Congresscritters that can’t stand up to it. That commentary is remarkably uniform and depressing; the short version is that the NRA has won and has impressed its vision of guns everywhere onto the American public. There will be more killings of innocent adults and children. Nothing will change. That’s the message from

Tom Tomorrow (Oh, wait! Does that say Tucson?)

A few excerpts:
 Fallows:  There will be more of these; we absolutely know it; we also know that we will not change the circumstances that allow such episodes to recur.

Pierce:  For we know in our hearts that nothing is going to be done. The only great movement toward gun control will continue to exist only in the voices that ring in the heads of people like Wayne LaPierre.

Gopnik:  The reality is simple: every country struggles with madmen and ideologues with guns, and every country—Canada, Norway, Britain—has had a gun massacre once, or twice. Then people act to stop them, and they do—as over the past few years has happened in Australia. Only in America are gun massacres of this kind routine, expectable, and certain to continue.

Let’s look at some statistics.

The geography of gun violence across the United States from data from the Centers for Disease Control

Self-reported gun ownership in October 2011 was at its highest since 1993. Republicans are more likely to own guns than Democrats, men more than women. One in three Americans personally owns a gun.

In April of this year, support for gun ownership was slightly ahead of support for gun control laws, 49% to 45%. Republicans and men are much more supportive of gun ownership.

Last year, the NRA spent $2.9 million on lobbying, while gun-control advocates spent about one-tenth of that amount, a paltry $240,000.

I may have more to say about this later. For now, my sympathies to all who have been affected by all this gun violence. We must change this.

Update (07/24/12): I see that Holmes's mother disputes the way that quote about having the right person was framed.  Even so, this is the kind of phone call that parents of children with mental health problems dread.

Cross-posted to The Agonist.


helmut said...

I wonder... is there any case whatsoever in which a murderous rampage was stopped by armed citizens shooting back? That's the basis for the argument for more guns. So, there must be some empirical basis for it, no? Or is it just that every time there's a massacre, it's our own damn fault for not all carrying assault rifles?

Cheryl Rofer said...

As far as I know, it's all theory. I think there is a story going the rounds about a woman in a recent church shooting who had a gun with her and took down the nut who was determined on carnage.

OTOH, one of the witnesses to the Gabby Giffords shooting, I think had a concealed carry permit but didn't have his gun with him that day. He was experienced with guns and said that if he had had his gun, he probably would have shot the wrong person.

There are a bunch of issues about shooting a guy in black in a dark theater, with lots of people running around. I suspect that most of the people mouthing off about this have never held a gun or had training in how guns must be used (or not) in crowds.