When Will We Learn?

Photo by Gerson Martins on Unsplash

In the last week, there have been three mass shootings in the United States, in Dayton, Ohio; El Paso, Texas; and Gilroy, California.

There is a statement about the shootings in Dayton and El Paso on the National Rifle Association (NRA) website:

“Our deepest sympathies are with the families and victims of these tragedies, as well as the entire communities of El Paso and Dayton. On behalf of our millions of members, we salute the courage of the first responders and others offering their services during this time.

The NRA is committed to the safe and lawful use of firearms by those exercising their Second Amendment freedoms. We will not participate in the politicizing of these tragedies but, as always, we will work in good faith to pursue real solutions that protect us all from people who commit these horrific acts.”

President Trump in particular seems to be fond of blaming illness for mass shootings. Earlier today, President Trump said more needed to be done to seek out people with mental illness who might become violent and ensure they get treatment, even if that requires “involuntary confinement.” He added that “Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger, not the gun.”

A Google search for “mass shootings mental illness” turns up 28.7 million hits. This distraction technique relies on pervasive fears that people with mental illness are dangerous and unpredictable. What no one in power seems interested in talking about is the fact that people with mental illness are shooting and killing themselves as suicides; it is exceedingly rare that they take the lives of others.

Whether we’re talking attacks perpetrated by angry white men, racially motivated attacks, or attacks by people who were not in their right mind for whatever reason, the common denominator is these acts involve a weapon capable of killing massive numbers of people in a short space of time.

Changing the social ills that foment radicalization and violence is a slow process, and governments taking nationalist stances are unlikely to help move things in the right direction. No matter how refined law enforcement techniques become, identifying and stopping potentially individuals will never be an exact science.

If you can’t predict the shooter, what can be influenced in the equation of perpetrator + rapid killing weapon = many dead people? So many people in power seem to be insisting that only the perpetrator should be controlled. Yet if that’s not possible, isn’t it incumbent upon government to do something about the guns?

If I had a pair of scissors, I might be able to kill someone, although with great difficulty. If I have a knife, I could have more of an impact. A handgun kicks it up a notch. A rifle kicks it up another notch, but I’m still mostly likely not going to be able to kill massive numbers of people unless they’re unconscious.

To kill mass numbers of people, you need a weapon designed to kill mass numbers of people. I can’t imagine that when the founding fathers were writing up the Second Amendment they were conceptualizing a hate-filled man shooting up a Walmart.

Given that we can’t predict the violent people and the government is doing nothing to control the weapons capable of carrying out mass shootings, the other end of that equation is that people will continue to die.

If the NRA and other pro-gun advocates want to insist this isn’t a political issue and guns aren’t the problem, that’s not surprising. If government continues to keep their heads in the sand, though, that’s a national disgrace.

How many more people need to die before something changes?



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Ashley L. Peterson

Ashley L. Peterson

Author of 4 books — latest is A Brief History of Stigma | Mental health blogger | Former MH nurse | Living with depression | mentalhealthathome.org