Tag Archives: prevention

A simple math problem? Stopping school shootings

Dan Patrick

Dan Patrick: Lt. Gov. from Texas (R) GETTY IMAGES

The manner in which our represented officials approach school shootings can be absolutely mind boggling.

Speaking about the recent shooting at a Santa Fe High School, Dan Patrick, a Lieutenant Governor from TX, commented that “four or five guns to one” was the best way to stop a gunman. The logic behind such thinking should immediately disqualify him from representing the public.

This idea of increased numbers suggests that some kind of arms race is necessary to keep ahead of these evil people who come out of the woodwork from time to time. Is there an ideal ratio? How about ten guns to one? For what is undoubtedly a complex social problem, are we really willing to rely on a ‘more is better’ approach? Is that the best that our elected officials can manage?

There is also something deeply unsettling in that a ‘more is better’ would clearly drive profit margins for the very tools that were used to commit the atrocity. When tragedy becomes lucrative it should make any rational person ask for greater transparency, especially between the industry and our elected officials. What would we make of an increased sale of crowbars, related to how well Ted Bundy used them?

I don’t necessarily think that officials like Patrick are ill-intentioned, but there is clearly something about the gun that appears to be “morally cleaner” than a crowbar. The NRA has often touted that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” but would we feel the same if the adage was, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a crowbar is a good guy with a crowbar”? You can substitute “gun” with any other noun to realize that there is clearly something very special about the “gun” in American society.

The showdown, at High Noon, where the good guy finally triumphs over evil, perhaps?

Is this romantic idea what is polluting the minds of our aging white male public representatives? The gun clearly provides the luxury of being impersonal, which provides the illusion that shooting someone is morally cleaner than swinging a crowbar into their head.

Substitute gun for crowbar and morally speaking you start to realize there isn’t really a good guy with a crowbar. It can start to seem acceptable in the context of self-defense, perhaps, but even if it can be shown to have been necessary for a person to smash an unconscionable aggressor in the face with a crowbar to stop them doing something terrible, nobody is ever going to feel normal again afterwards, even with the solace that the tragic event was interrupted or prevented. This is the kind of stuff that has driven our veterans and police to the edge of their sanity, and they were trained to deal with situations such as this.

The ‘more is better’ approach also misses one crucial point about spree and school shootings: The perpetrators do not care if they lose their own life, and they have already accepted this. It is common that the shooter will shot by police, or they will shoot themselves at a key moment not long after they began the shooting.

This psychology makes them just as dangerous as suicide bombers, and also undermines the argument that ‘more is better’ is somehow a deterrent to these shooters.

It is highly unlikely that even a “trained” civilian cares if they themselves die in the exchange; they may be willing to sacrifice themselves for others, but that is not the same thing. By wanting more guns in school, you’re not just requesting more gun carriers, you are requesting people who are openly willing to kill another person.

How rigorous does the training have to be to prepare somebody for this event scenario? There is a reason psychological testing is crucial for the police and our military. When you ask a person to be prepared to kill another, you are asking them to be prepared to circumvent their own conscience and live out the rest of their lives knowing what they have done. There is a personal cost to killing another person, and the only people who do not pay this cost, are those without a conscience – and I think we can agree that we do not want these people in our schools.

I think what has changed, with the increased level of awe-inspiring activism, is that people are beginning to realize that these events are much more than the shooting – a young loner, walking into a school, and shooting others. Political inaction is simply not good enough, anymore, and simple responses are offensive. It is high time we stop romanticizing over easy and poorly thought out solutions. Polarizing the world into good and bad is not productive and it does not result in a pragmatic approach to solving this problem.

Anyone who would have you believe otherwise, does not represent you.

The Treatment Advocacy Center

Treatment Advocacy CenterIf you’re interested to learn how an absence of nationwide mental healthcare assistance contributes in a very real way to violent and aggressive events in the U.S., please check out the website for the Treatment Advocacy Center. This organization was founded by the prominent and distinguished psychiatrist, E. F. Torrey, known for his exhaustive research correlating a decline in therapy (especially outpatient follow-up) with violent crime in the United States.

 

The Treatment Advocacy Center website provides access to a wealth of information and statistics surrounding mental health and crime; you can see how your state measures up against others with the laws they have in place, the population of severe mentally ill persons, an estimate of how many severely ill people are incarcerated, and the ratio of the likelihood of incarceration vs. hospitalization for the severely mentally ill. There is also a database of preventable tragedies, options to become involved, and media to explore surrounding the issues.

 

Torrey’s book, The Insanity Offense, also provides excellent reading on the rise of a national problem, how state governments and politicians have without fail misunderstood (or not cared about) the root of the problem, and how many of the U.S.’s violent crimes stood a chance of being prevented had common sense measures been in place. All too frequently laws have been written that seem to encourage the violent act before any action can be taken (are they a danger to themselves or others?), and enforcing measures that encourage the severely mentally ill to take their medications. Forcing people into institutions and to take their meds has often been viewed as barbaric and an affront to personal liberties, but the severely ill cannot live ‘freely’ unless they are treated (humanely), and neither can their family or friends.

 

Clearly, it is time to acknowledge that mental illness can affect anyone at any time, and sensible, common sense, and compassionate measures need to be put into place.

 

A wonderful resource if you have the time.