I have never used the phrase "must read" or any variation of it because of my own peculiarities, but for anyone who wants to intelligently discuss gun violence and its causes, this IS a must read. Jeffrey Young at HuffPost wrote Mental Health Solutions Alone Can't Thwart Gun Violence, Experts Say . Even though I have attempted to say the same things in various ways, Mr. Young has done it much better than I, or anything else I have seen on the intertubes.
I have a sick child at home today and am flying solo, because mom is out, so I ask for forgiveness for not fully fleshing this out below the fold. I will try to point out the highlights.
I do want to take a few seconds though and draw attention to the fact that there was a hearing last night in Connecticut before a legislative committee. There were a number of parents of victims of the 12/14 shootings. I saw a long excerpt on the Last Word with Laurence O'Donnell.. I unfortunately don't have time to find the link to the episode but I will describe what I saw.
In the "re-write" section of the show, O'Donnell showed the testimony of one of the fathers whose child died that day. It was hard to watch, seeing the raw grief that he was going through. I cannot even imagine the pain he is going through.
The sad reality is that it would have been better if he had not been testifying. I do not say that he doesn't have a right to testify. He does. But it is my hope that some of the views he expressed were clouded by his overwhelming grief.
What he had to say about guns I found reasonable even if his testimony was for dramatic effect and didn't actually have much in the way of objective analysis backed by empirical evidence of what types of restrictions on guns would be effective. But what he had to say about mental illness and gun violence was down right scary.
He repeatedly stated that Adam Lanza was extremely mentally disturbed. This is though as the article by Mr Young states:
Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old shooter in Newtown, Conn., had no known history of mental illness, despite unconfirmed reports that he was diagnosed with a form of autism. He used firearms legally purchased by his mother, herself one of his victims.The same is true of other mass shootings:
Nor does mental illness appear to explain other widely publicized mass murders, including the slaying of six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin last year, or the shooting rampage that took the lives of eight people in Manchester, Conn., in 2010.He also argued that there had to be better identification and tracking of people with mental illness. The purpose I guess is to make sure that the mentally ill aren't plotting to do other horrific acts. I don't mean that last comment to be snarky. He actually said something to that effect.
So what he appeared to be suggesting wasn't not just a "registry" of people who have been deemed by a court to be not capable to handle firearms due to mental illness. No, he was saying exactly what I have been fearing and arguing against, a broad categorization of people who should be singled out and then tracked . The purpose is to prevent the possibility of future harm..
Here is a comparable concept that I am sure (I pray at least) all reasonable people will reject. It is a known fact that children who have suffered sexual or physical abuse are at a much higher rate to be abusers themselves. Now considering how destructive sexual and physical abuse are to so many children, we should do whatever it takes to prevent those who might be dangerous from causing harm. Before you say I am full of shit, here is a report by the NIH that states:
RESULTS:So, we should create a database of all those who have been victims of abuse and we need to track them, periodically doing inspections and assessments of them to determine if they will be a danger to others. We might consider preventing them from having children because these children would be the most likely victims of abuse.
Childhood Emotional Abuse and Family Dysfunction, Childhood Behavior Problems, and Childhood Sexual Abuse were found to be general developmental risk factors for paraphilias. Furthermore, Childhood Emotional Abuse and Family Dysfunction was found to be a common developmental risk factor for pedophilia, exhibitionism, rape, or multiple paraphilia. Additional analyses revealed that childhood emotional abuse contributed significantly as a common developmental risk factor compared to family dysfunction. Besides, Childhood Sexual Abuse was found to be a specific developmental risk factor for pedophilia.
The study has supported the value of conceptualizing certain childhood adversities as developmental risk factors for paraphilic behaviors. The role of childhood emotional abuse as an important developmental risk contributor, and the relationship between childhood sexual abuse and pedophilia are of theoretical significance. Furthermore, the results have significant implications for the prevention of childhood abuse and treatment of sex offenders.
Such a response to sexual and physical abuse would be overkill, would unduly infringe on peoples' civil liberties, and would have negative consequences for people who would otherwise seek help before doing anything abusive to a child. The same concerns are pertinent for people with mental illness/health issues.
Action on the gun side is necessary and should be enacted as soon as possible. Action on improving the delivery of mental health services and the appropriate level of funding should be pursued as quickly as possible, although it is a much more complicated issue than is the gun issue.
However, issues where gun violence and mental health intersect should be studied very thoroughly before ANY legislative action is taken. Such action taken in the heat of the moment without good evidence to support public policy will only lead to bad things happening to a very large number of innocent people.