Words fail us sometimes in trying to make sense of tragedies like the recent shooting at an elementary school in Texas by a mentally deranged gunman just 18 years old. The victims include 19 children and 2 adults and some 14 others wounded including his own grandmother whom he shot in the face.
The killer may have had a juvenile criminal record but there is no record of him suffering from mental health issues. He was a high school dropout. In school, he was unpopular and a loner. He was fatherless and lived in a poor household.
The shooter had legally purchased two AR platform rifles on May 17 and May 20 from a ‘local federal firearms licensee,’ along with about 375 rounds of 5.56 and .223 ammunition.
He then broke several federal and state firearms laws by bringing that weapon onto school property and massacring a classroom full of little kids.
It is reported that during the shooting, 2 parents showed up with guns but were not allowed in to assist.
As usual, the most emotional displays of outrage tend to get the most press coverage:
Coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors chose to talk about the shooting at a press conference over his team’s performance: “tired of moments of silence, ENOUGH, there are 50 Senators who REFUSE to vote on a background check & it’s been sitting there for 2 years!”
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut was on the Senate floor and also gave an impassioned speech: “THESE KIDS WEREN’T UNLUCKY. THIS ONLY HAPPENS IN THIS COUNTRY AND NOWHERE ELSE,”
Vice President Kamal Harris weighed in as well: “Tonight in Uvalde, Texas, there are parents who lost children. Families who have lost loved ones. And many who have been injured. As a nation, we must have the courage to take action and prevent this from ever happening again.”
Finally, President Biden addressed the nation on the mass shooting last night, saying: “The idea that an 18-year-old can walk into a store and buy assault weapons is just wrong. What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill someone?”
During Texas Governor Greg Abbot’s press conference on the shooting, Democrat challenger Beto O’Roarke stood up as the Lt Governor was about to make remarks and blamed the deaths on Governor Abbot for not doing anything to prevent school shootings. O’Roarke is on record in favor of banning firearms entirely, perhaps even for police as well.
It’s kind of amazing that in President Biden’s 40-plus years in public office he’s never heard that an “assault weapon” is a made-up word that has no basis in reality. The AR platform is simply a rifle made to shoot straight, be inexpensive to manufacture, and easy to maintain. Most consumers naturally seek out products that work properly, are inexpensive, and are reliable. It’s as if the President can’t understand why anyone would want a Toyota Camry or Ford F-150.
The others mentioned above all made emotional appeals for the government to “Do Something” to prevent this from ever happening again, which is an impossible task. The “something” done runs the gamut from banning possession of firearms to universal background checks, to arming teachers and putting cops in every school.
The NRA or gun manufacturers aren’t preventing confiscation or sale of whole classes of firearms, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are the obstacles to just about every gun ban scheme being offered right now. And they are high obstacles to overcome too.
Even if Texas was inclined to completely ban the AR rifle from possession the law would likely be overturned as unconstitutional even if it enjoyed unanimous support. If voters want guns banned, they need to formally repeal the 2nd Amendment by the Constitutional process for amending it. That is how things work in a Republic.
There are calls for universal background checks as well, which would not have prevented this shooter from obtaining those firearms anyway. Besides, we know that there are 3 million serious crimes and adjudications of mental incompetence missing from that system. If we had universal background checks for all firearms purchases, the system would still be a leaking sieve that would allow people to buy guns who shouldn’t be able to. Thus far, Congress has not acted on plugging all the holes in this system
What is also not being mentioned in these knee-jerk reactions is the absolute epidemic of mental health issues that more than anything else, is the cause of these shootings.
Undiagnosed and untreated mental illness.
While we should certainly be outraged by the deaths of these children we should also take note of the tens of thousands of mentally unstable people who kill themselves with a firearm every year. In 2020, more than 45,000 people committed suicide in this country and 24,000 used a firearm. For decades, the number of people who take their own lives with a gun has far exceeded the number of murders committed with a firearm.
What are we doing about that?
If 19 innocent school children dying is an outrage, what shall we call it when 24,000 men, women, and even children put a gun to their heads and pull the trigger every year? How are we as a society failing these people?
We have to know that we are failing to diagnose and treat the mentally ill just from the statistics.
30 percent of those locked up in California state prisons are in treatment for a “serious mental disorder.” In New York, 21 percent of inmates are on the mental-health caseload. In Texas, roughly 20 percent of inmates are being treated for mental illness. Overall, the number of mentally ill people in our prison is more than 20%.
A 12017 study published in the journal Psychiatric Services stated that about 3.4% of Americans — more than 8 million people — suffer from serious psychological problems, yet there are only about 50,000 inpatient mental health beds available in the entire country. We are not treating mental health until they hurt somebody or break the law in some other serious way and then we put them in prison and treat them there.
While a gun may be the mechanism of suicide and even mass murder by mentally ill people, the gun itself is not the cause of the actions they chose to take. No rationally thinking person would argue that banning carbon monoxide in 1939 would have stopped Adolph Hitler from killing 6 million Jews, but people do argue that banning guns will prevent suicide and mass murders at a school or other public places.
No, it won’t. They will just use a different means of carrying out their crime. The people calling for banning whole classes of firearms were in favor of these bans long before this shooting. They are just using this tragedy to forward their own agenda.
In Bath Township Michigan, a School Board Treasurer named Andrew Kehoe placed more than a ton of explosives in a school basement and blew it up killing 38 elementary school children, his wife, and 5 other adults. When rescuers arrived at the scene of the bombing, Kehoe drove up in his pickup truck full of explosives and metal scrap and blew that up as well. The year was 1927 and until the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016, it was the worse mass murder in US history. Yet, most people know nothing about the Bath Township Massacre because it didn’t involve the use of a firearm. After the fact, it was determined that Kehoe probably suffered from a severe psychosis that may have come about because of a severe head injury he suffered earlier in life. We know a great deal more about mental health issues than we did in 1927 and that goes for how to treat these illnesses too.
Setting all emotion aside, we really must be clear-eyed and rational in looking at these kinds of things if we want to solve the problem of mass shootings, this country has to address the epidemic of undiagnosed and untreated mental illness in this country if it wants to really stop these shootings.