Another day, another mass shooting in the United States of America. That thing to which we promised never to be inured has become just another routine horror show filtering down through our social media feeds. You could construct a flowchart: There is a shooting. Is the shooter still alive? Y/N if Y, is he a Muslim? If N, what was his last post on Snapchat? The President makes a speech, the usual sympathizers and internet trolls crawl out of the woodwork to be counted, and ultimately the internet becomes a verbal war zone between those who think guns are the problem, and those who think mental health is the problem. And despite having written about being afraid of guns a long time ago, I agree that mental health is the real problem. I mean, anyone who would take a weapon and shoot a bunch of people, either as an ideological statement or for killing’s sheer glee, is by definition crazy. It’s a crazy act. If you commit mass murder, you are crazy. It doesn’t matter how sane you seemed before mowing down a bunch of innocent, unsuspecting people, once you do that you prove yourself bonkers and therefore missed somehow by our country’s mental health system.
Which, incidentally, does not exist. The only Federal medicine that exists is MediCare, and it is tough to get covered for psychiatric care. But let’s say we’re going to finally do something about this problem, we’re going to seriously decrease the frequency of mass shootings in America and tackle this mental health thing once and for all. We’ll apply a significant portion of the Federal budget to this–say a trillion dollars, still a fraction of what we spent on defense in the last four years. Okay, so how do we start? Well, we’re only interested in people’s mental health where it concerns them buying automatic weapons, so any gun retailer, at shop or show, that sells automatic weapons will have a licensed psychiatrist act as consultant to this process. Each applicant for an automatic weapon will have a thorough examination by the doctor, who will then give their professional opinion on the mental state of this individual. Can we agree that a questionnaire won’t work? We’re taking this problem seriously now. So if you get a clean bill of brain health from the head shrinker, well you can just have as many guns and rocket launchers as you want. It’s what our forefathers intended! But what if the staff psychiatrist encounters someone that’s psychotic, who presents a clear danger to society? Well, he’ll be limited to one gun–just kidding, no guns for him. But we can’t actually turn him out onto the street, can we? Don’t we assume some responsibility here?
See, the problem with frequent gun violence being a mental health issue is that we don’t really have an answer to our mental health problem in this country, either. There’s no magic pill, no secret trick that can make a dangerously insane person sane. We can wait until they commit a violent crime, then they go to prison where they’ll sometimes get the help they need. But then they get released from prison, and there is no follow-up, and the cycle repeats itself. There are drugs that can help those with violent and anti-social behaviors–often by numbing the patient’s emotions totally–but these medicines are expensive and need to be taken regularly and forever. You know how sometimes you forget to take your Claritin, and your eyes run and you sneeze a lot more whether you are having an allergic reaction or not? Well, if you miss your risperidone for a few days, that’s when you snap out and start shooting.
Determining that the problem with gun violence in this country is a mental health issue is a false equivalency, because we can actively tackle the availability of guns, but we cannot adequately handle the problem with mental health. I will even concede the likelihood that most owners of assault weapons are conscientious, safe gun enthusiasts who take all the necessary precautions and would never dream of opening fire on an undefended person or people. But the problem is that it only takes one automatic weapon to kill fifty, and that’s why, a society who decides what is best for it based on what is right instead of what we want, assault weapons should be banned outright.
I would like to point out that at no time did I suggest limiting access to handguns or rifles, or to remove any existing owned guns from any household or owner. Just the assault weapons (and higher) going forward. Let’s slow this deluge of mass murders to a gentle trickle, okay?