The Nitty-Gritty Alternatives
The Crux of the debate. The real Nitty-Gritty. This is what we are really talking about. If this terrible challenge is ever to be addressed with any hope of actually finding a solution, there are some major decisions that need to be made. Are we going to take responsibility for the damaged individuals that we have unleashed, unfettered and unsupervised, into our society at large, or are we going to confiscate all of the guns that were ever made? Is that even realistically possible? Are we going to put our time and efforts, and yes, unfortunately, our wealth into radical and practical mental health care, including institutions that can treat these people, or will we continue to just deal with the aftermaths of shooting after shooting? We can also ask if this is possible. Do we arm our teachers or send in the cavalry with oppressive force and do nothing but be on the defensive, forever? Do we want to live in fear, or live with competency and confidence in our own abilities? Or do we face our demons and fight for our rights? The right to learn in a safe environment, the right to protect home and family, the right to expect care and compassion when damaged, and the right to choose how to accomplish these things. Or will we be one step closer to a state without restrictions that cannot be stopped? These are the things that must be decided. These are the options that can possibly accomplish what is needed.
These are the issues. The Nitty-Gritty.
REPORTING OF CRIMINAL AND MENTAL DISABILITY
The whole concept of registration and background checks loses any credibility if the data is not complete and comprehensive. Our representatives need to be focused and motivated, as well as honest and reasonable. I am not sure if this is even possible. But this background check process becomes of value ONLY if the information is substantive and easily available. And secure. A lot of time needs to be invested in creating the ‘list’ by which we, as a society, will use to determine which citizens will lose that ‘Constitutional Right’ of purchasing and owning a gun. Some people would like to change that to a ‘privilege’, and yet, privileges are ‘granted’ while rights are non-negotiable. Whether you agree or not. The only way to change that is revolution, and there we have the argument for keeping the guns in the first place. The 2nd amendment. If we actually taught our children about the Constitution in our schools, maybe we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. There has to be a certain loss of privacy to the individuals involved. There needs to be a political will to make measured and ethical decisions to that end. Again, I am not so sure they have the will, or the capabilities, or even the integrity to do this correctly. Political ideologies will have to be controlled and restrained if we are to have any chance of success. Is it even possible? If not, then this is all just an exercise in futility.
The criminal aspect is fairly simple and straightforward. They have been through the system and have been found guilty of various crimes. You just have to decide on the levels of the offensives that will exclude the individuals from consideration for the right to own a gun.
The real problem, as it has been for decades, is how to determine the degree to which damaged people are to be held to a standard when less objective criterion will be used to make judgements to deny freedoms that are available to other citizens. But it is something in which we have no real choice. It simply HAS to be done. I hesitate that we will overreach, but that is what we normally do. Considered debate will be difficult. And there are multiple levels that could be debated and implemented. Maybe you cannot buy a gun, and yet still be able to shoot at a range. Maybe we can pass an ‘assault weapons’ ban but just for the mentally handicapped instead of for society at large. I know it would not be palatable for our protesters since confiscation is obviously their ‘gold ring’ but does it not sound more reasonable than no ban at all? Alternatives do not necessarily mean solutions. Not everyone is going to be completely satisfied with the results. Alternatives are about direction, even if they are but baby steps.
Most of our shooters had behavioral issues. All of them had been diagnosed with various conditions. Most were on medications and under a doctor’s care at some point. Some of them exhibited violent tendencies. A number of them had been determined to have mental illness, and yet not to the extent that any actions whatsoever could be taken against them when purchasing a firearm. Does THIS sound reasonable? Even if we do not wish to ‘inconvenience’ them by an outright ban, can we at least have a more in depth look at those that have extensive interaction with the mental health community? How about a small review board of professionals that could conduct an interview as part of the process? I am uncomfortable even with proposing such a possibility but what are these alternatives we are looking for? There is a definite infringement of rights and privacy in actions such as these, but they pale in comparison to the infringements being proposed to millions upon millions of citizens who have done nothing wrong, have followed every directive, have no histories of mental illness, and deserve to be treated with much more respect than our protesters and our liberal representatives are willing to afford them. There is an intellectual disconnect here, and it is both disturbing and troubling.
It is fairly ironic that the liberal aspect of our political system that is so vehemently against guns of any kind is the very same one that opened the door for the inclusion of the mentally challenged into our everyday life with less restriction than ever imagined. It was they who initially pushed for the changes to our laws that released those very people into our general public. There was a strong movement that started in the 1950s that believed that many people who had been institutionalized did not belong there. And there was probably a good amount of truth to that. To a degree. The original changes to policy were supported by large numbers of national professional organizations as well as philanthropic groups and hundreds of prominent individuals not only in politics, but in medicine and of course, from academia. This all resulted in the Community Center legislation in 1963, supported by Kennedy and Johnson. The health community and government bureaucrats did not push for considered evaluation on a case by case basis on who should stay and who should attempt a return to society. They basically released them all! The advances of various drugs used in treatments during the 50s gave them an overconfidence that they could all be medicated and still function normally within society. They believed that schizophrenia and depression could be managed pretty much exclusively through medication. Almost ALL of our shooters were at one time diagnosed with depression. Many with schizophrenia. They believed that Community Centers dispensing the drugs and dispensing restricted ‘therapy’ was the golden solution. The reality was something quite different. Funding quickly dried up and these poor souls were for all intents and purpose left to fend for themselves. We all know how that turned out. It eventually created a sub culture of homelessness and ultimately impacted our returning veterans, replete with PTSD and a whole host of other issues. It was and is unacceptable and disgusting. Our government that is. Our society has failed these damaged individuals and it has failed the rest of us as well. We are all now paying the price, it is time to pay the piper. And payment is being made with the lives of our children. It has turned into the nightmare that we enjoy today. There is indeed cause and effect in life. Look around you at the carnage. Our society has not been strengthened. It is debilitated. There is a societal malaise. Our mental challenges are everywhere. The number of people needing help are incalculable. The number of people taking medications is astronomical. It is a rare individual that has not been prescribed something. Our children are being medicated. Our parents are being medicated. There is no problem that we do not believe can be resolved through medication. The dependency on drugs is disconcerting at best. Addiction is rampant. The drug companies are making obscene fortunes, and yet I do not want to single them out. They could not do these things without the full knowledge and consent of our representatives, not to mention the contributions to their campaign chests. Why do you think that we are discussing this issue today at all? It is a lack of will. It is easier to go after the guns, instead of confronting the real issues. Our mentally challenged are adrift in an ocean of apathy. During the 40s and 50s, before the Community Center Act, there were 25 school shootings, 20 years, 22 deaths and 12 wounded, when the mentally damaged were forced to accept care. During the 60s, 70s and 80s, a thirty year period, there were 87 school shootings, 87 deaths and 292 wounded. The 90s and the 2000s brought us into our modern era of our shooters. In just twenty years there were 125 events, 196 dead and 281 wounded. Welcome to the future. There are many triggers we can point to and assign blame for the predicament we find ourselves in today. This is certainly one of them. And we have done nothing whatsoever about it. Nothing. Over 50 years. Let’s ban assault weapons. That’ll fix it. Do you REALLY think that will work? There is a certain feeling of hopelessness that pervades my thinking as I consider all the good that COULD have been done over all of those years, and the ignorance and hate that pervades our societal discourse today. I am at a loss as to what actions to take. There is little one can do by themselves. This is just one more issue, of many that we have not been able to address, much less resolve, which remain due to the lack of imagination, intelligence and cooperation. Issues just like gun control. I believe in no god but I am forced to say, just in case:
PLEASE GOD, HELP US, WE JUST CAN’T DO IT BY OURSELVES!
MENTAL HEALTH CARE
Reporting mental health care issues is but one piece of the puzzle. The actual mental health determinations that we want to eventually get reported are of a more critical importance. One of the aspects of the industry that needs to be investigated and controlled is the industry relationships and connections with government itself. The autonomy that has been granted to them creates skepticism as to the validity of their treatment plans and eventual success with the patients. There is a certain abdication of responsibility on the part of government. I think we see that all too often in government at all levels. Let’s take a quick look at the situation in Broward County.
Henderson Behavioral is the largest mental health care provider in the county. It provides both private mental health care, outpatient and in-home therapy according to information on its website. They offer services such as crisis intervention to long-term care. They also offer services such as therapy for those referred by law enforcement, family therapy and working with those who may possess behavioral health issues and are at risk of removal from the home environment. One of the concerns is the fact that Henderson has received close to $50 million in state contracts since 2007 and in 2016 received almost $22 million in grants to KEEP PEOPLE from being inappropriately hospitalized or jailed. It is unclear if there is any oversight and the possibility of conflict seems to exist. The existing philosophy to allow people to live completely normal lives when they have obvious personal mental health issues is still alive and well in our society. Someone needs to decide which individuals may be a threat to themselves or others. Everyone says we need to make that determination or we will never be able to make any progress in this difficult issue. If not these ‘professionals’ then who can we look to for direction? There is no one else. It is an integral facet of a possible solution.
We certainly do NOT want to institutionalize people, unless absolutely necessary, but sometimes it may well be incumbent upon these people to single out those that are at risk for the behavior we are talking about. If they are receiving grants to prevent the very same thing, how can we have confidence in the integrity of their decisions? A conflict of interest seems to be a very real possibility.
Sharon Langer, the development director of something called the Disability Independence group, who is also a lawyer, remarked that simply taking away someone’s right to decline treatment on their own requires a high threshold typically reserved for ‘extreme’ cases. She added that “somebody has to be really, really incompetent. You can’t just take people and lock them away.” This is the mindset that started the sequence of events in 1963 to bring us where we are today. Why does everything have to be one or the other? Why is there never a comfortable in between? Why is there never compromise?
None of the people involved with Cruz communicated with one another. Teachers, parents, law enforcement. Advocate groups and mental health care, psychiatrists and psychologists. All working for their own interests and absorbed by their own agendas. Am I too harsh? Why is it ALWAYS the same story, the same result? The investigation during the aftermath identified such an issue. Miami-Dade County Judge Steve Leifman, an acknowledged ‘expert’ on mental health-related crimes remarked that there was no standard system in place to follow up after a crisis or coordinate between agencies. He added, “This is never one person’s, one party’s or one institution’s fault,” noting that communication breakdowns are common across the state. “We’ve learned the hard way.” This is a huge part of the issue. Everyone is being paid to be an expert. And everyone is not competent enough to do the most basic actions to help these damaged individuals that need their help. It’s no one’s fault? Sorry, from my perspective it is ALL your faults. You know the shortcomings and yet nothing is done? Not just for weeks and months while you consider alternatives but for decades upon decades. It is very hard indeed to really believe that anyone cares. Are there any exciting breakthroughs, any encouraging plans in the pipeline? I don’t think so. But maybe there will be a huge Gala in the Governor’s Mansion tonight to celebrate the victory of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, and we need to attend. What else could you possibly expect? And our next shooter, probably not in Florida, awakes to a new day. Frustrated and confused. Angry and in a state of despair. A plan is taking shape within their distorted reality. They feel that they have no choice. Nobody cares about them. Why should they care about anyone else?
Will that massacre be for here? … Or will it be to go?
REGULATION OF ACTUAL WEAPONS
I know it sounds like a pretty simple question, but what exactly are assault weapons anyway? Are they any weapon that has an automatic capability? All of those weapons are already banned in this country. You do know that, don’t you? Are they weapons that are semi-automatic? That would include almost all the guns in the country. A semi-automatic capability means that it can fire as quickly as you can pull the trigger. Rifles, handguns, even shotguns can have a semi-automatic ability. So why do we talk of ‘assault’ weapons or more often ‘military assault weapons’. Is this by way of explanation or just a way to make the weapons sound more ominous? There is no single definition of an ‘assault’ weapon. When the government actually instituted a ban in 1994 they created a list that they used. It was not all guns that had a semi-automatic ability. It was actually rather non-specific and in many respects rather vague but basically it was a semi-automatic weapon that could use removable magazines, although most handguns that are not revolvers use a magazine, and a ‘pistol grip’ that protrudes below the stock of the rifle. Again, vague due to the fact that most handguns, which are ‘pistols’ would of course have a ‘pistol grip’. The question then becomes can only rifles be assault weapons or are all semi-automatic handguns assault weapons by default? Semi-automatic normally is described as a weapon that can fire as fast as you can pull the trigger whereas an automatic weapon continues firing as long as you hold down the trigger, until the bullets are exhausted. A revolver is not considered semi-automatic although it does fire as quickly as you can pull the trigger. And while it does not have a ‘magazine’ per se, it has a 5 or 6 bullet cartridge that can be reloaded in a fairly short period of time. Not as easy as a magazine, and yet the capability exists. Then there are those that say the true assault weapon delivers much more damage due to the muzzle velocity created when firing the bullet, but yet again, I have not seen a comparison of a .22 rifle compared to .44 Magnum revolver, which can create a tremendous amount of damage. We all understand and acknowledge the damage any gun can inflict. You can easily kill with the smallest caliber. While the call for some control in weapon usage is understandable, the goal will always return to the shooter and preventing them through education and instruction, or possibly ‘treatment’, from inflicting harm to another person. If they cannot be reached, there is virtually nothing that can be done to stop them from causing pain and destruction. There is no argument that oppressive measures can be taken to control weapons, but if you do not recognize alternatives and the rights of individuals then it will be impossible to have any kind of an intelligent conversation.
Many of those that urged an assault weapons ban and a limit to high-capacity magazines said it was to keep semi-automatic weapons out of the hands of the troubled or mentally unstable, but if we were able to identify these people we could just deal with them instead of millions of individuals who are being directly targeted by those people who cannot and will not even consider other alternatives. The inflamed and hysterical rhetoric used by the proponents are simply misleading and false. And unquestioned when they make their statements. Many have pointed to the automatic weapons that have been used in many of the shootings. If you have been following this series of articles, it is evident that this is simply untrue. Almost 300 school shootings since Columbine. Less than 10 that can be described as a ‘mass shooting’. There were no ‘automatic’ weapons used. Only 3 that had semi-automatic rifles. The result was indeed horrific, but we need to have an honest discussion if we are to find middle ground and institute real reform. Why is there the need to create a scenario that is false? The facts themselves are more than enough to initiate a substantive conversation.
U.S. Representative David Price, a local Democrat from North Carolina, during their hearings in the aftermath of the Florida shooting who has long pushed for the federal government to reverse its ban on studying gun violence, said it was “incredible” that the U.S. couldn’t deal with a scourge that has plagued schools and communities.
This is the kind of rhetoric that is self-defeating. The federal government never instituted a ‘ban’ on studying gun violence. Congress instructed the CDC, which is the Center for Disease Control, to voluntarily cease their efforts on studying gun violence in America. Gun control is NOT a disease. Did they study the DISEASE of mental illness? Of course not. That would have been counter-productive to their objectives. But there was no bill, and there were no laws created on this. The republicans were blamed for this cessation, but the fact remains the president was Bill Clinton so no bill could have been passed. There was NO ban. The Democratic Party never attempted to find funding for such a study. As well as the eight years under president Obama, especially when they controlled both houses of Congress. There has been no attempt in the private sector to do such a study. No support from the gun control lobbyists or protestors. None from victims of any of the shootings. None from the entertainment industry that is so outspoken on the issue. Nothing. From no one. Why? Because they don’t care about the children, or they would have attempted something. So why all the lies in the narrative? Same reasons. This is not about the children. This is not about safety. It is not even about gun control. It’s about politics. I’s about power. And I am disgusted that no one seems to even realize it.
These are exactly the kind of lies that have created the environment of distrust and outright hatred that now permeates not just the halls of Congress but the streets of America. In February 2018, Nancy Pelosi said ” I would rather pass gun safety legislation than win the election.” Really? What happened when YOU were the majority House speaker from 2007 through 2011 with majorities in both houses and a democratic president? I guess it wasn’t so important back then. Didn’t Virginia Tech, on the 16th of April 2007, with over 50 dead and wounded, get her attention? You’re not listening. They don’t care about your children. They don’t really care about gun control. It’s just what they do.
ARMING THE TEACHERS
One of the more controversial, as if we needed something even more so, than that of gun control itself, is the arming of teachers or staff within the school environment to be not only a deterrent but a first line of defense to combat an infiltration of, and a threat by, a shooter. If the goal here is security and the safety of the children, or students as the case may be, I fail to see why there is such a hysterical pushback to even discuss the possibility. Well, actually there is an obvious theory that jumps to mind. If the end game is not the safety of the students but the disarming of America it makes perfect sense. If it worked, it would negate, or at least drastically mitigate the need for total disarmament. They do not even consider that their position would be strengthened if it was not successful, but they do not like to gamble. They like to dictate. They have always used the courts and the legislatures to achieve their ends so why take the chance? But really, what is the difficulty with having a discussion and actually having a reasoned and logical debate?
This is supposed to be a democracy, at least in principle. How about if we try that for a change? Let’s try to find out what the people, not the lobbyists and politicians, really believe. Let’s try to find an alternative that works. Sometimes the simplest options can be workable solutions. There are many totally legitimate questions raised with such a proposal. Most of these are irresponsible and uninformed, emotional and dictated by ideology only, and the concerns are not reasoned or constructive to the debate.
It is so important, in fact, that we will cover the issue with its own segment: The Real Debate: Arming the Teachers