Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Roots and Branches of Violence

Another massive shooting,  and more people chasing effect in order to avoid looking at cause.  

The killings in Connecticut, and the killings, assaults and bombings that occur all across America and the world everyday are about violence, not just about guns.

  • What percentage of violence is associated with alcohol? Anyone pushing to tax that more? Regulate it more ? Ban it? We have a hell of a lot of violence in this country, and most of it is fueled by booze.
  • It's hard to get or afford mental health treatment and even harder to institutionalize people and keep the mental health system properly monitored and reviewed.  Anyone want to talk about raising taxes for that?
  • People who assassinate Presidents and who do mass shoots are chasing fame. Anyone want to talk about First Amendment restrictions so people cannot propel crazy shooters to fame and give every lunatic loser on Facebook an idea?

28 dead in Connecticut.

Sad, but that many young innocents are killed on our highways by drunk drivers every week.

Our government routinely racks up that number with drone strikes in foreign lands.

Stop wringing your hands and wailing. Help a few kids. Give to charity. Be a Big Brother or Big Sister. Adopt. Write a letter and vote for taxes so the crazy can get mental health care. Take a kid fishing. Encourage a quiet child. Provide a job. Find a troubled soul and invite them into service with others and see how much change that can make.

And ask yourself this: What are the roots of violence?

For every one that is hacking at the roots, there are a hundred pushing at the branches. But it is at the root that violence is fixed.  All else is method.

The killings in Connecticut are not a record for mass murder even in recent history in the U.S.  That distinction belongs to the Virginia Tech killings, which I wrote about more than five years ago.  What I said then still rings true to me now, and so I append that piece below.

Support Mental Health or I'll Kill You

Reid Farmer sent me a piece from The Los Angeles Times in which that august paper suggests that the shootings at Virginia Tech are all about Virginia's "primitive" rural gun culture.

I find that pretty odd, as I have lived in Virginia for a hell of a long time and I am unaware of a gun culture in my state.

Sure some people hunt deer and turkey, but no one I know is reading Soldier of Fortune.

In my neck of the woods, the problem is not guns, but Mara Salvatrucha gang members from El Salvador who occassionally hack each other up with machetes.

I first wrote about Mara Salvatrucha in 1992, when Conrad Hilton's Best Foundation for a Drug-Free Tomorrow paid me to go to East Los Angeles to look at gang violence there. At the time, South Central was still smoldering, but East LA was far more violent, with two-thirds of all gang deaths in the City.

In fact, East Los Angeles remains one of the most violent places on earth. In rural Virginia, on the other hand, the thing that is most likely to kill you is a deer on the road.

The simple truth is that the massacre at Virginia Tech is not about guns: It's about violence, and most importantly, it's about mental illness.

Sadly, there are ferked up people all over, and there is not much intervention anywhere. This nation is heavy with people who are drunk, hazy, crazy, and stoned, but it's pretty damn hard to do anything about it, and that's just as true in Los Angeles as it is in rural Virginia, no matter what the good editors of The Los Angeles Times think.

Why is it so hard to do anything about it?

Simple: back in the "bad old days" of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, there were horrific civil rights abuses and people were locked up in mental wards with little due process (and often no real treatment) for very long periods of time.

The court- and state-ordered antidote to this abuse is that today we have severely restricted the ability of police, schools, families and neighbors to involuntary lock someone up.

You may think someone is a ticking time bomb, but now he or she is going to have to "go off" before anyone can take legal action to stop it. Merely having auditory and visual hallucinations is not enough. Not bathing is not enough. Living on the street is not enough.

Today people have "a right" to not bathe, to see and hear things that are not there, to live in a cardboard box in the park, and to panhandle for change. Similarly, people have "the right" to drink themselves silly on a routine basis, and there are also many who think people have the right to abuse other drugs as well (and why not; sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, they argue).

Add to this the fact that we have decided that people also have the right to drive cars and trucks, to preach odd religious beliefs (your religious beliefs are odd, but mine are not), the right to buy gasoline, the right to buy nitrate fertilizer, the right to own a gun, and the right to buy rat and ant poison, and it's amazing we do not have mass killings every day.

Ultimately, we cannot make the world safe, and crazy people will always figure out a way. For $500 (the cost of just one of the legal guns used at Virginia Tech) you can buy 1,000 pounds of nitrate fertilizer anywhere in the Shenandoah Valley and kill far more people in 5 seconds than this lunatic did with two handguns and a couple of clips. Indeed, the very day that the Virginia Tech massacre was going on in Blacksburg, nitrate bombs killed more than 180 people in Baghdad. Am I the only one that noticed?

The "silver bullet" idea of banning guns is stupid on its face. This nation is awash in heroin, methamphetamine, illegal aliens, counterfeit handbags and watches, and cars that never saw an import sticker. I can get methamphetamine or heroin a lot faster than I can get a legal handgun and a box of bullets, and I live in (supposedly) gun-crazy Virginia.

Here's a hint: If a suburban matron can find an illegal alien to mow her front lawn, and an addict can find an eight-ball of heroin or cocaine, rest assured that criminals and lunatics will be able to find and obtain guns even if they are banned. In fact, they may be able to find them easier and with less oversight than they can now. After all, no one does a criminal background check at a drug dealer's, and there is not a 30-day waiting period for illegal alien jump labor.

Despite the fact that mental illness (and an inability to deal with it) was the obvious problem in Blacksburg, both sides of the gun debate are anxious to have another long-winded "throw down" about the Second Amendment.

And you know why? Because for Sarah Brady, the National Rifle Association, and the editorial writers across the country, gun control is the answer to the only question they REALLY want answered. And that question is this: What topic can I write a direct mail letter or newspaper column about that will generate a lot of money and/or attention?
As far as I can tell, not one of these groups really gives a damn about violence in America. When was the last time that the NRA talked about community-based mental health programs or the need for national health care so that all the crazies can afford their medications? When was the last time Sarah Brady pushed for more therapeutic communities in jail? When was the last time a newspaper or magazine said it would not accept alcohol ads because alcohol fuels so much of the violence in this country?

I am a proud Virginian, and I believe that the people of Blacksburg are not going to chase butterflies, but are going to ask the right question. The right question is: How can we enable people to be more responsible? How can we help people reach out to the troubled and disturbed people within the community, the dorm, the family, the neighborhood, and the job site?

We Virginians may be "primitive" in the minds of the arugula-eating, white-wine-and-brie crowd that edits The Los Angeles Times, but we know our ass from our elbow, and a real solution from a fake.

Above all we know enough to remember our dead for the bright young men and women that they were, rather than focus all the attention on the confused madman who craved media attention and was willing to kill to get it.


Karen said...

Canada has more guns per capita than the US, but we have only a fraction of the gun deaths. Mind you, we cannot freely own handguns or assault rifles. The only truly horrific event that I can recall is the mass shooting in Quebec that killed 6 women at a University.

Mass shootings are a distinctly US problem. All men between that ages of 20 to 34 in Switzerland are required by law to keep their government issued handguns AND ammunition in their homes. Almost anyone in Czech over the age of 21 can own a handgun. France & Sweden allow citizens to own handguns with the required permits. No yearly mass shootings there.

Mental health issues and treatment are part of the problem,but I think that it goes deeper than that. A lot of young people today (can't believe that I'm saying that) have a serious lack of empathy and manners. Our culture in general is more "me first" than thinking of others and than being famous is something to aspire to. Shoot a bunch of people, that'll make you famous...... Kids are being raised to think of themselves as special little snowflakes with no regards to the feelings of others. With regards to child rearing, we need more "my foot in your ass".

Unknown said...

you may be interested in this piece:

Seahorse said...

Not all mass murderers are in it for fame. Some, like the killer in Connecticut, are deranged, angry, out of control people. So far no notes or manifestos have been revealed. Beyond his homicidal rage, it may be he had very little "plan" to precede his actions. It's still early in the investigation, but right now this looks like the sad combo-platter of mental illness and access and training with firearms, provided by his first victim, his mother.


Richard Gilbert said...

You've identified about half the problem, but you don't see it as clearly as you do the pit bull issue. Unfortunately semi-automatic, high-magazine-capacity weapons are the pit bulls of the firearms world. The speed and ease with which they fire result in high death and wounding tolls. Try to imagine him killing as many with a bolt-action rifle or even a .45 with eight rounds or a .308 deer rifle with a clip that holds maybe six bullets.

I say this as a gun owner, from a family steeped in hunting, military service, and law enforcement. Just as we have accepted that fully automatic weapons have little or no place in civilian hands, so we ultimately will decide that more restraints are needed on assault weapons. A lot more will die, probably, first.

PBurns said...

You can shoot the hell out of 28 people pretty darn easily without a Bush Master .223 (that company is no longer in business by the way).

For example, take the Glock semi-auto handguns used by the FBI and most police departments, and the weapon of choice for a LOT of civilians including the Connecticut shooter.

A very cheap, easy to get aftermarket clip extension gives you 33 rounds per clip (more than were in Lanza's Bushmaster), and costs less than $40. See >>

This is off-the-shelf, and it takes only a second to swap in a new clip. A Glock with a single $40 clip can shoot more rounds than the total number of people Lanza killed, and be just as effective at close distance. And you easily can carry half a dozen clips and two or three Glocks at once.

The point is that the Genie is out of the bottle here -- an extended clip is easy to get, not that hard to make, and there are a couple of million Glocks in the U.S. already. These are not special guns -- these are AVERAGE guns, and a Glock was used in the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and by the Virginia Tech shooter, as well as the lunatic in Aurora, Colorado.