Commentary 2013: Week One: Rage…Gun Violence in American Culture.

What follows below is a transcript of a dialectic which appeared as a Facebook Group page entry after the December 15, 2012 murder of 26 innocents by a deranged gunman in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. For me, it is the beginning of an analysis that will lead to proposals that are intended to reduce gun violence, not only in schools and public places, but in our American Culture as a whole, especially in urban environments, in what we euphemistically call “street crime.”

The purpose of this commentary, and others to follow, is to begin a dialog, your comments are welcome.

The names of all posters have been removed, only my posts are credited.

Original Post: Male (OPM)

Will some politician be brave enough to address the issue of guns in this country? Or do we wait until another nut kills some more elementary school kids? Mr. President, you’re not running for election and the gun nuts already hate you. Please do something.

Female:

Amen. Even ________, a staunch Republican, believed the lack of gun control in this country was insanity. What is the need for assault rifles outside of soldiers? Bring back the ban!

2nd Male:

There are miles between the position of outlawing gun ownership and the free for all we currently have in the U.S. This is American – the land of the free? We spend trillions to make our country “safe from terrorists” and billions to stop people from driving too fast, but how much is spent to be sure that guns are only owned by responsible people? An how about licensing, education, testing, re-licensing etc as is done with anyone who wants to drive a car, work in a profession, or manage other peoples’ money? Why are Americans afraid to have this discussion? Does the right to kill (or practice killing) trump all other liberties and responsibilities? Only in America…. and the rest of the world must think we’re absolutely nuts.

2nd Male:

Chris Matthews said it well: “it’s not a slippery slope to say that crazy people shouldn’t have weapons”

Bull Sullivan:

While I have never run for public office, I have spent years helping others do so, including serving a then sitting US Senator. I can raise no reasonable argument against the objections that many Americans, including you, have to the possession and criminal misuse of hand guns and assault weapons. Your position is rational and logical; however Federal courts have repeatedly blocked the implementation of “gun control” regulations and likely will continue to do so.

But I would assert to you and others of like mind, that gun control is not the answer to violence, such as we saw today. Senseless unfocused antisocial behavior is a result of mental illness, and I put it to you, that no critical contemporary issue is more ignored and marginalized than mental health. In 1970, Jimmy Carter was elected Governor of Georgia. His wife Rosalynn was the standard bearer for several executive initiatives that were meant to change the policies, procedures and methods of diagnosis and treatment of persons manifesting symptoms indicative of mental instability and illness. I worked at that time as an overnight Psychiatric Evaluation Officer on the 8th Floor Psychiatric Ward of Grady Memorial Hospital. The actions, and resulting legislation championed by Mrs. Carter, and many other Georgians served to energize a generation of mental health professionals, and offered hope that the bleak outcomes of that present time would be improved through expanded screening, improved procedures, decentralized facilities, readily accessible regional care hospitals, neighborhood half-way houses and treatment centers.

The young man who today murdered those children and educators should have been identified as ill and treated as a child and adolescent by similar programs in Connecticut, but sadly, those programs, such as Rosalynn Carter proposed for Georgia, do not exist. What is even sadder is that after 46 years they still do not exist in Georgia!

You see, OPM, society prioritizes its concerns, and Mental Health, as an issue, just doesn’t make the cut. Every incidence extant of recent mass violence against our fellow citizens can be traced to an individual who has presented, prior to the act, a diagnosable and treatable mental illness. (Even 9/11/01 was the result of a delusional hysterical “Conversion Reaction.”)

The laws passed by the Georgia General Assembly to address the horrors of Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, the lack of mental health screening in public schools, the failure to teach and train adequate numbers of mental health professionals, the reticence of teaching facilities, such as Emory and MCG, to revise treatment paradigms and adopt modern non Freudian methodology, all these needed improvements and proposed facilities went essentially unfunded and un-built, because the General Assembly, reflecting the will of the people, did not feel they were a “high” priority.

OPM, even Governor Zell Miller had to propose compromise and finally pass, in 1992, a lottery to fund basic care and education for preschoolers, one of the few successful programs that attempts to intervene in the childhood conditions that often result in adolescent and adult mental illness.

I respect your comment and your opinion, the measured intellect and quiet nature that you demonstrated so many years ago at Marist are evident in your concern, but I would urge you to be more pragmatic, and understand that these are not “evil” people who do these evils acts, but mentally ill persons who could have been diagnosed and treated and healed, if only the will to screen and care for them existed in the public and in their legislators. And understand this, our Culture, our burgeoning population, our fracturing identity will lead to further horrors of Malthusian proportion if we don’t act to care for those in need and educate those in want.

Original Post: Male:

Bull, I am a strong advocate for the mentally ill, but there is no interest in our government to adequately fund what is necessary. Don’t write. Write your legislator. I was board chair of the Helen Ross McNabb center in Knoxville, the finest community mental health center in this country. All I ask for with gun issues is a ban on assault and semi-automatic weapons. Not needed to hunt deer.

Bull Sullivan:

OPM, we share the same passion regarding mental health funding, and I share your sense of outrage and frustration regarding gun control. What is at stake here is political capital. Many Progressives and Conservatives who advocate re-passage of the so called “Federal Assault Weapons Ban” legislation have today called for re-passage, or new legislation achieving the same effect. The previous legislation failed to protect anyone from wounds caused by such weapons. There are literally millions of citizens possessing such guns, I included, and it would be politically and pragmatically impossible to enforce surrender of such weapons. Millions of weapons!

When I see someone of measured voice such as you propose the expenditure of will and effort in a cause doomed to failure, I naturally urge that the same effort be expended to change the minds and hearts of those who can reduce violence, and whose actions could begin to do so immediately. Culture is veering toward chaos, children go begging for care and nurture, and the only answer is “It costs too much”?

If only this outrage, this anger, this pain over the result of failure to properly care for our children’s mental health could be turned to action to properly research, develop and implement solutions that treat the cause of such cruel acts. Would we not all be better off, safer, and less likely to ever again feel such pain on such a scale?

Original Post: Male:

Bull, your response of doing nothing about guns because there are already too many is ludicrous. How about giving up your assault weapons and semi-automatics? Got to start somewhere!

Bull Sullivan:

OPM, I am willing to listen to any proposal that would result in a reduction in the number of privately owned assault weapons. Not only would I listen but I would offer you or any person or group promoting such a proposal my time and talent to effect such a change.

How would such a reduction be accomplished? Would legislation allowing confiscation of privately owned, legally acquired assault weapons pass both Houses of Congress? And if it passed, was signed by the President, and enacted, would the Judiciary rule it constitutional? Perhaps a bill to allow purchase of weapons by the Federal Government from private citizens at market price, a “cash for combat arms” program would be effective. What do you think are the odds of that legislation passing? Some have suggested Federal Legislation requiring registering and licensing all privately owned assault arms, and I have no objection to that, in fact I would support such legislation. However, it is extremely unlikely that Congress would pass such a bill, and again, I fail to see how such legislation would remove even one assault weapon from the body politic.

My opinion is that no legislative remedy is available, that the Second and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution prohibit almost all restrictions on “gun ownership” ex post facto.

Now, consider the private remedy. Are there groups, committees, activists who personally would undertake the purchase of assault weapons? Are there such bodies of citizens who would work, expend energy and effort, and treasure to convince a majority of Americans to support the passage of restrictive legislation? None of note can be found. The groups who claim to be most concerned about violence, most concerned about private ownership of assault weapons spend almost all of their time lobbying Congressmen and almost no time, effort or treasure influencing public opinion. On those rare occasions when the do reach out for public support, their critical and often inflammatory rhetoric “preaches to the choir,” that is, they do so only to raise funds to spend lobbying Congress against the lobbyists for the NRA and other gun groups.

I agree with you that we have “to start somewhere.” Apparently, we believe we should start in different places. I believe if we work to remove the threat, the fear, of criminal behavior by mentally unbalanced, sociopathic and psychopathic and psychotic persons, such as was seen in a small town in Connecticut yesterday, and in Colorado, Arizona and Virginia recently, and in Chicago, Illinois every night, we can persuade our citizens that owning such weapons as assault guns is unnecessary.

As when Congress required registration and licensing of automatic weapons and their owners, so very many years ago, public opinion, not special interests, changed the position of gun advocates in Congress and the Judiciary, so now the opportunity exists to alter public opinion and create a mandate for change.

OPM, I have sold to other private individuals assault weapons that I thought were at best were murderous novelties, and would have willingly sold them to competent legal authority for cash or tax credit, if such existed. I remain armed only because I believe it is the duty of all Americans to be prepared to protect their rights and property from those who would use force to seize them. That duty may extend to privately owning arms, or serving as a member of police or military services, or participating freely in the public discourse over creating a safer America. And that conversation must include not only assault weapons, but physical and mental diseases, impaired driving, high performance automobiles, alcohol and tobacco abuse, domestic violence, physical, emotional and sexual abuse of minors, work place violence, urban crime and the mother lode of all ills, parental incompetence and neglect. But here, having digressed, I am pained to state the obvious, the trite and glib but truthful aphorism: guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Let’s fix the people first, and then guns won’t even be a concern.

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