Does US need gun control or better mental health services?

Dec 17, 2012

Political reality means President Obama faces uphill battle to introduce gun controls

BARACK OBAMA promised to use "whatever powers" his office held in an effort to prevent more tragedies like the massacre of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook elementary school on Friday.
"We can't tolerate this anymore," he told families attending an interfaith vigil in Newtown, Connecticut yesterday. "These tragedies must end and to end them we must change."
He did not use the phrase "gun control", but as the BBC correspondent Mark Mardell writes this morning, it was "the strongest pledge a president has ever made to wrestle with the powerful gun lobby".
But can Sandy Hook make a difference?

The Republicans control the House of Representatives and the all-powerful lobby group, the National Rifle Association, with more than four million members, spends millions a year supporting pro-gun Republicans and attacking reformist Democrats. If Obama takes on Congress, he could have a tougher fight on his hands than he did with his health care bill.

Howard Kurtz at the Daily Beast points out that after the Aurora cinema shooting Obama said, "We all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country." But he did virtually nothing.

"Most Democrats have long shied away from the gun-control issue as political poison," says Kurtz. "And while the death toll in Newtown is ratcheting up the pressure for the president to take what he calls ‘meaningful action’, it is not clear that he can—or will—mount a legislative effort against the power of the National Rifle Association."

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement about the Newtown tragedy, he said nothing about gun control, notes Kurtz. Reid enjoys NRA backing.

Despite previous massacres like Aurora and Virginia Tech, public support for gun control has weakened in recent years. "All of the policy momentum in the last 20 years has been in the direction of gun owners' rights," James Jacobs, director of the Center for Research in Crime and Justice at New York University, told the BBC.

As David Frum explains in the Sunday Times, violent crime figures are actually down by a third since the early 1990s and citizens are "safer from crime today than at almost any time since record-keeping began".
But the statistics are not reflected in people’s perceptions. "More and more Americans perceive a country of increasing rather than decreasing danger and more and more of them espouse an ideology of self-help in the face of those imaginary threats," says Frum.
As a result, says George Skelton in the LA Times, Americans who keep guns – approximately 300 million weapons in total – increasingly buy them not for hunting but for defending themselves. "The broad support for healthy, recreational gun ownership that my generation grew up with has faded," says Skelton. "It has been replaced with a narrower gun worship based on a fear of other humans."

That is reflected in the latest revelations coming of Newtown, where friends and neighbours say shooter Adam Lanza’s mother Nancy was a "paranoid survivalist", stockpiling weapons for the day society finally breaks down.

The hard political realities will make it hard for President Obama to turn rhetoric into what he calls "meaningful action". But if gun control proves too great a hurdle, could he at least do something about America poor mental health services?

Whatever his motive, Adam Lanza has been described as a "troubled loner" and possibly autistic. As David Frum writes: "Conventional murder, robbery and other crimes are susceptible to prevention by good police work and deterrence by punishment. The people who commit massacres, however, do not fear getting caught. They typically expect to die in the course of their attack, cut down either by police or by their own hand.

"It is mental health systems that must stop them, if they are to be stopped — and mental health services in the United States are both threadbare and lacking in power to compel treatment."

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Blaming mental illness for these horrific events is a mistake and will be looked back upon as a sick scapegoat for the actions of a few individuals which the law has a responsibility to deal with. Mental illness has nothing to do with this tragic event, and to all those who were affected by this shooting, I am truly sorry, as somebody who has been "diagnosed" as having a long-life lack of compassion. Perhaps it is this sort of labelling of people as loners and autistics which is so damaging to them. Mental health is a completely different subject to unexplained acts of this nature. The only thing they have in common is uncertainty. It is easy to point the finger at vulnerable individuals instead of Adam lanzer. I don't like being associated with mass murderers.

Both but guns make it to easy to kill

"Perhaps it is this sort of labeling of people as loners and autistics which is so damaging to them. "

Failure to identify people as, e.g. autistic, when they are would make it difficult to treat them. If there are people who display the traits we label "loner" and if such people have a strong tendency to behave dangerously then we must try to identify them; that means labeling them.

I don't understand how anyone without detailed knowledge of the case can reach such strong conclusions.

We keep and bear arms because it keeps us free of TYRANNY! All the massacres in Europe, Canada, Mexico, and the Americas are in "GUN FREE ZONES". Criminals
avoid armed citizens!

Over 2 Million crimes are stopped by armed citizens, in the
USA, every year (FBI Annual Reports).

When seconds count, the Police will be there in minutes!

Now, if we could only get the politicians to "ban" insane
criminals! Oh, Wait! Every tragedy has involved dozens of
illegal, un-lawful, actions, by insane criminals!

Everywhere, it isn't that laws are lacking, it is the
ENFORCEMENT of the laws, that is lacking!

Finally, someone has approached the true villian in this horrible incident from NEWTOWN and other massacres in the US and that is Mental Health. All the people who committed these horrendous crimes were suffering from some sort of mental instability.

Although, I do think that there should be tighter control over guns and the amount individuals should be allowed to own I do not think the overall issues are guns. On the same day that Adam Lanza killed 27 individuals, a man in CHina stabbed over 10 kids, approximately the same age as those in Newtown yet China has a very tight control over gun ownership and does even less to battle mental illness than America.

One issue with your 300 million guns approaching the population of the US and it being Republicans who are with the NRA, I think both are ill-informed. For one, gun ownership per citizen in this country has been going down, dramatically, for a couple of decades now (though larger arsenals are now being owned by fewer) and that Democrats don't like guns OR FIGHT for the Second Amendment that allow for the 'right to bear arms'. It is both sides of the pathetic political aisles that has allowed control of guns to be out of whack.

HOW THE BLOODY HELL CAN YOU SAY THAT MENTAL ILLNESS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS EVENT?! It has everything to do with it!!! A man took a couple of guns and hundreds of rounds of ammo into a school and killed 20 6-yr olds and he then killed himself!

Mental illness and, somewhat less GUNS, was the MAIN CULPRIT in this horrific event! If Adam was given the proper care and help and the people around him saw the signs this event would never have happened and I would NEVER be responding to your post like I am!

Adam may MAY have been autistic but he also had a mental imbalance that led him to believe going into that school and killing 27 innocent people was OK! Or that taking his own life was the perfect solution.

Adam Lanza committed this crime and he was mentally unstable AND had access to guns.

"I don't know how anyone without detailed knowledge of the case can reach such strong conclusions" - I am an author and therefore an expert in the field of mental health.

If you knew anything about the subject of mental health you would understand that autistic people can't be treated. The illness is a made up label with no basis in science, and categorises people with completely different levels of risk into the same category - a result which has associated autistic people with mass murder.

Autistic people do not have a tendency to act dangerously. This is an anomaly case. There is strong evidence to support my claim.

The fact that Adam lanzer was labelled as autistic has nothing to do with his evil nature.

Mr. Leyshon your post is upsetting and you aren't doing yourself any favours alienating people with statements such as this. Mental health has everything to do with acts such as Adam Lanza's. Funding for hospitals for the mentally ill was cut years ago in North America. The idea was to integrate the mentally ill into society. It is terribly difficult for some mentally ill people to function in society without a support system - like a hospital they can go to in times of need. Adam's mother is reported to be a "prepper" - prepare for the end of the world/society as we know it will end and she liked and purchased guns. She had what appears to be the sole burden of a son who might have had Asperger's syndrome, according to the press. Her marriage had ended and it's not inaccurate to surmise that she was a frightened, lonely woman trying to make the best of a difficult situation when it all went wrong. One more comment - you write you were... "diagnosed" as having a long-life lack of compassion." That describes a sociopathic personality, so perhaps you are just trying to stir the bucket here? Please don't reply as I have experience with sociopathy and it's a complete waste of time and effort. But I still wish you well~!!! ...not that that's gonna happen :)

From your first two sentences, it is apparent that you are making a rash claim, with no basis in logic. Where is the evidence that autism propelled this evil young man into such a horrible act. You are making loose associations, equating a to b, when in fact the situation is more complicated.

Mental imbalance - do you mean chemical imbalance, which is actually induced by drugs?

Would you say that taking your own life automatically qualifies you for being mentally unstable? That is debatable for one, but a fair claim to make. People with physical conditions also choose to end their lives, however.

Mental illness is a loose collection of symptoms, which the murderer may have had. But saying that the act he committed was a result of these symptoms is unfounded.

I think you are now speaking on behalf of people whom are going through despair and tragedy without their consent to do so as a way to silence my views. You are transposing some sort of unsympathetic nature onto me when I am simply trying to make a point. If you really want to debate on the subject of crime and mental illness, perhaps you should read up on the subject before writing about it. As I said in a previous comment... if mental illness is involved in an event such as this, it does not automatically become the reason for this event.

This just doesn't happen in the UK. The UK also has very strict gun laws. There are lots of mentally unwell people in the UK... and this sort of thing doesn't happen. So basically you want to hospitalize innocent people so that you can carry an offensive weapon?

OHonestly just because there are strict gun laws in the UK does not mean society is any safer over there. Logic would then mean there is no murder.

What I meant by mental illness HAD nothing to do with this guy's Autism or whether something with it or similar would commit a crime.

What I was saying is that he was not right of mind. He needed psychological help to deal with issues that he himself could not deal with. The same is true with the guy who committed the carnage in Colorado at the batman premiere or the gentleman in Europe who gunned down campers with an assault rifle. Or even ROSE WEST in safe England who along with her husband killer 10 young women.

My point was that we need in this country and around the world need to tackle and address mental illness as a major factor in this horrific crimes and not just think abt banning guns.


I agree. But imo the current psychiatric system will only exasperate the problem as it is unethical and barbaric

" I am an author and therefore an expert in the field of mental health."

I reckon you are just a numbskulled joker who amuses himself pretending to have something useful to say.

You have the intelligence of a pasty.

Millions of people who suffer from mental illness are not violent.

You have more massacres than the rest of the world put together.

One autistic person commits a crime, and numbskull Americans are linking autism with violence. What about the millions who are not autistic who commit 99.99% of all crimes.

Gun control law in the US will be counterproductive, in that the only people who will comply with them will be folk who obey laws generally. Before long they'll have a situation like we have in the UK, where often only the bad guys have arms.

The mental health of this country is in shambles. Put aside every day happenings such as abuse or divorce . Just look at what the tri-state area has been through . Unfortunately we keep adding to it. With 9/11, hurricane Sandy, massacres, bringing home our military without proper care . Most of us don't even have health insurance . If you need a doctor you choose what you can afford. Do I have a mammogram, treat my migraines or see a shrink. That's not a choice. To some its a death sentence. There is no way we can tackle the mental health situation over night. So lets have a cease fire until we can gather our thoughts. Do the basic. Give people health insurance and start with some gun legislation. In Canada, it's a 6 month process.There are tests that dive into personality. If you just got divorced you have to wait two years.Family and friends are questioned about your personality. We are not asking you to give up your guns! We are asking you to be responsible. This is not what our fore fathers had in mind. This isn't then, its now. There is a better way to bear arms. and Please, the rest of you, open your hearts, get to know your crazy neighbors. Don't shun them. We're all in this together.

Well said and very accurate portrayal of much of the US. I feel empathy for you, "bon courage".

Most Americans are extremely simplistic and continually try and simplify and rationalise everything, but most often too far and end up exacerbating the problems by applying the wrong solutions and avoiding creating them in the first place. And it's all heading our way.

That's not the point. The point is that it's highly unlikely that any person not suffering a mental issue will kill another person, almost by definition.

Your only half way there, or more specifically your missing the main point as to why there are so many mental health issues in our society, same goes for physical health issues. Basically we have allowed society to become sick through lack of empathy and morality towards other people. Our goals are the pursuit of material wealth where winner takes all and everyone else is cast aside. The opposite of communism is not a solution, but it lays somewhere in between and some countries are quite near to achieving this balance where capitalism and socialism work in harmony, even symbiotically, i.e. they assist each other and therefore both prosper. Although not perfect the Scandinavia countries and Switzerland are good examples and on the right track and the US and UK and learn massively from them.

to answer question = BOTH!

The divisive Nation on gun control is facing a losing battle, despite Obama's controversial rhetoric. The USA must change their Constitution, which the High Court will relentlessly uphold. Since the massacre, the NGA has multiplied by another 400,000, and gaining strength - indicating, the wild west day's are here to stay, and so will the hedonistic looneys, who are stocking up with more automatic defend themselves from what ? Presumably, the bad guys ! Say's it all..your neighbor, your preacher, your local policeman, anyone is a plausible target for road rage; loser's rage; juvenile impetulence; mental sickness etc. What about the Veterans from the Gulf War - weapons of all kinds are brought home, for their family protection..from whom ? Until they change the Constitution, and the present Laws on firearms, the sickness will continue to proliferate at great knots. Shame. Love thy neighbor. Make love, not War.