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I have repeatedly heard two arguments in the national gun control discussion we are having. One is that if we could only keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill then there would be fewer killings. The second is if only our culture was less violent then we would have fewer killings. I believe that both arguments are fallacious.

Mental illness is a serious problem. There is no question in my mind that the perpetrator of the elementary school killings was mentally ill. What is less clear in my mind is whether or not he had been diagnosed with a mental illness. I also believe that mere diagnosis that a person has mental health problems is insufficient to warrant them being treated differently than everyone else. The real issue is not mental illness but is the judgment that they are likely to do harm to themselves or to others. When a person who has been so judged then that person should of course be treated and prevented from doing harm. When the treatment is successful then there is no need to treat the person any differently than everyone else.

The more important question than restricting people with mental illness from having possession of guns is the question of how to provide diagnosis and treatment for all the people who have a mental illness. Treating people who have a mental illness is somehow different than treating those with a physiological illness. This is bad medicine and encourages people with mental problems not to seek diagnosis and treatment. I still remember the adverse publicity Sen. Eagleton received for seeking treatment for depression. I wonder how many people who should have sought treatment failed to do so because so many viewed Sen. Eagleton so poorly for seeking treatment. We need to encourage people to get help for their problems and not discourage them. Compiling lists of people with mental health problems to prevent them from having the same rights as everyone else will discourage the very people who need help from getting that help. Hence, the fallacy in compiling a list of people with mental illness to prevent them from buying guns.

The next argument people raise is if only we had a more peaceful culture then there would be less violence. The argument continues that violence in our games, our movies, our television shows, our books, our plays, our musicals, and on and on is responsible for the shootings that we have. We can start by getting rid of many stories in the Christian Bible. The story of Cain and Abel would be a good place to start. And then there is the whole torture thing with nailing Jesus Christ to the cross. And then of course we might then get rid of movies such as “the lion King.” I cannot think of a time when violence was not a part of Western culture. Yes, technology has changed. Yes, the images on television and computers are sharper and clearer than ever before. I do not believe that the images in the brain are any different today than they were 100 years ago. Yes, playing war games on the computer is worse than playing war games in your backyard. The reason though is because there is less exercise involved not that the game is any less violent. Yes, we have a culture of violence problem; but, that problem does not come from our games, music, stories, and so on.

The culture problem we have comes from how we actually treat each other. Some people are viewed as lesser and other people are viewed as greater. The people who are viewed as lesser strike out against themselves as well as those who are viewed as greater. The people who are greater strike out against those who are lesser to keep the people who are lesser in their place. A classic case of this is men who commit violence against women. The refusal by Congress to pass the violent against women act may be seen as the greater, “white Republican male,” keeping the lesser, women, in their place. We must change our culture so that all are treated with respect and generosity of spirit. This is not an easy task. The ultra wealthy easily find treating those who are not as wealthy with less respect. This was a mistake that Gov. Romney made in his run for the presidency.

Changing the culture so that everyone respects each other involves more than just teaching respect. One must reduce the economic inequality between people. Some call this redistribution of wealth which it is. Lower paying jobs should have their pay increased. Jobs at the extreme end of high pay should have their pay greatly reduced. We should further implement a national tax on property, otherwise known as wealth. This needs to be combined with providing a better education for everyone. Only when people’s physiological needs, safety needs, and community needs are met can our culture change so that all are respected and violence is reduced. I doubt that violence can ever be eliminated. I do believe that violence can be reduced so that less than 10 people will be killed by intentional violent acts a year in the United States. This is effectively eliminating the violence that we have today. The fallacy of the cultural issue is that we are looking to the wrong place. The problem lies not in the objects as it does in ourselves.

Contrary to my opening paragraph there are mental health problems and culture problems we need to address. However, the solutions offered by people do not address those problems. Instead, the solutions aggravate the problems. Instead of keeping lists of people with mental health problems we need to offer better diagnosis, better treatment, and to stop denigrating people with mental health problems. To change our culture we should not focus on games, movies, stories, … Instead we should focus on reducing economic inequality, education, and respecting each other.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    Practice tolerance, kindness and charity.

    by LWelsch on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 01:46:00 AM PST

  •  Getting the Lead contamination out of (6+ / 0-)

    the environment helps. Read an interesting article about when gasoline with lead was switched to unleaded many health and mental health issues eased a bit. Car/fuel exhaust very unhealthy, far worse than say cigarrette smoke. I'm convinced that an unhealthy air environment and bad food, bad chemicals, bad emissions is a BIG source of mental and physical ailments.

    Let me get that link.

    "Time is for careful people, not passionate ones."

    "Life without emotions is like an engine without fuel."

    by roseeriter on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 02:17:23 AM PST

  •  While I appreciate your effort, you're (5+ / 0-)

    responding to the silly arguments put forth by Wayne LaPierre. Countries with good gun control laws also have people who play violent games and have people with mental illness. It's the guns. It's the huge quantity and the capabilities of the guns. The rest is folly.

    •  Of course it's the guns (0+ / 0-)

      But until the culture changes the guns will not change.

      Practice tolerance, kindness and charity.

      by LWelsch on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 03:53:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Also Remember the Hippie Generation Was Raised (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LWelsch, HappyinNM

      immersed in unprecedented media violence of WW2, frontier and cops-robber programming in movies and the new home TV's, yet their big entrance to the world while still adolescents was the anti-vietnam war movement. I've never heard any stats that it was a violent generation in the rest of daily life.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 05:34:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  no, it's pretty widespread (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh, LWelsch, HappyinNM

      it isn't just Wayne LaPierre calling for 'doing something about the mentally ill' - Al Franken had a press conference about beefing up psychological counseling in schools - at a time when Republican lawmakers are doing everything they can to reduce public school budgets.  Claiming without evidence that school shooters and other mass murderers are nutcases is an easy out. In actual fact, our focus should be upon why we have millions of weapons of mass destruction lying around in so many millions of homes.

      "Kossacks are held to a higher standard. Like Hebrew National hot dogs." - blueaardvark

      by louisev on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 05:47:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent comment! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LWelsch, Oh Mary Oh

    Your points on power politics in our culture are spot on.  Unfortunately, nearly all of our media and as you pointed out, religion and literature perpetuate inequalities and "success", as if some of us can win by others losing.

      That's not how our species developed and survived.

  •  "Mental illness" is total red herring. Here's why: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LWelsch, Oh Mary Oh

    Certainly we can all agree that folks with a history of serious mental illness should have their access to military-grade firepower restricted. I mean, who could argue with that?

    But here's the thing. All of us, even nominally 'sane' and healthy people, have an occasional bad day. All of us have days when we are down, or angry, or blue, or frustrated. Every friggin' year, dozens of 'perfectly sane' people have a bad day, and snap, pick up a handgun or long gun, and murder their spouse. Their boss. Half a dozen co-workers. Their children.

    And what happens? We hear the customary observation that the perpetrator was "stressed out", had been depressed, was upset about the child custody arrangement, was angry at being fired. Post-hoc, after the fact, it becomes a mental health issue. After the bloodshed they're declared to have a psychiatric problem. Was this an issue before the gunfire began? Of course not. It's the casual and easy carnage facilitated by access to lethal high capacity military-grade firearms that's the problem, not the reality that anyone can have a really bad day. The easy access to mass murder weapons lowers the threshold for such atrocities to the point where they are inevitable. The legal term for this kind of malignant temptation is "attractive nuisance", like leaving a swimming pool wide open for a toddler to fall into.

    Do we have a deep discussion about the carnage resulting from casual availability of lethal weapons without meaningful restriction or regulation? Do we hold the firearms cartel liable for the bloodbaths? No. We assert that it's the video games, or mental health care, or some nebulous nod to "our violent culture". Can't be the fact that without access to a Bushmaster or a Glock, a really bad day for a recently fired individual would just be a really bad day for him....instead of for the 7 people he shoots at his former worksite.

  •  This problem looks just like the others, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    said the hammer to the nail.

  •  It is much simpler than that (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    even though you do indeed make many excellent points.

    The simple fact is that people with guns kill people.

    Remove the guns and fewer people will be killed.

    That is what other countries have done, and it worked. When we accept that it works, and do it here, then fewer people will be killed.

    If there are reasons why we cannot remove all the guns, then that does not mean we shouldn't try, because that would be America admitting defeat.

    We should remove all we can and tightly regulate the rest.

    This is not a complicated idea and the gun advocates simply deny that it will work, or suggest that it isn't possible.

    Until they get aboard with sensible proposals they are condemning future children to death.

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    Who is twigg?

    by twigg on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 05:14:25 AM PST

    •  As long as people want guns (0+ / 0-)

      They will get guns. The problem is how to change what people want. This means satisfying our physiological needs, our safety needs, and our social needs. Satisfying these needs will greatly reduce the number of people who want guns. Providing better diagnosis and treatment for people with mental illness problems will also reduce the number of people who want guns. I also believe that gun advertising must be greatly reduced.

      In most industrial countries these needs are better satisfied than in the United States. They have less violence than we do; but, they have not eliminated all violence. I therefore believe that while violence can be greatly reduced, it cannot be eliminated.

      Practice tolerance, kindness and charity.

      by LWelsch on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 06:30:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  "As long as" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Is a very long time.

        We really should not be having this discussion in twenty years, having done nothing.

        I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
        but I fear we will remain Democrats.

        Who is twigg?

        by twigg on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 06:36:43 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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