So, I got into a bit of a debate with some friends over the Memorial Day weekend.
That in itself is not an odd thing, as we have argued over football teams, politics, a hypothetical fistfight between Beaver Cleaver and Bobby Brady, religion and anything else that might pop up in our rambling conversations. What made this stand out to me was the fact that each of us willingly acknowledged that there is a problem that needs attention, but we vehemently disagreed on both the nature of the problem and the methodology to go about fixing it.
It all started when we were talking about the shooting rampage in Southern California last Friday that left seven dead (including the alleged assailant) and 13 wounded. It seems that we’ve been discussing events like this more and more over recent years, as mass killings are either far more prevalent than before, or getting more attention than ever due to social media and instant news.
Regardless, one guy in the group opined that these killings would just stop if we had more stringent gun-control laws. That started a firestorm (as you might expect in a group full of middle-aged inactive Marines), and it was quickly pointed out that his first three victims were reportedly stabbed to death, and banning knives would be a tough sell to a nation obsessed with the Food Network.
I stayed out of this debate for its early moments, as emotions were running pretty high and, as hard as it might be for you to believe, I often have a tendency to get people more upset when I offer my opinions. Admittedly, sometimes I do that on purpose because it makes me giggle, but sometimes it’s just because I’m stubborn and don’t budge off my initial thoughts. Eventually, I entered the fray.
“Mental health,” I said. “Every time this comes up people want to take all the guns away, blame parents for not recognizing their children are monsters or blather on about mental health reform. But nothing ever happens. Everybody knew this kid had issues, he went to doctors for help and it still happened. His parents were so concerned about him they called the police to check on him.Until there are big changes, this is going to keep happening. And, even if there are major changes, some people are still going to slip through the cracks.”
“So, we just put up our hands and quit and hope our kids aren’t killed by some lunatic,” asked one of my friends.
“No,” I answered. “We fight harder to make improving mental health care an issue that lasts longer than two weeks after one of these tragedies happens. I’m not a shrink, but it sounds like this guy should have been in an institution getting help.”
That actually seemed to go over with the group, and the conversation switched to how better mental health care could help with many veterans struggling when they go home, a growing homeless problem and domestic violence. There were still some cries that we need to get rid of every gun in the world to reduce the damage these people cause when they go on their rampages, a few choice retorts on how only criminals would have guns, and one impassioned plea that Beaver would win the fight because he had to learn to scrap while hanging out with Eddie Haskell and Lumpy and the likes, while Bobby only had Peter and Greg to worry about, so he’d obviously ...
But I digress.
The more I thought about the rampage, and the other mass killings that have happened over recent years, the more I realized that there truly is no easy answer. I’ve heard “experts” suggest that we have to be more vigilant in recognizing behavior in people we are close to, but, really, do any of us firmly believe in our hearts that anybody we know could actually be capable of something like this? Even if we think someone has some real issues, do we honestly allow ourselves to accept the very harsh reality that the individual in question could really do something on this scale?
Or do we go the opposite direction and suspect everyone we know as a potential attacker?
It’s a problem that does not seem to be going away anytime soon, and there aren’t any easy answers I can find to help eliminate these tragedies in the future. But I can assure you that posturing over politics, letting mental-health care go on without massive reform and ignoring the problem won’t just make it go away.