The Armstrong Family Circus

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There Is Always A Problem But Not Always A Solution

Sunday December 16th 2012

by Paul Armstrong


It's nearly impossible to not take a position in the aftermath of the horrible tragedy in the killing of 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown, MA. As we lament and mourn and inevitably worry if the same thing could befall our own children, we rationally and irrationally look for blame.


Causes for Mass Killing

We spend more time developing means of escaping our troubles than we do solving the troubles we're trying to escape from.

—David Lloyd


Rather than just defend a position of more gun control, I thought I'd discuss some of the other points made around mass killing and why they happen and what the potential causes might be. What transpires is merely my opinion, hopefully logical and concise, but nonetheless my opinion.


Below are a few of the various arguments I've heard given for what feels like an onslaught of mass killings in America. I will try and focus on issues that aren't related to gun control (yet I will touch a little bit on my view toward a way to implement a solution)



Entertainment Violence

"Video games/television/movies show entirely too much violence which in turn desensitize citizens to the real and horrible outcome of violent behavior."


No evidence suggests that any of the mass shooting in the last 30 years (or let's focus on the 7 from 2012 alone) were influenced solely by violent media; at the very least not explicitly the motive. If in fact there was solid evidence to suggest that violence in entertainment were the only cause of mass killing, that violence still was to be perpetrated with a weapon. There exists numerous laws and rules around entertainment currently, ranging from labels and ratings, controlling theft, censorship, reviews boards and explicit governing departments (The Department of Labor, MPAA, Interpol, etc). If in fact all of the 62 mass killings in the last 30 years where only motivated by violent media — what further laws and regulations could be enforced upon the entertainment industry that citizens would be willing to support?


Are you willing to support censorship measures that suppress free-speech — or is having a gun more (the second amendment) important than being able to debate the rights of carrying a gun in a public forum (the first amendment)? What other avenues of restrictions and laws around portraying violence in media would be effective?


Throughout history, before video games and television and films, violence has existed; perhaps not on the mass scale. Man's ability to kill one another isn't a result of media but of being human. One needs look no further than the horrific, elaborate and morbid devices of death from the middle ages to see how violent and seemingly devoid of remorse (for inflicting violence on another human) man is capable of being. In fact, it's not hard to conclude that mass killing didn't happen hundreds of years ago because no easily concealable and mobile weapon existed that could kill large amounts of people quickly and easily (i.e., quickly enough to avoid retaliation). If we include explosives (though they were not concealable or mobile), there was still no media that theoretically desensitized people to violence.


Even if media is to blame and we enforce stricter regulations upon speech and expression, there is no evidence to suggest that humankind would suddenly become less violent. Thus the accusations toward media are either diversions from discussions around more gun control or mindless repeated party-line talking points.





Mental Health Issues

"People with personality issues that cause a disconnect between empathy, actions and consequences who are left untreated and unmedicated by a society who ignores them."


The fact that someone who performs a mass killing has some form of personality or mental disorder can be fairly easy to establish (clinically diagnosed or not). The fact that people will have personality and mental disorders will not go away. Nor does it mean that having a personality or mental disorder will lead to violent and deadly behavior. Diagnosing and treating the disorder is the solution to curbing any potential "break", resulting in mass killing.


In order to diagnose a disorder, one must either voluntarily seek a doctor or be forced to one (as a result of an incident). Aside from the varying levels of aptitude of doctors (as they too are humans susceptible to mistakes, errors, etc) there's no guarantee that consultation will result in a conclusive diagnosis. Second, doctors cost money and or health insurance. If the potential, future mass killing individual is an adult, the likelihood that they are stable enough to retain a well paying job that provides health coverage seems quite unlikely, which leaves them to pay for a consultation out of pocket. Again, if they were in a well paying job that would not be a problem. If they do not have provided health coverage or a well paying job, a visit to a psychologist would most likely be cost prohibitive. Let's say that they are able to get a diagnosis, that leads to medication. Anyone who has experience with psychotropic drugs will tell you that altering brain chemistry is a lengthy experiment of trial and error. Even when finding the correct balance of drug and dosage, there's no guarantee of long term effectiveness or of consistent patient usage.


While the problem of mental illness needs to be addressed, what laws and enforcements could be used to abate potential violent behavior in such individuals? Are proponents of second amendment rights willing to pass laws giving access of health care to such individuals (i.e., a clear solution to eliminate roadblocks for any individual getting proper psychiatric attention is to pass some form of universal healthcare).


While I don't want to suggest that Republicans are the only people who support the second amendment and also oppose universal healthcare; I believe it's easy to infer through candidate platforms and discussion that the majority of the party does not want universal health care (i.e. providing health care to individuals who either cannot afford their own, nor have a job that provides health care to all employees regardless of position — full time or part time - yet wants to retain a position of status-quo).


As someone who can speak from a decade of personal experience as an individual attempting to obtain health care for his family — and one who can afford to pay for the monthly costs — there is certainly no guarantee, in our current system, that an insurer will even provide coverage to someone who has a mental condition. In fact, in our experience, you will be denied coverage either because they don't cover mental health or your mental health is a "pre-existing condition". This did in fact happen with my wife, who was denied once by Anthem, and then thereafter by Medical Mutual of Ohio, Humana and Golden Rule because she was previously denied. Therein our coverage lapsed and we were unable to obtain coverage for three years because we did not have previous coverage. In that three years our kids were provided coverage through Medicare, yet we had to pay for all visits out of pocket, which made visiting the doctor costly and prohibitive. Imagine if one of us had a severe mental disability, wherein we would be forced to pay for our medication out of pocket yet could not afford it, and if we were unable to keep a job because we could not afford the medication without insurance, this could create the perfect scenario for a mental break.


Thus diverting attention away from more restrictions and regulations around guns toward mental health seems disingenuous at best and uniformed about the reality of our current health care system.





Man Is Evil

"Man is corrupt and evil and will always be so. Taking away guns will not stop the violence."


This is neither a reason nor a solution, this is just describing the water we're drowning in. While I full heartedly agree with the fallenness and sinful nature of man, this is not a reason to do nothing. If we used such reasoning for everything in life; not just when it comes to gun violence, then we should abolish most all regulations we have around products and services that are meant to keep us safe and out of harms way. We should remove regulations around automobiles and travel. If man is evil and corrupt, then driving drunk is inevitable and there is no reason to have any restrictions about drinking and driving, nor the safety measures to ensure that if someone does drink and drive that others are protected from them (with headlights, brakes, air bags, seat belts, wide road lanes, guard rails, road reflectors, road signs, speed limits, licenses, etc).


In fact because man is evil and capable of horrible things is more reason to do all we can to implement safety measures to protect us from that potential evil. Doing nothing about the evil of man is tantamount to saying man is worthless and without value; not worth saving, not worth protecting — quite contrary to everything I believe as a Christian. I know that many of you will say that, "Yes, and the way I protect myself is with my gun". Unless you're mentally disturbed I don't believe there is anything within implementing strict gun regulations that will prevent you from protecting yourself and your family (if in fact that is what you believe the second amendment truly means, which is open for great debate, but I will concede that is the modern interpretation).


Man is evil, and as such we ought not make it easy for them to implement that evil. There are more regulations and laws around peanut alleges, ladders, renting a car or getting a tattoo than when purchasing a gun. In every scenario above, if someone has a more difficult time obtaining a gun (or guns) — or if they are able to obtain one (or many) — that it isn't capable of firing an enormous amount of bullets that cause maximum damage, then we are more safe than previously. Arming more people and doing nothing else is no guarantee that it will curb mass killings. In fact, it seems likely that if you are carrying a fire-arm that you will 1) not have the wherewithal to draw 2) not have the aim to hit the target 3) be killed before you can act 4) encounter someone who is wearing body arm thus rendering your bullet ineffective. Even if you are able to get your gun out, aim well and shoot and kill the perpetrator there's no reason to think you cannot still do that with more restricting guidelines.





I do not condone or suggest any outright ban of guns. I not only find it unfeasible to gain traction as a law, I find banning to be anything but effective (i.e. Prohibition). What I suggest is being at least as thorough, restrictive, cautious and regulatory with guns as we are with so many other things that we encounter daily — that in fact are in no way intended to kill (unlike guns, which have no other real purpose than to kill).


If we are serious about getting proper care to those with mental illness, then we need to implement changes to our current health care system. If that system can coincide with a regulatory agency that oversees the distribution and sale of fire arms. Anyone attempting to purchase a fire arm will be vetted through medical records, as well as questionnaires and a medical evaluation (not unlike ones you have to endure just to get health insurance), and either approved or denied (with such validation lasting no more than 5 years before having to renewed — because sometimes mental illnesses become "active" at certain ages or time periods). We already have privacy laws (HIPPA) surrounds medical records, that would apply to this process, thus not creating any more infringements upon your privacy than we already have in place. Couple this process with a licensing process that includes mandatory fire arms classes (not unlike we all had to take in order to get a drivers license), restricting the number of bullets an individual can buy at once (not unlike the limits we put on individuals for being Pseudoephedrine) and the type of fire arms that individuals can purchase, as well as regulating who and where one can sell a fire arms; and we might have a plan that can curb what is (not seems like) a growing problem.


Sadly, I feel the state of our rhetoric in this country is such that we're more likely to incite a militia that will gather against it's government and create a modern civil war, than to reasonably discuss plausible solutions. Our freedom is never as free as we perceive. Governing three hundred and fifteen million people requires some standards, laws and guides — like your home or your business — in order to run efficiently and effectively. Sometimes that involves inconvenience and restrictions. You can't murder someone. You can't beat your child. You can't drink and drive. These are all impositions about true "freedom", inhibiting you from doing whatever you want; because we see it as the overall good to prohibit and prosecute actions that protect us — the people of the United States — from inflicting harm upon each other. I hope that we can all postpone our rote reactions and think, really think, about how we can value each other and protect each other.




Comments for "There Is Always A Problem But Not Always A Solution"

While it's unsurprising that violence of this nature will stir up some knee-jerk reactions, it's difficult to summon up patience with the varying degrees of emotion and opinion circulating around right now. This was a refreshing, well-thought-out change of pace and I'm glad to have read it. Thank you for sharing it.

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