Media, Mental Health and Gun Violence in America
After all the recent gun violence in America, the mainstream media has been flooded with speculation and hype. Each commentator has had their chance to voice their opinions and 70% of the population is in favor of bolstering background checks for persons wishing to purchase firearms. I, too, believe there should be tighter control over who can get their hands on guns, but I also believe this is somewhat like leaping before looking. Before you can fix something properly, especially a constitutionally guaranteed right, you must thoroughly examine what’s wrong. In my eyes, we have not done that.
The Second Amendment to The Constitution says our right to bear arms should not be infringed upon in order to maintain a well armed and regulated militia. That’s not word for word, but I think you get the point. The intended purpose of this amendment was to insure that the citizens of this newly formed nation would be able to defend themselves from, and overthrow a tyrannical government. What most people in the America we live in today don’t realize is that the Constitution was written at a time when civilians and the military had access to the exact same firearms technology. The reality of this matter is that our rights under the Second Amendment have been stripped to the bone already, and those of us who would take it upon ourselves to defend our freedoms or overthrow tyranny are sorely under armed, making that task virtually impossible. Let’s face it, you don’t see any M-1 Abrams tanks parked in driveways, or surface-to-air missile systems mounted on the roofs of the homes in your cull-de sacs! This is one of the reasons the pro gun advocates are screaming so loudly against any further infringement upon the Second Amendment, and I totally agree, adding my voice to the din. But more gun control is not the answer to the rise in gun violence in America today, changing our culture of violence and the way we deal with mental illness is.
If you look up the statistics, you will find that there are thousands of deaths each year in the U.S. and the news media drills this into our collective conciseness every day. What they don’t tell us is that a very large number of those deaths are actually suicides. Now, while this fact doesn’t diminish the seriousness of this issue, it does lead me to the point I’m trying to make here.
Here in the United States, we live in a society that is constantly bombarded with images of gun violence on T.V., in the Movies and in literature. By the time our children reach puberty, they have been subjected to hundreds of thousands of these images in movies, T.V. programming and even in the comic books they read. With less and less parental supervision, due to both parents having to work to survive, it’s inevitable that a fair number of kids these days grow up thinking that problems and conflicts are best and easily solved if you have a gun. When you add to this that kids these days are not made to suffer any real, attitude adjusting ramifications for doing bad things, we have created a whole generation of young people who are disrespectful of any kind of authority, and believe they will not be held accountable for their actions in any uncomfortable way. Sending a child to his/her room today is like sending them sociopath school. They all have T.V.s, computers and violent video games in their rooms! The upward swing in violence started when people stopped spanking children about 20 years ago, and it grows worse every year. Spare the rod, spoil the child. When I was young and did something really inappropriate I go my ass spanked for it and I never did it again. We are animals and respond to two stimuli, pleasure and pain. If you do something good you get praised, if you do something bad you get punished. Being sent to your room to watch T.V. and play video games is not punishment. If we want to change the future we need to start actually disciplining our children. And please don’t start up with me against corporal punishment for children, spanking is not violence. It worked for thousands of years. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Now, for what I think is the major cause for the rise of gun violence in America today. Bolstering background checks for gun sales won’t work if we can’t keep them out of the hands of the criminals and the insane. And we can’t do that if we don’t know who they are.
There has been a steady increase in funds available for building and staffing jails and prisons over the last couple of decades so we have a pretty good idea who the criminals are. But there has been a steady decline in funding for building and staffing hospitals and facilities to deal with the mentally ill. There about 300million people in the United States. As of 2005, there were 17 mental health beds available per 100,000 citizens. The recommended number of beds available for the mentally ill should be 50 beds per 100,000 citizens. This is why we can’t stop the crazies from shooting up movie theaters……..we don’t know who or where they are!!! We need a lot more attention to mental illness than we are currently willing to provide. It’s like the truth about the events of 9/11, people refuse to face the ugly facts, or just deny the problem exists.
I think everyone would agree that one has to be crazy to commit homicide or suicide, yet we ignore the obvious. We need to address the fact that if we keep putting the mentally ill in prison all we are doing is creating better educated crazy criminals. If we would start spending the necessary funds on diagnosing mental illness before it becomes dangerous we could potentially avoid more of these heinous school and theater shootings. And if we put people who commit murder into mental institutions instead of prisons they would receive quantifiable rehabilitation insuring that if the ever get discharged it will because they got treatment and became functioning members of society, not just because they sat on their asses and did their time!!
For more on the shortage of Mental health beds in America click on this link