There was an interesting bit (again on NBC) about a hunter and his buddy in a sporting goods store. Said this fellow came in "who just looked out of place". Pink hair "like cotton candy", ear rings (did Holmes get piercings in the last few weeks? Who dyed his hair?) and "eyes that looked like silver dollars. He looked totally out of it. My friend and I commented about how he looked out of place again. He was looking at an AR-15, and we just thought that that was not the kind of gun somebody like him ought to be buying."
But the store sold the guns to a guy who looked flat whacked-out, didn't they?
Now, I'm a firm supporter of the right to keep and bear arms. I'm of the opinion that governments- any governments - are better to be trusted with an armed citizenry. As I've stated here, I am also an advocate of universal health care, which requires mental health care. I'm also a person once empowered to place individuals on involuntary psychiatric holds, and deeply aware of the responsibility carried with that power. Even so, I was known as someone a little quick on the trigger to admit somebody - especially if they seemed actively or even potentially homicidal. It was kind of a chuckle amongst the professional staff, but after eight years in that particular position of responsibility it turned out I was not wrong. Not once. With mental health care for everybody, it seems reasonable to me that there could be a "clearance card" for buying and owning firearms. Okay, so we'd lose 2%-3% of cops, but I bet that percentage would be radically lower than the general population. Same for things like tear gas, Mace®, samaurai swords, Humvees and fertilizer. (You need a ton of fertilizer, you better be a farmer!) I do not believe just anybody should be able to own just anything. Some people own stocks and rip people off for billions. Money is a potent weapon. So are automobiles. There are people who should not drive. Sure, they can own cars,just not drive them. Again I'm talking about responsibility. Over the years I have found that most people with problems are very aware that they have problems. It's the few that have gone psychotic enough to generate slaughter scenarios that the rest of us have to be aware of, watch out for, and not be afraid to intervene. IOW, go nuts and look bizarre, get a free mental health evaluation. No harm, no foul. Do not sell the random pink-haired silver-dollar-sized-eyed an assault weapon. That abdicates responsibility, and put profit ahead of plain good sense. This is why I railed a bit earlier over the word "senseless". It all makes sense, and it's not that hard to understand. We have sex education (typically a hideous failure), why not heve psych education? We have a nationa lproblem with obesity, (big surprise when technology reduced our need to go do things to sedentary keyboard activity - such as I am doing right now - while increasing desire by advertising for fast and comfort food) but we are not policing food. Instead we are encouraging activity and educating about eating better. This may take a while, but once facts (I mean facts, which rules out a lot of nutritionists and dieticians) become common knowledge the problems will fade to more of a normal distribution. I see an analogy to racism. Racism still exists, and results in some horrific incidents. There is, however, much less frequent incidents and a social atmosphere that frowns upon racism. We have a long way to go with racism (as I'm afraid we are shifting from an anti-Black bias to an anti-Hispanic bias), and we have even longer to go to curb violence. One way to do this is promoting health. One important factor in that is overcoming denial and accepting such problems exist. A radical change in behavior is a signal that there is something happening. Some signals are very clear and should be recognized by everyday folks. Bringing it back to the Aurora shooting, what we have is a series of people who saw the signals and - for whatever reason - chose to not intervene. Yes, I am talking about Holmes' mother. She knew he was capable of such an act, and may have done nothing. (That remains to beseen.) Neighbors must have noticed the quiet guy suddenly turned into a pierced flamingo, and may have seen him carrying in assault rifle, shotgun, six thousand rounds of ammo, and some explosives. Certainly they noted he was "blasting the techno music" which was totally out of character. (This was why he booby-trapped his flat, I think. Cops would respond to a noise compllaint, when there was no response would force their way in, setting off the booby trap, injuring officers and possibly blowing up the building, which would get a huge EMS response, which would draw resources away from him as he went to the theater to shoot people.) The personnel in the sporting goods store. The staff and faculty at his school. Nothing happens in a vacuum. People knew. People either did not act or could not act. (Police response would have been "We can't do anything until he does something".) Without a mental health safety net,I'm guessing those who observed felt powerless to act, and likely just did not know what to do.
I feel like I'm both babbling a bit, and yet without some context what I need to say makes little sense. In all the mass shootings we have heard of, been traumatized by, have experienced, there is an element of social failure. We can, and must, do better. We already care. Now we must take that caring and use it to gain knowledge. We must use the knowledge to act. Sometimes we will tromp all over someone's civil rights. So be it. Better higher taxes to pay for lawsuits from an indignant innocent person than letting one person slip through the safety net and act horribly.
The whole thing makes me terribly sad. I'm injured. Society has been injured. I do not like being sad. The circumstances make me feel like a failure, as I was not superhuman enough to intervene. This is a symptom of my own neuroses, feeling responsible for something I have no involvement in. I use this incident to explore myown thoughts and feelings. I cannot change the facts. I can change myself. I can resolve that feeling of neurotic responsibility without abandoning caring nor the striving to improve myself. Every little bit I improve myself improves the quality of interaction every time I interact with other people. Maybe that makes a bit of difference. If that is all I can do, it is enough. For if everyone, or even most, improve themselves a little tiny bit after such a horrid event, the cumulative improvement will improve society. We heal by keeping the wound clean and not making it worse. Politicizing the incident or using it for anything but furthering understanding is like poking at the wound. We all heal together, just as we were all wounded together. We can certainly tolerate others groping for understanding; so long as they intend to learn, not propigate ignorance.
Seeking understanding is seeking Truth. And the truth will set us free.
(NOTE: I thought starting a new thread on this subject might be a good idea as not to completely derail the thread about the tragedy in Colorado.)
Mental health is a whole 'nother topic but it is incredibly difficult to diagnose until it is too late. And you don't want to incorrectly diagnose. And a lot of people who are doing the diagnosing have their own interests at play.
Can't write more because I'm on my way out the door. It's an incredibly complex issue. At what point would you force a close friend or relative to seek mental help for his problems? What would you do if you suspect someone you loved had severely dangerous potential? Could you possibly suspect that someone you loved could shoot up a movie theater, even if they acted in a dark, disturbed manner? And if it wasn't someone you loved, would you even care or would you just get out of their life and not think of them again?
The awareness of mental health issues has come a long way in recent decades.
But there is still a stigma and the associated undereducation with mental health. Organized religion and different cultural mores and taboos have not helped in many cases either. Mental illness is often viewed as excuse for inappropriate behavior which absolves them of the consequences of their actions. Let's not forget that there are those who stand to profit off the current model of mental health and it is not necessarily in their interests to change things.
I think a lot of the reluctance to truly address this topic on a national level comes from a primal fear. When someone's behavior becomes so significantly different from the group's baseline, it scares the group. At that point, it simply becomes easier to segregate and isolate the "crazy" person so the group can return to "normalcy" faster.
The thing is, no one is "perfectly normal" or "completely sane". We all have something that affects us, though it varies by degree and issue(s) from person to person. That also defines us as to who we are. "Normal" is a lot like "utopia": Great in theory, damn near impossible in reality. But a frank, open discussion can bring about greater understanding and maybe get us closer to a new definition of "normal".
I always remember a coworker saying that everyone in the world was crazy except her. I told her at that point, insanity becomes the new baseline "normal". Her "normal" makes her the aberration and therefore, "crazy". She told me to shut up and pouted for awhile after that.
What are your thoughts and ideas on the subject?