President Obama was faced with delivering yet another heartbreaking speech at a memorial remembering victims of yet another shooting rampage in the United States last week. During his remarks about the Navy Yard massacre in Washington, D.C., President Obama was quoted as saying, “Sometimes I fear there is a creeping resignation that these tragedies are just somehow the way it is, that this is somehow the new normal. We cannot accept this.” Dr. Janis Orlowski likely gave the most impassioned speeches after the injured and dead began flowing into her hospital. She said, “There’s something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate.” She continued on by saying, “I would like you to put my trauma center out of business. I really would. I would like to not be an expert on gunshots and not to be an expert on this.”
I thought that after 20 innocent children were brutally murdered and six individuals that gave their lives to protect these children were killed that we would begin getting serious about real ways to eradicate the evil that is emanating in our society. It’s no secret that our political climate is severely broken. While those on the far right want us to have access to weapons with little to no restrictions and those on the far left would rather see us ban guns in our society, the polarizing partisanship in our politics stalls any chance of productive discussion about reducing massacres. We live in a time when ‘bipartisan’ is becoming a bad word. Both sides of the aisle are positioning themselves to one up the other. Instead of sitting down and working on real resolutions to the gun violence that is plaguing America, nothing is being done at the high cost of innocent lives. I fear this political attitude is making us complacent and numb when it comes to mass shootings. Instead of finding resolutions, we wonder when and where the next shooting rampage is going to happen.
The tragedy at the Navy Yard came on the eve of the release of the latest version of Grand Theft Auto. Before the blood on the floor dried, political pundits were pointing the blame of a violent American society on violent video games. A violent video game is not going to cause an individual to suddenly get “motivated” to go on a shooting rampage any more than a sexual assault is going to turn someone gay. The perpetrators of the Navy Yard and Sandy Hook could have had stockpiles of violent video games, but those games did not create the monsters in them. Someone that is predisposed to violence is likely to get involved in shoot’em up video games. If we think violent video games kill people, we’re only distracting ourselves from what really matters.
The perpetrators that carried out the Columbine High School rampage, Aurora movie theater shooting, the massacre at a Safeway in Tuscan, Arizona and last week’s Navy Yard shooting had significant mental illnesses. They had a mixture of antisocial personality disorders, depression, manic depression and possibly schizophrenia. The shooter at Tuscan was taken to a federal medical prison in Springfield, Missouri until he was deemed competent enough to stand trial. The murderer at the Aurora Century 16 movie theater has plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Despite the scientific proof that mental illness is a significant factor in mass shootings, funding for the research and treatment of mental illnesses has been drastically cut at the tune of more than $4.35 billion over the years. While the issue of mental illness has been getting louder over the years, it’s still just a faint whisper. The whispering dialogue about mental health needs to become a loud roar that can be heard from coast-to-coast.
In light of the unconscionable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, CNN’s Piers Morgan offered one of the most asinine ideas for reducing gun violence. He said:
I’d ban ALL guns for convicted criminals and ANYONE with ANY mental health history whatsoever.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) December 14, 2012
On the other side of the spectrum, Republicans relish in the ignorant belief that President Obama is going to create some sort of militia that is going to break down our doors and take our guns from us. They ignore that Obama has repealed more gun control laws in his first year in office than President Bush did in his two terms. He has also been given an F by the Brady Campaign on gun control. In spite of this, just the mere notion by Democrats and Obama that they want to discuss more reasonable gun control laws being enacted sends gun advocates and the National Rifle Association into a frenzy.
Louisiana residents were so fearful about Obama’s imaginary militia that they overwhelmingly passed a state Constitutional amendment defining gun ownership as a ‘fundamental right’ in 2012. Because of their irrational fears, the people of the state failed to realize the ramifications such sweeping legislation could do to the state. Just a few months ago, a convicted felon challenged the state’s ban on felons owning firearms. A judge ruled he had a fundamental right to a gun under the Louisiana Constitution.
In 1999, two high school seniors opened fire on their unsuspecting students and faculty at Columbine High School. There were warning signs that these individuals were plotting a devious plan that so many people simply ignored. Do you think that if Rachel Scott, Richard Castaldo, Daniel Rohrbough, Sean Graves, Lance Kirklin, Michael Johnson, Mark Taylor, Anne-Marie Hochhalter, Brian Anderson, Patti Nielson, Stephanie Munson and William David Sanders would still be alive if individuals didn’t ignore the warning signs? It is our responsibility to be diligent when individuals begin showing signs that they could be in trouble. If the police had taken a couple of concerned parents more seriously. One of the prepetrators had a violent online manifesto that police were aware of, but ignored. The boys had bomb-making materials and blueprints of the school in their rooms, but their parents didn’t suspect anything.
A week after the massacre at the Navy Yard, the mainstream has already moved on. We’ve changed our focus to the Nairobi terrorist attack, the government shutdown and whether or not Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton will run for president in 2016. While the first two are news stories that should be capturing headlines, we’ve already lost focus on the gun control/mental illness debate. I wonder if the shooter at the Navy Yard had been a Muslim if we’d still be talking about the incident. We are becoming complacent again, and it seems as though it took far less time to become that this time around. The media didn’t even pick up on a mass shooting that happened in Chicago three days after the Navy Yard shooting. Was it not discussed and analyzed because there was no loss of life? Was it deemed ‘not important?’
Gun violence has gotten so engrained into American society that mass shootings are expected. It’s time to divorce the intertwined relationship between shooting rampages and our unintended fascination with the evil acts. It’s time we in society and our politicians put their partisanships aside, sit down and have meaningful discussions on how to prevent future massacres. It’s only a matter of time before the next sociopath goes on another shooting rampage, unless we get real and realize that human life takes precedence over guns, power, politics and money. If we sit back and do nothing, then we have blood on our hands.
** I intentionally left out the names of the perpetrators involved in the shootings I mentioned. They don’t deserve the dignity of the carnage they have created while most of us can’t name one person that was a victim of a mass shooting. **