Thursday, December 13, 2012

My thoughts on guns, mental illness and "random" violence


I've tried to write a post about guns, about mental illness,  about "random" acts of violence a few times before. I put "random" in quotes because we almost always find out later that the act was not random at all. There are generally some precursors to someone acting out in that extreme manner. But anyway... I've tried to write a post of this type many times but I don't want to sound preachy or take one side or the other. Plus you can get very bogged down with politics and statistics. Instead, I'll just share some thoughts.

This may not be popular but here it is... I don't like guns. I never have. Not for me anyway. Coming from Texas, this is tantamount to not loving Jesus or football or barbecue. Jesus, football and bbq I am all very fond of, guns - not so much. Part of it was that I was never around them growing up. My father was a police officer in Guyana before he immigrated to the States and became a doctor. He owned one shotgun that he kept in the closet of his office and we weren't allowed to open the door... ever.

It's also tee-hee funny that I'm not a gun person knowing just how many law enforcement folks I've dated over the years. It's all romantic until you wake up at three in the morning and realize there's a gun under your pillow, two on the nightstand and another over the headboard. Why? Are we expecting a SWAT assault over bacon and eggs? Eek!

But I get the deal about guns. Folks have the right to arm and protect themselves. My problem is that anybody can have one. (License, shmicense - a-n-y body can have one) When I was in Florida over Thanksgiving I was astounded at the number of gun stores there. Again, coming from Texas for me to say Florida has a lot of gun stores - that's saying something. Not just gun stores, I mean we rolled past a one-stop shop where you could get a 2-piece chicken dinner, a case of Scotch and an assault rifle - and you only had to show ID to get the case of scotch -  does that seem like a good idea to anybody?

I guess I don't see the need for an average citizen to own an AK-47 or whatever the latest hot automatic killing machine is. No one is hunting elk with 50 rounds a minute. And what does an average Joe or Jane need a .50 caliber weapon for? Really? On the other hand, I have no problem with military folks, bodyguards, and law enforcement carrying. Or rational, level headed people owning a reasonable gun to protect themselves. Or sports enthusiasts owning a hunting rifle to bag a deer or whatever. Especially if those gun owners have registered the weapons and keep them out of the reach of children and fools. Is this truly being regulated? Again, I don't know. Is it for me to say that someone shouldn't have an arsenal in their basement?

As to the meme that guns don't kill people, people kill people. I agree and I disagree. I absolutely think if someone is determined to kill you and/or themselves - they are going to find a way to do it, guns or no guns. But I also think if someone is in the heat of the moment and has a gun, a situation that might have been easily diffused suddenly becomes a lot more complicated.

The other day on Fox News (I know, I know, consider the source), Dana Perino (Former Bush WH Press Secretary) was having a discussion with her cohorts abbout domestic violence. They seemed to feel the answer for women being assaulted was for them to arm themselves. Or just pick better men to date... O__o

When are we going to have a real discussion about mental health in this country? We throw the term "crazy" around easily but is it fair to say the ease to procure a weapon allows mentally unbalanced people a way to act on their instability? I don't know, I'm asking. Can "random" acts of violence be prohibited by restricting access to weapons? Is a more stringent look at mental health necessary not only in the country but within the black community?

I'm just throwing out thoughts as they occur to me, I'm interested to hear yours. Do we need tighter, stricter control on guns? Should we have as much focus on mental health as we do on overall wellness? What's it going to take (or is it even possible) to stop mass shootings? Do you own guns (you don't have to self-declare if you don't want to)? Are you okay with them around the house? Do share....

34 comments:

J to the B. said...

everytime there's a shooting like the one in Oregon, there's a call for stricter gun laws. Sometimes they get passed, sometimes not. All this does is make it harder for law-abiding citizens to own guns, not the criminals. Criminal and\or the mentally ill don't obey laws. If i remember correctly, the Oregon shooter used a stolen gun.

Now I agree with you about how certain people shouldn't own guns (like certain people shouldn't procreate), if they don't know how to properly stow and keep safe their weapons be it a homeowner, hunter or law enforcement official. All the tightest gun laws in the country would not hve stopped someone hell-bent on committing a shooting. They do need to do something about the mentally ill being able to purchase a gun (if no gun laws as such doesn't exist. )

J to the B. said...

Malls, schools & churchs are the first place these people go before the laws in place make them a 'gun-free' zone where no law-abiding citizen can protect themselves. Also, (bad analogy i know), but consider a person buying a car. Anyone can buy one, including the mentally ill. What's to stop them from crashing head-on with you on your way to work, ending it all if they are hell-bent on doing it? More laws hurt the law-abiding.  we need to enforce the laws we already got

motown_skater said...

i just had to amen!!! this.....

"like certain people shouldn't procreate"...

back to the topic at hand...

thinklikeRiley said...

I grew up around guns in a very guncentric area of LA. I legally own a gun, I do not carry it everywhere I go. It stays at home. It's true gun laws could be stricter but more to your point, it's definitely true that mental health particularly in the Black Community (yes, capitalized) needs a spotlight, a telethon and a spokesperson.

The prevailing thought that all you need is some Jesus and you'll make it on through is antiquated and ill-advised. there's no shame in seeking professional help, medications, whatever it takes to achieve psychology security.  My uncle is a vet and suffers from PTSD, severe bouts of depression and a number of ailments I beleive are yet undiagnosed. Finally got him into a program this summer and he's a completely different person who know longers scare the ish out of us. Chele - make us a tshirt "Mental Health - Get Into IT!"

Ya'll ain't know Riley had no edumacation, did ya? Peep the game.
Riley out.

Page Bartlett said...

I don't know I just don't think it should be easier to get a gun than to drive a car.

EvolvingElle said...

I was going to address some of this in a blog post, so I won't do it here. :)

In regards to the mental health aspect and "random" violence, that's so real.  Sadly, though, when it comes to domestic violence, it's not even mental health.  It's boys that have grown up to be men that don't know how to control their anger.  So they lash out and handle it the only way they know how-by hurting someone else.  Mental health is real and needs to be addressed, but so does anger management.  It's ok to be upset with your significant other; it's not ok to hit, punch, scream at, or shoot them.

taut_7 said...

we need tougher laws on carrying being in the possession of illegal owned firearms. i also don't like guns. i agree with you in that there is no need for the average person to own an assault rifle. i've written a few posts advocating for stricter gun control laws. there has been backlash but i refuse to apologize for my opinion. most times ppl who are 2nd amendment enthusiasts probably haven't had anyone close to them die due to gun violence.  

motown_skater said...

a conversation will take place when the powers that be, the media, put people ahead of money. they often control the conversation if we want to admit it or not. talking about mental illness, education etc., and how it affects all of socieyt does not generate money the way exploiting people b/c they have a mental illness does. i could be buying into the hype, but money rules and until human life is acknowledged as being worth more that conversation is a long way off.

i also believe that, yes, mental illness needs to given the same attention as cancer, diabetes, high bp, and the like.  if a person has a mental illness it's apart of who they are and should be treated just as they would treat any other illness the person is dealing with. it should not be ignored by the person or health professional b/c it's taboo (black folk). our health, mental, phycial, emotional, social and financial as a whole go hand in hand. if one is out of sorts the rest will soon be out of sorts if not dealt with.

i agree with j to the b it's not about stricter laws it about enforcing current laws. as a licensed owner with a registered weapon who is mentally sound what good does it do to futher regulate me.  you don't have to regulate a person who is of sound mind b/c we know and understand imminent danger (use only when) and that no one is woth our freedom.

Bryan Anthony said...

I don't own guns mostly because I'm accident prone and would be that guy who shot off his toe by mistake.
I grew up in rural Georgia where gun toting was a way of life. Never bothered me and we were a pretty peacable town. My grandfather used to say "the only peope who get shot around here are the ones that deserve it" take that as  you will. But I was concerned last week, an eight year old at my son's school had six guns in his locker. How did he get him, why were they at school and who are this child's parents? When I think of what could have happened, it makes my blood run cold. I guess what I mean is that I'm all for responsible gun ownership but I don't know how you regulate that.

EvolvingElle said...

An 8 year old with SIX guns in his locker????  WTH?!?!?  So instead of just worrying about adults, now we have to worry about the babies?  SMDH...

Angel on a Quest said...

 Guns...plural...at eight years old?  OMG, that scares the dickens out of me!  I cannot even imagine!

Velinda Evans said...

 "Is a more stringent look at mental health necessary not only in the country but within the black community?"I have my A.A degree in Allied Human Services, I want to be a counselor or therapist when I grow up (I'm grown , lol). Wanting to be a therapist, having gone through therapy and currently taking my son to therapy the one thing I know for sure that us as a people, African-Americans have a very negative view of therapy. I can't count how many times I've heard "I don't want to talk to some stranger about my business." I have untreated bi-polar people in my family and they won't get treatment because of the stigma associated with therapy within our community. I suffer from clinical depression, I'm unmedicated by choice but I go to therapy and have adapted healthy coping mechanisms to get me through my low-swings but I wouldn't know to do the things that I do if I didn't go to therapy.  It's one thing to talk to my minister a whole other to talk to a clinical professional. I'm not knocking our spiritual leaders, they are helpful but some aren't educated in the arena of mental health and as well intentioned as their counseling may be without proper training they are putting a band-aid on a deep wound that requires stitches. If we could end the stigma, stop turning a blind eye and stop laughing at "Crazy Uncle Joe" we could end so much senseless violence, suicide and chemical dependency amongst  ourselves. 

Velinda Evans said...

"the prevailing thought that all you need is some Jesus and you'll make i on through is antiquated and ill-advised"<<<<<<<<THIS HERE IS EVERYTHING!!!!
I said it in my comment, "It's one thing to talk to my minister a whole other to talk to a clinical professional. I'm not knocking our spiritual leaders, they are helpful but some aren't educated in the arena of mental health and as well intentioned as their counseling may be without proper training they are putting a band-aid on a deep wound that requires stitches."

I lost my best friend November 23, 2003 at the time I had just joined a church, instead of getting grief counseling I would go to my Pastor, she didn't mean any harm but she just made my grief worse because of the type of church I was attending and the way my best friend died I was told she was in hell. This tormented me terribly and make my grief even harder to bear, I went into one of the deepest depressions of my life and until I left that church and sought professional counseling I was not myself. 

Black folk been using, "Jesus will fix it" for so long without using anything else or putting anything else with it and a lot of people are walking around ill because of it. After counseling I found peace with my best friends death and learned how to cope with my depression. 

We do need some t-shirts, a concert, a telethon, a webniar and some more stuff, people are suffering and they don't have to.

Angel on a Quest said...

One of the challenges with the current gun climate in our nation is that many perceive the "right" to bear arms as an obligation to own guns...plural.  Revolvers or long guns, I can understand, as these can be used for defense of self, home, family, etc.; however, assault rifles, semi-automatic weapons, etc. are not practical for defense outside of war.

Another challenge for me is, as you say, Chele, that instances that may have been diffused at one time, become deadly if one has access to a gun, because, in the heat of the moment, with emotions and adrenaline high, just the very nature of having access to something that can take a life often leads to that very outcome.  Were we not to have guns, whether legally or illegally, how might we choose to address our differences, real or perceived?   My bet would be that we would choose less lethal measures.

Finally, and this really is where we get to the heart of my concerns about the proliferation of guns at every strata of society, just having a gun or access to a gun helps us perceive others as so unlike us that we cannot recognize the shared humanity that exists between us all.  It is relatively easier to pull a trigger than to put one's hands on another or to thrust a knife into another, both of which require physical proximity, which can remind us of that shared humanity.  Access to a gun removes that understanding, and makes it easier to keep the Other as Other.  Of course, perceptions of power that extend to various groups because of gender,
race, sexuality, position, etc., compound that sense of power by
access to weapons.

Just recently, I have considered learning to shoot and getting a  concealed carry license.  As the nature of our society changes, I wonder if this is something that I need to do as a woman, who presents as visibly disabled (that dang walker gives it away all the time!), but also, because I question how much certain segments of gun rights advocates would continue to support our current laws if more people of my hue or darker became registered gun owners with concealed carry permits...

motown_skater said...

it is like we are no longer human to one another.....

about a month or so ago in a young man was riding the bus. as he was getting off the bus he passed a man-child and stepped on his foot. the young man apologized to the man-child and got off the bus. the man-child got off the bus behind young man and shot him in the leg. i would say only in detroit, but foolishness like this happens all to often all around this country b/c human life is no longer valued.....

blackprofessor said...

I am not sure where I stand on gun ownership given that I will probably purchase one in the near future.  I grew up with a father who had a rifle, 22 and another that I can't recall now in the house.  We KNEW not to touch them and only saw the rifle on New Year's Even when my dad fired a shot to bring in the New Year.  As some have stated, law-abiding citizens are not the cause for concern. 

I worry about people like the shooter from the movie theater in Colorado. He  was seeing a psychiatrist and taking meds, and he still managed to acquire a gun and kill a bunch of innocent people.  These are the individuals that manage to find the loopholes and create havoc for the rest of us.  I have no idea what the solution is but I hope one is found soon.

blackprofessor said...

 OMG, a six-year old with multiple guns?? That just made the hairs stand on the back of my neck.

GrownAzzMan said...

I have come to except that we are a gun loving country. I am more cynical about this issue then any other facing our country. There is no number of gun related deaths that will bring about change. Climate change? Racism? Poverty? We have a better chance of solving all of these combined then we do of ever have any progress on guns.

GrownAzzMan said...

And this is not the first story like this I am aware of...

Velinda Evans said...

"the prevailing thought that all you need is some Jesus and you'll make i on through is antiquated and ill-advised"<<<<<<<<THIS HERE IS EVERYTHING!!!!
I said it in my comment, "It's one thing to talk to my minister a whole other to talk to a clinical professional. I'm not knocking our spiritual leaders, they are helpful but some aren't educated in the arena of mental health and as well intentioned as their counseling may be without proper training they are putting a band-aid on a deep wound that requires stitches."

I lost my best friend November 23, 2003 at the time I had just joined a church, instead of getting grief counseling I would go to my Pastor, she didn't mean any harm but she just made my grief worse because of the type of church I was attending and the way my best friend died I was told she was in hell. This tormented me terribly and make my grief even harder to bear, I went into one of the deepest depressions of my life and until I left that church and sought professional counseling I was not myself. 

Black folk been using, "Jesus will fix it" for so long without using anything else or putting anything else with it and a lot of people are walking around ill because of it. After counseling I found peace with my best friends death and learned how to cope with my depression. 

We do need some t-shirts, a concert, a telethon, a webniar and some more stuff, people are suffering and they don't have to.

William Martin said...

Having worked a few rotations in the ER & trauma areas, I'll tell you from my perspective there needs to be a better lock down on guns. People get real brave and real stupid with a gun in their hand and you add any sort of mood altering substance (alcohol, drugs, whatever) to the mix and it's deadly. Unnecessarily deadly. Strictly from a health professional perspective - less guns equal less trauma.

rozb said...

(I have to get this off my chest) Dana Perino is an intellectual midget with all the mental prowess of a sack of jellyfish. There. I said. I feel better.

I know how to shoot. Heck, I even enjoy target practice on occasion. However, I think that gun ownership is too loose in this country, as evidenced not only by these highly publicized events, but as represented by the the local news reports of someone dying or getting shot every day. And every time someone acts in an irresponsible manner and does the most heinous act with an automatic weapon or a child dies, the NRA just doubles down on its message to promote gun ownership. Never mind using its vast resources to try and provide education and support efforts to control illegal weapons, which would bolster its social position.

Having  a gun in your home might provide some psychological relief (oohh - I am protected!), but it can also provide a means for handling and escalating a situation past where lesser efforts would have been effective. This happens in our country every damn day.

Kids don't even fist fight any more. It speeds past knocking the stick off somebody's shoulder right into one kid pulling out a weapon he found in a drawer and shooting a friend. Forget about getting thrown out of a house party. Some fool may decide to come back and randomly shoot up the place because his ego is bruised.

I don't have answers, but I do know my world is not safer with guns in it.

Guest said...

I'm former military and I believe guns should be treated like specialized equipment - they should only be in the hands of people who are specialliy licensed, trained and mentally prepared to handle them.

Whitney said...

Ok try to keep this short...my dad had a shotgun & a pistol when we were children. We knew where they were but "we bet not" touch them! My husband wants a glock , I don't but he wants it for protection. I have a 46 year old nephew that was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenic, this mental illness is real and he has been suffering from it for years. He had a permit to carry, but that's has since been revoked for obvious reasons. He is a veteran and lives in a facility where he receives assistance with managing his finances. I love him and try to support him anyway I can, my sister (his mom) is deceased and no one likes dealing with him because of the "crazy" stigma. I say this all because mental illness is in our community and we need to support our family members instead of hiding the truth about it.

BrooklynLinda said...

As someone who isn't afraid to have guns and has grown up around them, I think you said exactly what most people think.

Earthangel172 said...

As a former military brat, I grew up around guns.  Personally, I'm not a fan of guns at all and will never own one but I am for responsible gun ownership.  An 4 year old shot himself in the head this week in Houston with both of his parents and his grandfather in the house.  How the hell does that happen? Carelessness.  I also believe that assault weapons should not be sold to the public.  Just my opinion.

As for mental illness, black folks need to open up to the fact that some of our people truly suffer from mental illness.  We have to erase the stigma attached to it by increasing awareness through education.  I know its a lofty idea though because the stigma has such a stronghold on many in our community.

CaliGirlED said...

Well damn!!!

A 4 year old shot himself in the head in here in Houston yesterday. I just don't get it.

CaliGirlED said...

I just commented about that 4 year old. What a tragedy! Carelessness indeed! I too grew up around guns. My dad had a few in the house/garage. He used a couple of them for hunting. My mom hated them. But we knew NOT to ever touch them, EVER! Forget shooting yourself, the butt whoopin from her would have killed us. I'm all for responsible gun ownership but unfortunately we don't live in a responsible society.

Guest said...

Interesting timing of this post considering the events of today in Connecticut 
These mass shootings are really getting ridiculous.
Europe and the Caribbean isn't looking so bad as a place to live after all.

Yofabulous said...

How timely this post is... I hope that today's events spark a genuine discussion about how we treat the mentally ill in this country and about the access to firearms.  I have no issue with responsible gun ownership, but there has to be sensible gun regulation as well.  It is too easy to get a firearm and in quite a few states, there's no background check to help determine if this is a person who should have a firearm.

Leo the Yardie Chick said...

 O_O WHY is an eight year old collecting guns like Pokemon cards?

CorettaJG said...

I'm a military member from Louisiana who spent a lot of my career in Texas and I don't like guns. I understand the need for them but I don't like them.  You should need a clean bill of heath certificate from a licensed mental health professional to purchase one.  

However, I do believe it's true that criminals are not going to follow the law. And that if someone wants to be a murdering psychopath there is little you can do to stop them.  In Asian countries there are many "knife" (cleaver, butcher knives) attacks because guns aren't nearly as accessible. But people who want to hurt will find a way. The only good thing that can be said for that is that those psychopaths usually can't kill as many people in one attack as a automatic gun toting madman can. There was one yesterday, the same day as this madness, also targeting children.  It is a conundrum when we have this much freedom in America, the freedom I serve/fight for. But after massacre after massacre, it is time for our people and politicians to demand that the hard and courageous work to find a better solution be done.  And that should incorporate a hard focus on how we deal (or don't) with mental health.  At the root of the problem, "hurting people hurt people."

Myhouse385 said...

Here are a few facts on mental illness: 1) very little money is put into research for treatment compared to drugs for erectile dysfunction 2) treatment is extremely difficult because one is dealing with individual brain chemistry and few psychiatrists are truly up to the challenge 3) talk therapy is useless without proper medication 4) mental health is not on parity with other illnesses and that shows up in limited insurance benefits 4) it is next to impossible to hospitalize someone against their will for more than three days and if there is no insurance coverage many hospitals won't go to any effort to admit someone 5) you can go to court and file for longer inpatient treatment but that takes money and lawyers and a protracted court battle 6) mental illness affects one in four adults 7) there is more shame and stigma attached to the illness than any other including HIV

Myhouse385 said...

on more thing... we need a license to drive a car... to carry a gun (legally)... to serve alcohol in a public place... to run many types of businesses... but no one needs a license or training of any kind to have kids... 

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