I can’t even comprehend that level of grief and horror.
In the wake of that awful event, the usual arguments erupted across the internet, and rightly so; that’s how we fumble our way toward change.
There were a number of themes. The most prevalent and predictable was gun control, of course. That makes sense; 77 percent of all mass killings are done with firearms so it’s natural to wonder if reducing access to guns or certain kinds of guns could reduce gun violence.
Others rushed to the defense of arms, saying that it seems unrealistic to think we can eradicate a black market, that laws won’t stop lawbreakers and that there will still be other kinds of violence.
I’m satisfied that focusing our efforts on gun control is probably a waste of energy.
I’m no fan of guns, but if the massacre of 20 soft-faced elementary school children at Sandy Hook didn’t bring about a serious effort to reduce access to guns, I don’t think the death of one student at Seattle Pacific University is going move the country to change.
Nor will the inevitable future fatalities at whichever schools are next in line, and whatever future we plan for ourselves will no doubt include lots and lots and lots of firearms.
And I think it’s fair to say that the catastrophic failure of the drug war to rid the country of drugs does handily illustrate that people who want contraband will have it, and we’ll never be entirely free of firearms or the associated violence.
Unless we find another, better solution to mass violence.
There are two elements to every murder spree; weapons and mental illness.
Efforts at weapon control have never been anything more than feeble in this country. But even if that’s the way it will always be, there is lots that we aren’t doing about mental illness.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:
“Major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder account for an estimated 20 percent of total disability resulting from all diseases and injuries. Based on NIH’s own estimates, for every research dollar spent, 15 cents is allocated to AIDS, 10 cents on cancer, two cents on heart disease, and less than one cent on schizophrenia and other severe mental illnesses. In contrast, the total cost of schizophrenia (alone) to society, per research dollar spent, is $161.26, compared to only $65.65 for heart disease, $9.96 for cancer, and $6.86 for AIDS.”
Why don’t we spend more on mental illness research?
I don’t know, but here’s my hypothesis.
I think people don’t think curing mental illness is possible.
That’s boggling, considering what timeless ills have already been nigh on eradicated; a century ago, the top three causes of death were pneumonia, tuberculosis and gastrointestinal ailment.
And I think people still hope we can punish our way out of crime.
That’s also boggling, to the point of achieving that old definition of insanity as trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
What might we learn if we declared a war on mental illness with the same fervor we did on drugs and terror? What might we gain?
Perhaps a nation in which 40 percent of supermax prison beds were empty, the victims of their occupants never killed in the first place and the perpetrators still on the right side of the law. Perhaps a nation in which homelessness is rare. Perhaps a nation in which flags no longer fly at half mast in mourning of another massacre of innocents.
On Father’s Day, what greater gift can we give to the fathers of this country than to expend some energy and resources on the safety of their children?
Let us acknowledge that here is an avenue we have not yet fully pursued, have some faith that research can yet achieve profound results, and find the resolution to make our best effort toward a safer and kinder world.