The NRA is so powerful that we cannot approach this trend of theatrical crimes (no pun intended) against unarmed and helpless groups by restricting access to guns, even though these guns are being used against people who are captive in the sense that they are collected in a certain public environment at the moment the horrible drama is enacted. There can be little doubt that to certain people in our culture these criminals become heroes so that these murderers are, in a sense, competing with each other to “make a better movie”. I wish we weren’t quite so free with our guns, but we will not be allowed to solve this situation from a gun control angle.
In many science fiction books authors describe a future when we no longer meet in public spaces; we live in small cells with our technology and communicate only through electronics. This may evolve through a fear of contagious diseases, or because a totalitarian state wants to hold on to control and prevent revolution or because people lose their desire to communicate face to face. Well the kinds of violent ‘deathcraft’ undertaken lately on too many occasions (since one is too many) are just the ticket to make a future of isolation seem attractive. If we want to maintain a society that includes enjoying entertainment in person at public venues we need to approach this problem somehow.
As far as I can remember, every one of these “death eaters” who survived and was taken into custody has been shown to be in a state of mental disorder or to have a mental illness. What we need to do, so that we are not constantly grieving and constantly fearful, is to take a new look at how we are treating the matter of mental illness in America these days. Obviously, in these enlightened times, we cannot return to the days when we put everyone in a mental institution for warehousing and possible treatment. But neither should we just be turning people out on the streets with a handful of psychotropic drugs when they have symptoms that will derail their lives and possibly the lives of others if they do not stay on their meds. These meds are not perfect. They have unpleasant side effects, often dampening the ability to experience a range of emotions, and sometimes other physical side effects. Many people with a mental illness may not be responsible enough to take their meds and to keep taking them day in and day out.
We do need a way to remove mentally ill people from the public arena when they prove they will not and cannot take their medications. We do need to work harder to identify mentally ill people who are flying under the radar and to decide if the particular type and degree of mental illness they manifest could be a danger. I am not at all sure how we will accomplish this in a society that reveres freedom. Does safety trump freedom? The parents of this most recent ‘player of reality death games’ apparently knew their son had mental problems. Somewhere between the two extremes of institutionalization and sending mentally ill people off into the streets with a gentle push, there lies a better approach to mental illness in America. Perhaps the experts can convene a conference to look at this subject and send some proposals our way that might help us deal with mentally ill people who will not get treatment or stay on their medications. We have spent way too many days watching the sad outcomes of these terrible attacks in the past decade or two.