I would like to add that our lack of a national health care plan is one of the major causes of these periodic lunatic rampages. Canada has a similar per capita percentage of firearm ownership (minus pistols)as does the USA but a small fraction of the firearm fatalities. Their national health system guarantees health care for all citizens of all ages including psychiatric care. A Canadian with severe mental health problems is much more likely to be identified and helped than in our spotty for-profit system of health care.
The Newtown murders
Ann Loikow - I have a few thoughts about the tragic massacre in Newtown, Conn. yesterday that I would like to share:
1. It is obvious that if we are to prevent more similar massacres, we need to strengthen gun laws and pass a permanent assault weapon ban and a ban on large magazines of ammunition so that one crazed person can't mow down large numbers of people. Rules about who can buy guns, where they can buy them (i.e., gun show restrictions), waiting periods, the training they need, and safety mechanisms also need to be explored and enacted.
2. It is also obvious that as a nation, as well as states and localities, we need to invest in much better mental health programs so that there actually ARE facilities available for people who have mental health/brain disease issues. All too often, there is a long waiting list to get diagnosed and then after diagnosis to get treatment. Part of this is due to a misunderstanding of what mental illness is and that it is as organic as diabetes and heart disease. It just affects a different organ -- the brain. The underfunding and lack of treatment facilities is also related to the stigma that has been traditionally associated with having any sort of mental problem.
3. We also need to recognize that the United States has societal gun and violence problem, not just a sporadic individual problem, that has risen to being a major public health issue and needs to be treated as such. Some of the causes of this include our media's and entertainment industries' glorification of massive gun violence. I also think that 12 years of war and glorification of the military, as well as our increasing emphasis on more and better instruments of killing come into play, too (i.e. state sanctioned mass murder). Look also at our use of drones and mechanized, dispassionate killing of people across the globe. Many of those drones kill are civilians and they are often killed in fairly large numbers, although our government doesn't publicly track and report this. Similarly, we no longer really track and report civilian casualties in our wars, whether major ones like Iraq and Afghanistan, or secret wars in places like Yemen, Somilia, Mali and Pakistan. Add to that the coarsening of the public to other people's humanity that inevitably follows condoning the use of torture, extraordinary rendition, black prisons, targeted assassinations, etc. and our increase in mass murders is not so surprising or extraordinary.
4. Finally, our increasingly severe income disparity and the fraying of the social safety net that puts more people into a destitute and desperate situation, which coupled with easy access to great firepower, makes it more likely that rage and despair, regardless of the cause in a specific case, will lead to acting out and seeking revenge on a group or society in general.
In sum, there are a number of inter-related issues that much be examined if we are to prevent many more such incidents in the future. Although commentators on the news over the past day have emphasized that schools are generally safe, the issue is really not the location of the incident, it the fact that it happens at all anywhere. Schools, malls, movie theaters, the work place and summer camps are all places where someone intent on killing will find a large number of people together. That is why I think we need to look at all the items I mentioned above if we are really going to do something constructive to prevent more instances of mass murder in the United States in the future. In any case, we need to get to work.