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    • Smart use of the color red. Makes all those things "bad". I don't mean to distract from the content, but that is a psychological trick that should be below journalists and editors.

    • It's true. And I feel like it's much worse now than when I went to school, both because of how technology has become infused in kids' lives and because school shootings are so common now.

      I was in high school when the Columbine shooting happened and I remember the mood being one of shock, but not really fear. We were all surprised and horrified at what had happened, and it definitely felt like an indication that the world was a darker place than we thought it was, but I don't remember actually feeling afraid that it could happen at our school.

      I think if I were in high school now it would feel very different. I think I would be legitimately afraid, because there's a very real chance it could happen at my school. That's terrifying.

      It's also disgusting that I'm sitting here as a 35 year old man talking about a horrific school shooting that happened when I was a kid and realizing that virtually nothing has been done to address this problem during that time.

    • When I was a sophomore in high school, my lab partner and good friend was shot and killed with a pistol in a church. I know it shouldn't be this way, but when it happens to someone you know and love, it takes your empathy and sadness to the next level.

    • Mass shootings make the news and are indeed horrible, but IMO focusing on them (and on preventing them (e.g., better security at schools)) avoids the real nature of gun violence in the USA. While it is truly awful that 17 young people were murdered at their school in Florida this week, the fact is that about 106 people die from guns EVERY DAY in the USA.

    • It's okay to be upset about mass shootings, and it's okay to be upset about individual homicides. Both are huge problems, and both need to be prevented. Talking about one doesn't decrease the importance of the other. Effort expended to solve one will help solve the other.

    • I once commissioned an essay about gun control from the editor of the New York Post, Pete Hamill. One reason I did it was Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were gunned down when I was in high school. Also, president Kennedy had been a boyhood hero of mine. 

      The essay got millions of views on the web and prompted a counter-essay from the then president of the NRA, Charlton Heston, which also got millions of views. This was when mass shootings were just beginning. The response was so huge to Pete's essay, gun owners threatened to come after me and my family. I can't imagine what Pete went through.

      Here it is.

    • Wow. The whole essay is fantastic, but this passage in particular felt like a description of the Trump campaign and administration:

      Hitler and his murderous associates made a high art of propaganda, placing print, radio, movies and staged demonstrations at the service of the Big Lie, and then used their power to commit the most savage collective crime in the history of the world: the Holocaust. They all came to power by persuading many people that [the] road to the future must begin in the lost Eden.

      I don’t mean here to compare the American gun zealots to fascists, Nazis or communists; that would be absurd. But if we are to take away anything valuable from the horrors of the twentieth century, it should be a permanent wariness about the merger of sentimentality with power.

      The American version of this nationalist sentimentality goes something like this: Once upon a time, there was an American Eden. It was populated by brave and rugged individuals who had brought civilization to the wilderness. Every man had a gun. With his gun and the sanction of a Christian God, the white man had tamed the Indians and thus carved out his own piece of the green and verdant earthly paradise. There, on the farm and later in the town, every man was free. Women knew their place. Children were industrious and respectful of their elders.

      The church was a vital presence in the community. Black people were properly invisible. The Federal government was off in distant Washington. There was, of course, no income tax. A man had complete title to his earnings and spent his free time fishing or hunting. The residents of that American Eden avoided foreign entanglements if possible but if there were an unavoidable war, by God, we would win it.

      That Eden never existed, of course, but there are still many Americans who think it did.

    • In each of these cases, there have been very clear indications of trouble ahead yet nothing is done to prevent them. This time, 17 people are dead because a kid who publicly said he wanted to be a professional school shooter was ignored when someone saw something and said something.

      In my lifetime, I have been on the wrong end of a gun twice and during high school, one of my friends was shot and killed-his murder has not been solved. During the same period, two classmates committed suicide. I also enjoy shooting clays and other guns but have not done much of that for a long time.

      My point is that if you want to discuss gun control, then you must admit there are other factors that should also be discussed and acted upon as well. Including the possible failure of existing gun laws to stop this.

    • I remember seeing pictures on reddit of the before and after of the Bataclan shooting in Paris, that really affected me. My cousin was in one of the restaurants one hour before the coordinated attacks, she was lucky.

      Being from New England the Boston Marathon attacks hit really close to home. They used a pressure cooker. In Santa Barbara it was knives. All horrifying acts.

      I know this isn't a popular opinion here but I'm still not a believer that more gun control will result in less violent crimes... although i'm open to the debate. I'm less convinced legislation will be passed any time soon.

      Let's assume that stricter gun control isn't likely to pass anytime soon, what else can be done? More funding for background checks? We need a drivers license to drive a car, perhaps we should be required to take courses and have a license to own a firearm? What else?

    • Let's assume that stricter gun control isn't likely to pass anytime soon, what else can be done? More funding for background checks? We need a drivers license to drive a car, perhaps we should be required to take courses and have a license to own a firearm? What else?

      More effective background checks and firearm licensing requirements are stricter gun control.

      I'm curious what you mean by "gun control isn't likely to pass anytime soon" if your use of the term doesn't include those things. What does gun control mean to you?

    • Fair enough, by definition i'm in favor of more controls and proper funding for background checks. If we could live in a world with no guns i'd also be in favor of it. That's not going to happen. I also don't think in the end it would result in reducing violent crimes to a place we'd be as a civilized society would accept. There's still other tools of destruction like pressure cookers and trucks.

      I don't think we will see any meaningful changes to gun laws especially when it comes to legislation like removing AR15s from the market. It didn't get done when President Obama was in office post Sandy Hook and I doubt the next president after Trump will want to use political capital on it. Statistically almost all gun owners are law abiding citizens, it's nearly impossible to convince them that new gun laws aren't intended to eventually take their guns from them. Death by a thousand cuts is how they view it. If you're in favor of a women's right to choose you can understand the position the NRA takes of never compromising or allowing the line to move. I certainly support that strategy when it comes to women's rights.

      I'm not an expert on politics or guns but my current opinion (and i'm very open to arguments from those more educated then me) is given the amount of political resources it would take for new gun legislation to pass I think we as a society would be better off trying to make cigarettes illegal (480,000 deaths per year in the US), or tackling heart disease (610,000 deaths per year in the US), banning the use of high fructose corn syrup etc.

      6 million people globally die from cigarettes every year, 3x as many people die from Alcohol related causes compared to guns in the US, why don't I see my Facebook feed or social sites in outrage, asking to ban or modify existing laws around cigarettes and alcohol?

      Where should our legislators focus?

      FWIW - I'm mostly playing devil's advocate here. I hate the inaction the comes after our outrage and sadness. It makes me ask questions like the ones above. Where should we focus given limited resources.

    • As the son of a mentally ill mom, I cringe when I hear the angry, racially-charged talk of politicians like Trump. The mentally ill believe the outrageous claims they hear and they show up at places like a pizza parlor in D.C. and fire a weapon because they heard Hillary was running a child sex ring in the non-existent basement.

      The shooter in Florida was fond of his MAGA hat and and racially-charged statements.

    • Most murderers are not mentally ill and most mentally ill are not murderers.

      As a mental health professional with 30+ years experience working with people with mental illness (and as a gun owner), and having read extensively on this issue, I know that mental illness is clearly NOT the most important place to focus when talking about strategies to reduce gun violence. It's an old NRA trick to deflect reasonable talk about violence and gun control by focusing on mental health and insinuating that homicides are comitted primarily by the mentally ill (of course their other tactic is to maintain the laughable assertion that such crimes are committed only "by criminals", which is of course correct since after the commission of a murder, the killer becomes a criminal, conveniently avoiding that before the murder they were just a law abiding gun owner). The mentally ill are so badly stigmatized they make an excellent decoy.

      In looking at the relationship between mental illness and homicide one might ask why 89.5% of all murders are committed by men, while women make up a substantially larger proportion of those with mental ilness ((21.7% females to 14.5% males (NIMH 2016)).

      While most of us might agree that anyone who would be so anti-social so as to murder another human must have something wrong with their mental health, only very few murderers (including mass shooters) might be identified or diagnosed with mental illness before they acted, thus having little impact on the overall rate of homicide. Further, there is no technology that yet exists that would allow us to accurately identify a potential murderer ahead of time and take their guns or otherwise prevent them from committing a crime (and one might ask what the consequences of such technology might be (e.g., "The Minority Report" by Philip K. Dick)). Current law (which varies by state) already requires "mandated reporters" (e.g., doctor, psychologist, social worker, EMT, etc.) to report to the police anyone who appears to be a danger to themself or another; and they then are involuntarily hospitalized and evaluated.

      Finally, despite all the blame mis-placed on the mentally ill for this carnage, our country has consistently horribly under-funded mental health care; during my lengthy career I have seen this only worsen over the years. The current "safety net" is almost non-existent.

      I think making it more difficult for the mentally ill to buy guns would have very little impact on overall gun homicides (though it could potentially reduce suicides). Funding better mental health care would go further to reduce this, but given my experience I do not expect that to happen. The focus should be on laws that would have the most impact on reducing gun violence, and those laws should limit which types of firearms can be purchased by anyone. Eliminating the sale of assault rifles would be a start. Eliminating the sale of hand guns would have the most positive impact.

      Here is a good article: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/06/untangling-gun-violence-from-mental-illness/485906/

    • Fascinating! Thank you. From The Atlantic article:

      “We’re a pretty violent society here in America and the conversation really ought to focus on what can be done to make America a less violent society,” Honberg says. “But because that discussion is so fraught with emotion and divisiveness and political disagreements, it almost seems like the conversation has devolved to a relatively small subset of people who engage in violence, namely people with mental illness.

      Katy Tur covered the Trump campaign from the beginning and wrote a book about it. Some things she said in interviews about it stuck in my mind:

      I mean, there were times where he'd say things like, "Bowe Bergdahl should be executed for abandoning his platoon or his troops." And I remember thinking, this is a presidential candidate who's advocating for a service member to be executed. I mean, I can't believe that I'm hearing this. This is not something that I thought I would see in 2015, 2016. And have an entire crowd of people cheer this idea of somebody getting killed. But they did. And he kept going with it.

      How much do you think rhetoric like that contributes to violence? I'm asking because I don't know.

    • Thanks for this.

      I migrated to the US in 1997 and over the years I have experienced the rise in mass shootings, the commonality of it. One day after another massacre I stopped to actually read the 2nd ammendment, only to be shocked by how twisted its modern interpretation had become. Where is the militia? Where is prudence and regulation? Where is the connection between the right to defend oneself and freedom here?

      Frankly, I am not interested in another crying fest or pity party. How can we show these congressmen what real loss feels like? How can we change the business model of campaign donations to shift the balance of power to families and away from NRA?

    • "How can we change the business model of campaign donations to shift the balance of power to families and away from NRA?"

      IMO the first thing you'd have to do is overturn the "Citizens United VS FEC" decision (here is a really good podcast about it: https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/citizens-united/). Essentially because of one man's mission to "preserve free spech", Justice Kennedy, the future of all legislation in the USA was placed primarily in the hands of donors with the most $$.

      Anyone think there is some way to do undo Citizens United?

    • @flei, what a find. That podcast was utterly fascinating.

      It so happens that the other day I listened to another podcast with Floyd Abrams, perhaps the most prominent free-speech lawyer in the country. He famously defended The New York
      Times against the Nixon administration in the Pentagon Papers case.

      Starting at 45:00, he defends the Supreme Court's decision in Citizen's United, much to the chagrin of his liberal supporters. His point is we shouldn't restrict free speech no matter who is doing the speaking—the media, nonprofits, individuals, or companies. Already individuals contribute far more to campaigns that companies do.

      The money in politics is very troubling and unfair, but better ways to handle it are through transparency and finance laws, not via free speech laws, in his opinion.

    • While the issue of "free speech" could easily be a whole other thread, and i don't want to disrail this thread, i do not see Citizens United as simply an issue of free speech (though that is how Justice Kennedy saw it). The decision is also about money, power and influence in politics. I agree in theory everyone (individuals, the media, nonprofits, or companies) should be allowed to speak their views (though whether "hate speech" should be allowed is another matter for debate); to my way of thinking, i am not so sure that buying votes with money and favors constitutes free speech.

    • If it's not a mental illness, what is it called when someone feels and acts the way the FL shooter felt or the pair who carried out Columbine or Sandy Hook and decides the only solution/way to be relevant is to kill their classmates?

      YouTube near confessions, observations by others (and reported to authorities), the school was concerned enough to advise its staff this kid was not allowed on campus with a backpack demonstrate that you don't need technology to read the handwriting on the wall and see there were opportunities to stop this before it happened. In total, the police visited his house at least 39 times for various complaints including an attack on a neighbor's car, "mentally ill person", domestic disturbance, child/elder abuse, shooting at the neighbor's chickens, etc. Aside from the police, he wasn't well liked by many of his neighbors either.

      He bought the gun 3 days prior to shooting 17 people dead yet there is a pattern over 39 visits by police, two reports to the FBI spanning several years where something could and should have been done however, nothing was. What failed?

      I am willing to entertain sensible changes as long as we agree that in many cases, it's not gun laws or even guns that are the real problem-it's more to do with failure to enforce existing law and that something should be done about that too.

    • I am willing to entertain sensible changes as long as we agree that in many cases, it's not gun laws or even guns that are the real problem-it's more to do with failure to enforce existing law and that something should be done about that too.

      I'm not aware of any existing laws that this particular shooter broke, up until he carried an AR-15 into a school and started shooting people. Are you?

      It's important to make a distinction between people who are mentally ill and people who are diagnosed with a mental illness. Most mass shooters had not been diagnosed with a mental illness before their crimes, but that's not surprising given societal stigmas against seeking mental healthcare and the fact that many people couldn't afford it if they wanted it.

      It's also important to distinguish between mental illness that indicates a person may be a danger to oneself or others and mental illness that's not dangerous. As @flei says, most people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness aren't murderers and aren't a danger to anyone.

      We definitely need to make it easier for mental health professionals, teachers, and others to report people who they believe are dangerous, and to make it easier for authorities to act on those reports. But even if we could prevent all known dangerous people, mentally ill or otherwise, from obtaining firearms, it still wouldn't prevent mass shootings because it's not uncommon for shooters to have no history of suspicious or violent behavior.

      The Las Vegas shooter who killed 58 people last year in the deadliest mass shooting in US history showed no prior signs of dangerous mental illness and had no record of violence. Everyone who knew him said they were surprised by what he did. To this day nobody knows his reasons. But he clearly decided he wanted to shoot a lot of people, and he was able to legally purchase an arsenal of firearms and ammunition with which to do it.

      The one thing all mass shooters have in common is that they all use guns.

      There are many things that can (and should) be done to help eliminate mass shootings, but by far the single most effective thing we can do is limit the availability of firearms. We know this is effective because every single country that's tried it has succeeded in drastically reducing or eliminating mass shootings.

    • "We definitely need to make it easier for mental health professionals, teachers, and others to report people who they believe are dangerous, and to make it easier for authorities to act on those reports."

      As a mental health professional I am aware that it is already very easy to report someone who is dangerous and we are in fact legally obligated to do so. All we have to do is make a call to a psychiatrist, they file a "Section 12" and the police and an ambulance show up and take the dangerous person involuntarily to a hospital for evaluation. They can initially be held against their will for 72 hours (and then longer if deemed necessary by a doctor).

      If you think the present system is ineffective and want to change it, you need to ask some questions: Who gets to decide what constitutes "dangerous"? (Example: They think that "9/11 was a conspiracy" and advocate the overthrow of the government). How might "free speech" be impacted? Who decides what constitutes "mental illness" (currently it was decided by 27 members of an APA task force)? Who decides what to do with this "ill" person? Can/should they be involuntarily hospitalized? For how long? Who decides when they are "better" (e.g., they tell the doctor they changed their mind about killing) before you let them go?)? IMO this can be a very slippery slope. Remember how in the USSR, dissidents who were critical of the government were called "dangerous" and "mentally ill" and were sent to gulags? There are places this is still practiced.

      Further, as I stated earlier, there is no "science" of human psychology that yet exists that would allow us to accurately identify a potential murderer ahead of time (unless they tell us they plan to kill someone (and they mean it)). Do you think that every person who posts such threats on social media should be evaluated? Hospitalized? Incarcerated? If so, we had better start building many more hospitals and prisons.

      Finally, although they keep getting blamed, people with mental illness do not commit most of the murders in this country. I am certain that permanently locking up every person with a diagnosable mental illness would have little to no impact on gun violence in the USA. If you want to make an impact, as demonstrated in numerous other countries, a much better solution is actually simple: stop selling assualt rifles, large magazines and hand guns.

    • As a mental health professional I am aware that it is already very easy to report someone who is dangerous and we are in fact legally obligated to do so. All we have to do is make a call to a psychiatrist, they file a "Section 12" and the police and an ambulance show up and take the dangerous person involuntarily to a hospital for evaluation. They can initially be held against their will for 72 hours (and then longer if deemed necessary by a doctor).

      I'm not a mental health professional, but my stepfather is, and he feels very differently about this. Specifically, he points out that only people who have actually been formally committed by a judge lose their federal right to buy a firearm, and the bar for committing someone is so high that this rarely happens before they hurt someone.

      I don't agree with everything he wrote in support of his position (for instance, I disagree with his stance on the ineffectiveness of assault weapon bans), but I do believe him on this point given that civil commitment is his specialty.

      But in general I think you and I agree that while mental illness may play a small part in gun violence, guns play by far the largest part, and far more blame has been placed on mental illness than is warranted.