Does the Umpqua shooting demand better mental health access?
MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, MD., October 3, 2015 – As another week ends, we are again hearing about a mass shooting. In a small town in Oregon, at the Umpqua Community College, 18 people were shot, 9 of them fatally by a heavily armed young man.
The shooter was a 26 year old male born in California. He had amassed 13 fire arms, purchased by him or his family legally. He also had body armor that may have been worn during the shooting.
Following a recent trend, police officials from the community, Roseburg, refused to utter the shooter’s name. Their reason was that this would give the shooter notoriety that could encourage others to follow his example.
With or without his name, his actions will be and need to be discussed. Not mentioning his name does not erase the heinous act or provides any consolation to the victims, including family and friends.
It is also too late to worry about the “copycat effect.”
In 2015 alone, we have had over 290 mass shootings, defined as four or more injuries or deaths, in our country according to the ShootingTracker.com website.
While a review of the shootings seem to reflect mostly criminal events or shootings where the assailant and the victims knew each other personally (domestic violence), it is a shockingly large number of people dead at the hands of a gun toting assailant.
However the number of shooters that exhibit mental illness must be examined.
Lack of knowledge is never conducive to finding solutions. This approach by the local authorities trivializes the nefarious actions.
There are reports that the Umpqua Community College shooter had posted recently in at least one forum that he was very unhappy, especially about his romantic relationships, and that he intended to commit an act of violence. He mentioned schools as a possible place for his deed.
Again we see the profile of a person who didn’t fit in and blamed others for his problems. Early reports mention that the shooter suffered from mental or emotional illness.
Why so many fire arms?
The number of firearms carried by the shooter suggests he wanted to commit serious damage.
The question is why no one questioned his reason for owning 13 fire arms. Even more egregious is that no licensing/background-gathering authority questioned this fact. The answer is that there is probably no legal mandate for the authorities to gather and cross reference gun purchases and if there is, there are no funds to adequately critically analyze such cases.
Any reasonable person has to ask, should anyone in his close family or friends believe that the accumulation of fire arms by a mentally unstable person could be a sign of danger?
With today’s technology and adequate legislation, there are easy alternatives that would protect the identity of a gun owner and also provide some warning to authorities of outliers like those that accumulate firearms. Will the paranoia of gun owners and the greed of the gun industry and the NRA succumb to reason and allow some common sense legislation?
Is this episode the result of mental or emotional sickness?
So far we only know that the suffered from mental illness and felt marginalized. He was angry and felt misunderstood. We will find out during the investigation more about his mental illness and whether it was diagnosed and acknowledged.
Even if his illness had been diagnosed, it would not have made a difference. Due to privacy laws, this kind of information is usually not made available.
Even when mental or emotional illness is diagnosed, getting treatment for it can be highly challenging. Insurance companies have limits as to the treatment costs. Even in the case of Medicaid for those that qualify, the choices are full hospitalization or nothing.
Recurring treatment is only offered by a few agencies, usually with a long waiting list. Even worse, many mental health professionals have opted out of Medicare/Medicaid, so finding one that takes insurance is very taxing.
Psychiatrists and psychologists have to go to school for many years, they sacrifice so that they can have a remunerative career. The very low rates that are paid by insurance, especially Medicare/Medicaid, and the arcane and time consuming submission requirements force many to opt out of insurance payments. They may reduce their rates, which are still out of the reach of many, to avoid insurance involvement.
So the caretaker (even the sufferer himself) for a mentally/emotionally ill person has few choices:
- Join the waiting list for free or low costs services and wait a long time to be treated;
- Have a complete breakdown and be hospitalized;
- Pay out of pocket, $200 to $300 per hour for psychiatric services.
Maybe the question should not be why so many mass killing, but why are not there more. Maybe the only deterrent is the cost of a gun, an unforeseen benefit of our capitalist system.
Mario Salazar, the 21st Century Pacifist, is appalled by the accumulation of fire arms by the citizenry and the damage it causes to our society. He is on Twitter (@chibcharus), Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook (Mario Salazar).