Umpqua shooting: Beyond gun control and mental illness

Mass shootings are not just about gun control and mental health.


NEW CASTLE, Pa., October 5, 2015 — Political reactions to the shootings at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College were predictable.

President Obama and other gun control proponents were quick to seize upon yet another tragic opportunity to bolster support for gun control. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and other conservative political leaders were quick to circumvent the gun control debate by placing the blame on mental illness.

As mass shootings have become increasingly common, America’s political system has been under mounting pressure to act. Unfortunately, both sides have decided to waste time, energy, funding and political capital on old ideas that barely qualify as solutions.

American leaders are being intellectually dishonest and lazy. These massacres cannot be legislated away; there will always be tragedies that result from violent criminal acts. At best, Americans as a society and individuals can minimize the number of these events and mitigate the damage done when they occur.

With regard to imposing an assault weapons ban, placing limits on magazine capacity, taxing ammunition and restricting access to raw materials like gunpower, the Second Amendment prevents government from limiting the rights of individuals without due process.

The Second Amendment was designed to protect individuals from the federal government. That is often ignored by gun control advocates because the U.S. military has such powerful weapons that individuals cannot hope to defend themselves against the military.

At the founding of the nation, however, the guns available to citizens were equivalent to those available to the military. Consequently, the Second Amendment does not solely provide citizens with the right to bear arms for the purposes of hunting, collecting or self-defense; it provides far broader protections.

Meanwhile, one of the most important lessons of the war on terror has been ignored. The use of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in Iraq and Afghanistan serves as reminder that individuals have the ability to cause great destruction with the use of homemade arms.

Putting guns and security guards in every school and every classroom is cost-prohibitive, dangerous in itself, and ineffective. Gunmen can compensate by targeting those with guns first and by using explosives in crowded spaces.

Banning the manufacture, importation and sale of assault weapons might help stem violence in the Mexican drug cartel war, but these efforts will do little to stop random massacres by those willing to die and cause harm to others.

Furthermore, America’s mental health system has long been underfunded, underdeveloped and underutilized. Building an effective, efficient mental health system will help save lives, whether or not someone’s emotional breakdown ends in a mass shooting.

The simple truth is that violence is not a mental illness. It is a natural expression of human thought and biology. Thanks to biological diversity, some people are more inclined to violence than others. Although natural violence is destructive, unhealthy and dysfunctional in most social settings, a violent person does not necessarily suffer from a mental illness. Thus addressing mental illness will not prevent mass violence.

That said, pundits are right to focus on the weaknesses of gun laws and the mental health issues of suspects.

Subjecting gun buyers to wait periods before they can take their guns home might help discourage spontaneous acts of violence while closing loopholes in background check laws can also help prevent the wrong people from buying guns.

The “gun show loophole,” which allows private sales without background checks, should have been closed years ago. Legislators should pass clean legislation that immediately addresses the issue.

When it comes to mental illness, there needs to be a means of temporarily flagging individuals who present a significant danger. In order to uphold the Second Amendment Rights of the mentally ill, however, their must be a review process to ensure reporting is valid and an appeals process is put in place for those who are no longer a danger.

On the other hand, the only truly effective means of dealing with widespread, devastating social issues, such as mass shootings, bullying, gang violence, suicide, poverty and a whole host of socioeconomic problems, is by reshaping how society deals with marginalized individuals.

The American culture as a whole has grown extremely egocentric to the point people are too focused on their immediate needs and increasingly apathetic toward those in need.  In turn, the ability of communities to address social issues and function as a community has suffered.

Schools, other community organizations and all individuals need to do more to seek out those outcasts who are likely to engage in these destructive types of activities.  Moreover, America cannot simply legislate away massacres; violence in communities can only be stopped when Americans act as a community willing to look out for those most in need of community support.

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My name is Matthew Justin Geiger; I currently hold a BS in physics and psychology based politics from Allegheny College of Meadville, Pennsylvania. I am the creator/manager/editor of ​The Washington Outsider. I am a freelance writer, political analyst, commentator, and scientist presenting my views through news sites like The Washington Outsider, Communities Digital News (CDN) and I also host the shows "The Washington Outsider" and "FocusNC" on local news station startup NCTV45 in New Castle, PA. In addition, I have written a short story collection, “​Dreaming of​ Other Realities,” two novellas “​Alien Assimilation” and “​The Survivor,” and a poetry collection, “​A Candle Shrouded in Darkness” available on ​Amazon. My goals are to offer my opinions and skills to those who are in need of an honest, professional consultant or freelance writer.