Yes, LaPierre, Let’s talk about armed guards and a Mentally Ill Database

“The Bushmaster is not an assault weapon, it is a hunting rifle suitable for hunting small game such as squirrels.”

“Let’s get rid of all gun laws.”

“We don’t have a gun problem, we have a people problem.”

“What we really need to do is get a mental illness database, round up all the mentally disturbed people.”

“The real problem is that these shooters are going places – schools that are filled with defenseless women with defenseless kids. We need more aggressive armed men in schools.”

These are just some of the  more appallingly ridiculous statements I’ve heard this week in regards to the Sandyhook mass shootings. Predictably, instead of showing a willingness to acknowledge that a proliferation of assault weapons and high capacity clips results in the ability to kill lots of people in a short amount of time, the pro gun rights bunch are so focused on their belief in a perceived right to bear arms (what next, nukes?) that they are willing to deprive a large swath of the rest of the population – people with mental health disorders, women who work in public education and, yes, even children, of their constitutional rights.

In my office, on my desk I have a thick manual, called the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition. Contained within its pages are hundreds of different mental health disorders. None of these disorders have high predictability for mass murder. Mass murder, in fact, is very low frequency. In point of fact, there is no consistent disorder or disorders that has been pinpointed to occur among mass murderers. Asperger’s, Schizophrenia, Depression, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, among others have been mentioned.

I have had many conversations with gun owners who are fervent believers in depriving those who they consider “mentally ill” of gun rights, of privacy rights, of freedom. Until I mention that that would, of course, include substance abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, in which case they develop new respect for the rights of the mentally ill, because, of course, I have hit on their own personal disorders. In fact, the combination of guns, PTSD and substance abuse is responsible for more violence than schizophrenia.

As a scientist/practitioner I am interested in action based on statistics. What do the statistics show? Mass murder is highest when access to assault weapons and high capacity gun clips is easiest. Mass murderers are overwhelmingly male. Arming more aggressive men does not prevent mass murder – Fort Hood was awash in armed aggressive men, there were two armed guards at Columbine. Depriving individuals with mental health disorders of their HIPPA and constitutional rights will not prevent mass murder – neither Columbine nor Sandyhook weapons were purchased by the killers.

My husband loves the natural logic that follows from the above, which is – men should not be allowed to have guns.

One final thought. If, as the gun rights folks propose, we should identify and prevent those with mental health disorders from having access to guns, how and who will be in charge of that? At point of sale? Mental health professionals? I for one, as a psychologist, will volunteer. Frankly, it is the guy with the Bushmaster and the pathological fear of squirrels, the assault weapon hoarder I’m worried about. My only question is – what am I to do about the police officers I work with, who through the normal course of their duties, develop PTSD?


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