Mass shootings: Solving the problems we can

The classic rebuttal to calls for gun control — repeated by many even in the wake of Friday’s Newtown, Conn., massacre of children — is that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”
Americans’ response should be a collective, “Duh.”
Our society is deeply broken. We see it in mass murders. We see it in the less-publicized but daily shootings on the street. We see it in bomb threats and domestic terrorist plots. We see it in broken families. And we saw it in Newtown and Aurora; in Tucson, Blacksburg and Columbine.
No question, guns would be little threat in a society that was not so riddled with evil.
But this is the society we’ve got. If there are solutions to the root problem, they are long-term and complex.
So yes, the best solution would be to fix our society. The fact that we can’t figure out how to do so is not a reason to ignore other problems that contribute to mass murders.
One of those is the ready availability of guns.
Even that solution is not simple. A disturbing percentage of Americans feel their inability to purchase a rifle that shoots 30 rounds as fast as the trigger finger can twitch is an unacceptable abridgment of their liberty.
Gun manufacturers are so determined to profit that they share their proceeds with the National Rifle Association, which uses the money to influence politicians. Honest political debate is impossible in Washington because so many kowtow to NRA voting scorecards.
So it’s a difficult solution, but one we know can work. The United States has the most lenient gun laws among developed nations, as well as the greatest number of mass killings. Australia, in 1996, reacted to a mass shooting that killed 20 by banning semi-automatic rifles, imposing other gun controls and buying back guns. Mass shootings, as frequent there as in America before 1996, immediately dropped to zero.
The people of most developed nations have concluded unrestricted freedom to own guns is less important than the freedom to live without fear of them.
Removing every possible barrier to treatment of the mentally ill is another solution that, while difficult, is doable. The Affordable Care Act would expand treatment of the mentally ill, both through conventional insurance and Medicaid. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is trying to block the reforms. He also closed two mental hospitals.
Yes, we live in a broken society. Yes, the fundamental problem is not guns but people who want to kill people.
Given that we can’t solve those problems, it is time we found the political will to tackle the problems we can.
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4 Comments

Filed under Government regulation, Gun control

4 responses to “Mass shootings: Solving the problems we can

  1. lee mccain

    I absolutely agree with you on gun control. I remember drinking in a pub in Edinburgh with my Scot medical school friends and discussing guns. They were flabbergasted I owned a pistol. “Why” they asked in an astonished and almost alien way. And my answer was tepid and embarrassed when I realized the idiocy of the fact. In the UK you have stabbings or bludgeoning but never what we had on Friday. I am afraid our collective genie in out of the bottle and we could never as a nation gain control of the massive amount of weaponry out there. But we have to try and the Aussie example is hopeful.
    I also agree that our mental health system is abysmal. Access to mental health care is an extraordinarily important piece to this puzzle. I will disagree however that ACA will make a difference. Most psychiatrist and counselors take cash only. Even with good Blue Cross getting a patient evaluated is next to impossible unless you are willing to fork out over 200 dollars up front. There is simple too few psychiatrist even to make a dent in the problem even if they were willing to see these kinds of patients.
    I also will somewhat disagree on psychiatric hospitals. Studies show most patients do better in small group homes, not imprisonment in a isolating decrepit facility devoid of human interaction. Certainly my rotation at Bryce taught me there are those who cannot function in society what so ever. But we are talking about functional citizens here who instead need close, but outpatient follow up.

    • mile304

      Thanks for the input. I would think the cash requirement would be precisely because coverage is so weak. Also, I would think the preexisting condition exclusions are especially problematic with mental illness. Am I missing something?

      • lee mccain

        Cynically, I actually do not think improving the coverage or removing preexisting illness clauses will help (or help on any scale that would impact the issue) simply because it will still be a fraction of what psychiatrist can charge operating independent of insurance or government programs. I do not foresee those psychiatrist who do not take Medicaid or Medicare changing. This is the model many physicians who function outside the hospital setting are moving to. In fact many of the physicians in Huntsville are exploring concierge medicine as a viable option. I will post these links which I think gives fascinating insight into the state of the medical profession in 2012.

        http://www.physiciansfoundation.org/healthcare-research/a-survey-of-americas-physicians-practice-patterns-and-perspectives

        http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/24/your-money/dealing-with-doctors-who-accept-only-cash.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

        There are simply too few psychiatrist and mental health workers now to address the problem our nation faces. This is why time and time again we hear these stories of lapses in care and falling through the cracks of a broken system. Mental illness in the United States is a colossal issue (and a very under reported issue) but one that would take a monumental and costly endeavor to change. I cannot tell you how many times I have been frustrated by trying to obtain care for one of my patients for suicidal ideation to drug issues to schizophrenia and hit a stone wall in desperation. I think a massive expansion of mental health clinics would certainly curtail some of what we are seeing in our current gun crime crisis but that unfortunately (like gun control) will take more political will and fortitude than any of our politicians have.

  2. The Truth

    I understand Mr. Fleischauer, you are one of those leftist democrats, who can’t go to the bathroom without being told which hand to wipe with by the government. I understand you are weak like that. But that don’t mean the rest of us are. Your editorials are a fucking joke.

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