Although the typical context of the comments ends up being about guns, I wonder if all the existing laws are really being enforced? It seems that there are many laws on the books already and that such laws do not prevent such events from occurring even in states that have some of the most restrictive laws regulating firearms. Before we rush to enact new laws, we ought to at least find out if the current laws are being enforced and, if not, why not.
I know first hand the issues related to mental illness and unhealthy emotions. It seems that the isolation created by a society that lives by screens and a pandemic that put fear in our hearts toward others have only increased the urgency and the incidence of individuals with mental illness and the inability to deal with fear, rage, anger, and suspicion. The need to diagnose is more related to the insurance industry which lives and dies by medical encoding than it is to the health and well-being of those troubled. Growing up in a small town (700 people), I know we had individuals who would be diagnosed with autism, depression, schizophrenia, and bi-polar disorders today. They probably lived their whole lives without a diagnosis but they did enjoy the support system of a small community in which they lived relatively free and productive lives -- under the healthful gaze and with the encouragement and boundaries placed for them by a whole town of family members (though not many by blood).
The loss of neighborhood and community and the isolation that has accompanied our technological advances have ripped the support systems and boundaries from these people and left them alone to deal with their issues. A medical community in love with pills has medicated these folks instead of dealing with them and their needs through therapy and a system of support. I would suggest that the increasing demand for rights and the decreasing willingness of those demanding rights to live responsibility with each other, accountable to each other, and within the sphere of shared values and a common morality makes it more likely that such events will not soon end -- gun laws or not.
The other issue in this has to do with those 18 or younger. I fear that families are not providing enough supervision of their children or acting to properly store firearms in the home and this gives access to weapons by those who do not have the moral fabric or the experience to second guess impulse or hold in check their anger and rage. While it is not my intent to blame the family, we have all seen and lamented the decline of the family, the many stresses upon the home when both parents are out earning a living, or when a single parent must should the full weight of the financial welfare, household duties, and parenting responsibilities. Again, isolation from extended family by a mobile society and the decline of neighborhoods and communities is working against rather than for such troubled families and stressed households.
I also am deeply troubled by the graphic violence a typical child sees growing up. Whether this comes from so-called reality programming or video games or or movies or other sources, it is impossible to survey the violent acts that are routinely a part of entertainment, amusement, and news and then say it has had no impact. It is incredible to me that some of those responsible for the most violent movies produced in Hollywood complain about the gun laws but refuse to consider their own contribution to the violent society in which we now live. We have robbed our children of a carefree childhood and squandered technology away in the unsocial conversations that have solidified the division, fear, and antagonism that marks life in America today. What will the future hold for a nation that refuses to admit that there is right and wrong? What can we expect when we have surrendered the imagination of our children to graphic images of sex and violence that enjoy the protection of our bill of rights while poisoning the minds and hearts of our kids?
While we are at it, if you think the health care system in America is broke, try working within the mental health systems of our nation, states, communities, and locales. The lack of hospitals, residential treatment centers, and urgent care providers for mental health emergencies is shocking for our land of plenty. Furthermore, it is a joke what happens to someone who is brought into an emergency room for a mental health issue. An overworked and under trained staff member will ordinarily work to get the mental health emergency stabilized for now and a contract agreed to in which the individual promises not to harm himself or herself or anyone else and then they go home. Maybe they get a prescription in hand (but not always a means to pay for the medication) and there may not exist any family support to make sure the individual takes the medication as prescribed. The whole thing ends up being an exercise in NIMER -- not in my emergency room! We shove the problem onto police who are already overworked and given far too many jobs not quite related to law enforcement but it is just what we have done and seem inclined to continue to do. Finally, we do not pay our mental health workers the way we compensate physicians and other medical professionals and so they end up being over worked, burned out, and frustrated by their lonely job and limited resources.
Before we rush to talk about gun laws, let us have a real discussion about the decline of the family, neighborhood, and community; about the violence that our children are exposed to from their earliest days; about the broken mental health care system; and of our refusal to accept the responsibilities that accompany our liberties. While such acts of violence should come as no surprise to a society in which children in the womb must live under the tyranny of adult whims, it does not excuse us from our culpability in the loss of innocence that has become normative in the name of progress today. So far I am still waiting to hear that conversation begin.... In the meantime, our hearts go out to those who loss their loved ones in such tragedies -- at least until the next news cycle distracts us with something else.