It was a typical coffee gathering for us “old/retired guys.” A nice Wyoming spring day outside with another semester and another school year coming to an end. It’s difficult not to feel optimistic about the world when the stars align like this every year in early May.
Yet, in this moment of everyday euphoria, it all came crashing down when a 30-some stranger (I’d never seen before) walked into the coffee shop with a gun strapped to his hip like he was walking out of a 1950s Hollywood Western movie set—I don’t doubt that’s how he saw himself too.
This has happened to me before when I was in a Rock Springs Loaf & Jug store; another time at a Walmart in Riverton. Each time, my reaction is the same—just leave. Whatever I’m doing at that moment, I’m not doing any longer, I am simply getting out of that setting as quickly as I can without causing others to panic.
It’s one thing if a police officer is in the same space as me knowing they are armed. Although there are no guarantees even with armed police officers, at least I know they are thoroughly vetted when it comes to their line of work and carrying a weapon. With “Joe Cowboy” walking into a public space with a gun, I have zero knowledge of the rationale behind his self-appointed armed status.
In such instances I’m not going to stick around to find out whether he’s simply some paranoid, insecure White dude who needs to announce to the world that he is carrying a gun and is here to save us all, or he is some insecure White dude with a chip on his shoulder and has intentions of using the gun indiscriminately in the form of a mass shooting. If all I have is one’s appearance to go on, I’ll always error to the latter.
Hanging around to discern the intentions of an armed stranger is just another version of Russian roulette in my book.
And unless you’re a fool or have had your head in the sand lately, my reaction shouldn’t seem too extreme giving the frequency of mass shootings in the U.S.
And, while I’m here… fuck the N.R.A. and fuck the 2nd Amendment, period.
“This American carnage stops RIGHT HERE, and stops RIGHT NOW.” —Fuckface von Clownstick. (And the people clapped)
It’s been well over a week, so it would seem now is good time to start talking about gun laws—before another mass shooting shakes the country to its core again. (Never mind the everyday mass shootings that injure and kill only a handful of our fellow citizens.)
As authorities in law, psychology, and other professions sift through the evidence more than a week after the Las Vegas shooting, everyone remains dumbfounded in the case of Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter. Even those closest to him (family, the gambling and gun-selling communities) are clueless and never had a vibe regarding his character of darkness that he kept from everyone so well. He certainly was an anomaly, but that’s how distant we are to addressing mental illness as a solution to mass murders. Think about it: its been over a week after the Las Vegas massacre, and we still have zilch.
Its odd that those who advocate curing mental illness is the solution to preventing mass killings, have no particulars when it comes to how we get there. It’s just this vague, clouded idea—much like asking for directions to a location and your told, “Yeah, I know the place, but I’ve never seen it, but if you go up the road a distance, I’m sure you’ll find it.”
This seems like a good place/time to ask why gun violence is always linked to mental illness? I think our society has a tendency to make the two synonymous. As to say, gun violence is the result of mental illness and mental illness is the result of gun violence. One thing to keep in mind—based on research—the overwhelming majority of people with mental illnesses are no more violent than the overwhelming majority of people in general.
Simply stated, the mental health discussion to a safer community that carries firearms is nothing more than a smokescreen for the gun advocates of our society. It’s simply a diversion with an impossible solution that keeps as many people away from talking about real solutions. This is a quintessential example of “kicking the can” down the road.
Can you imagine what advances in mental health it will take to reach a point where outward-appearing everyday guys can be found-out before they reach their inward critical mass to do the unthinkable (which has materialized far too many times)? It will be nothing short of placing mind-readers in gun stores, the workplace, and the homes of everyone who is suspect.
And how far do we go in lumping the various attributes that lead to violence with mental illness? Most agree that things like schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, and major depression can fall under the mental illness umbrella, but what about those with a history of child abuse, binge drinking, or simply being male—because those things are also linked to violence. Then there are those who have experienced resentment, revenge, social isolation, a tendency to externalize blame, a fascination with violent video games, and a passion for weaponry.
The immediate answer to reducing the number of mass murders in America isn’t in wrestling and sorting out the far-off mysteries and fuzzy-logic of mental illness, but rather in implementing concrete, extensive and tougher gun laws that mirror the requirements of other dangerous operations such as the various levels of licensing in the operation of a vehicle.
When it comes to mental illness warning signs, it seems fair that anyone who has over, x-number of guns (a number agreed upon by a rationale-minded group) and a bunch of ammunition is a candidate for some kind of mental illness screening. And, short of legitimate gun collectors, those who possess vast arsenals of guns and ammo, might this passion be an extension of their army-playing days in their youth. (If that isn’t a form of mental illness, I don’t know what is.)
Should we make drastic improvements in mental health that allow us to identify a mass-murderer before they act, then we can talk about the elimination of gun laws. For starters, if you want to stop mass murders, require every person who has x-number of guns and ammo, or owns an “assault-style, non-hunting” gun to get regular screening.
Getting a driver’s license, a car license, and insurance is a true inconvenience when it comes to driving. However, it doesn’t prevent us from securing our right to drive, it’s just a precautionary to ensure that we can carry out the task without being a great risk to society. And so, owning a gun should be the same kind of inconvenience for anyone wishing to possess a firearm and/or ammunition. Besides, if you’re a “good-guy-with-a-gun,” you shouldn’t object to a little inconvenience, right?
Despite all of this, I’m reluctant to believe that if the day should come when we can identify people with mental illness quickly, the NRA-gun lobby will likely still resist anything that prevents people from getting their hands on guns.
For the time being, America has long since disqualified itself when it comes to “greatness” in its tolerance for continuous massacres of its innocent citizens. Any great country would have addressed and solved this problem by now. Australia… now there’s a great country. New Zealand… another great country. Japan… yes. Etc.