George Graham

Mental Health and Gun Control in Spotlight Again

This booking photo provided by the Fort Worth Police …

Madmen and guns, what a mix! Once again a mentally ill gunman has gone on a rampage killing innocent people for no apparent reason. It was a madman who slaughtered those kids in Connecticut, a madman who sprayed that theater in Colorado with deadly bullets, a madman who shot Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in the head and killed several people attending her town meeting in Arizona – including a 9-year-old girl.

And now another madman has gone on a deadly rampage at the Navy Yard in Washington DC.

These shooters might be judged legally responsible in a court of law, but in book they are stark, raving mad.

Surely, the folks in charge of things can see a pattern here?

Surely, even the most avid gun nut can see how crazy it is to let homicidal maniacs get hold of guns, especially military-grade weapons?

I know how much money is at stake, and I know money talks, especially here in America. But even the National Rifle Association and  the arms manufacturers who fund that mighty lobbying group must realize they could be targets themselves some day?

Random violence is – well – random. The victims are chosen by chance, and could be anyone – even the arms manufacturer riding to his office in his limousine. You cannot effectively protect yourself against random violence because there is no pattern to guide you, no precedent to go by, no motive to provide a warning.

Like the rain, random violence falls upon the just and unjust alike.

The explanations you hear are nonsense. No, as it turns out, the madmen do not necessarily choose gun-free zones for their rampages. No, the best defense against a bad guy with a gun is not a good guy with a gun. The good guy’s bullets can prove as deadly as the bad guy’s bullets. Often, it is the innocent bystander who falls dead, and the fatal bullet may not necessarily come from the bad guy; it can can come from a law enforcement officer or some other well-meaning shooter responding to the attacker.

Even gun control laws might not be foolproof. They might have weeded out some of the shooters. But American society also needs better surveillance of mentally ill people who could become violent.

Take the case of Aaron Alexis, the 34-year-old defense contractor employee who killed a dozen people and injured several more in that rampage at the Navy installation in Washington DC on Monday morning. According to the Associated Press:

Alexis (pictured above) had been suffering a host of serious mental problems, including paranoia and a sleep disorder, and had been hearing voices in his head, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation was still going on. He had been treated since August by Veterans Affairs for his mental problems, the officials said.

Alexis had been a full-time Navy reservist from 2007 to early 2011, leaving as a petty officer third class. You would think that someone would’ve spotted his mental problems during his enlistment and subsequent employment with a defense contractor.

These people have access to weapons, after all. Someone should be checking to make sure they can be trusted to use them responsibly. And someone who hears voices, can’t sleep and suffers from paranoia would not be on my list of responsible gun users.

Yet Alexis was able to get hold of an AR-15 assault rifle and a shotgun, in addition to the handgun that he took from a police officer at the scene. And he used a valid pass to get into the Navy Yard.

No gun control alone won’t stop the violence. But it would help. Congress needs to act on that – and act immediately. And, while they’re at it, the folks entrusted with our lives and livelihoods should be earnestly seeking ways to keep the mentally ill from having access to deadly weapons.

Click here for the AP report.

About the author

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com