o The Editor:
It seems to me that we nonviolent citizens are faced with two choices: 1) Buy everyone in the country bulletproof jackets and steel helmets and stay indoors in our homes as much as possible or, 2) Stop moaning, “It’s happened again” (two mass shootings in less than 24 hours over a recent weekend, taking 31 lives) and “thoughts and prayers,” and all the rest of the bulls**t, and try to take a rational view of this epidemic, if “rational” is even possible in today’s divisive climate.
Now, before you conclude that I’m just “another doctor who should stay in his own lane,” doctors treat epidemics: smallpox, polio, AIDS, etc., and are beginning to consider gun violence in the same way. We’ve made headway in treating those I mentioned and more, for example getting the billions of narcotic pain pills out of the picture, along with the company supplier/pushers, will go a long way in treating our current narcotic and overdose epidemic.
If a new, violent epidemic of Ebola, a disease almost always fatal, invaded our country, there would be a hue and cry to find an effective treatment. If some other as-yet-unknown virus started killing our children, we would be screaming for and struggling to find a cure. Not so much with the gun violence epidemic. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” . . . with guns, right?
Concealed carry, with no training and no license and no background check is legal in Missouri. Now there’s currently a move toward arming teachers and/or placing armed guards in schools, but of course “with training.” Even police, with their extensive, ongoing training have difficulty deciding, in a split second, “shoot or not shoot.” I don’t know how we could train teachers to that level. They may well consider, “I’m about to take someone’s life,” and in that second or two, they’ll be dead. Armed guards would have to be professionals, and that seems unlikely to me. Police departments are having difficulty finding recruits, which isn’t surprising; they’re paid a pittance to put their lives on the line every day.
Considering a breakdown of violent deaths, suicide is now the most prevalent cause, then accidents. Mass murder is responsible for only a very small percentage. Suicide is now the second most common cause of death in young people, following accidents. Consider these statistics, it seems to me that we need more full-time mental health workers in schools, not more guns.
As with treating any new disease, we have to find out what’s causing it. With mass killings, of course, it’s who’s doing it. The history of these episodes tells us that it’s most often young white males, isolated, angry, disaffected from society, looking for a means to express their anger, sometimes with a “manifesto.”
These kids are present in literally every school (I can remember them from my high school years, back in the Stone Age) and students and teachers know who they are. In the past, they were considered “weird” or “loners,” and they drove away, with their appearance and behavior, the active and social kids around them. Now, they may well be dangerous, bombs ready to explode.
They’re not generally psychotic. They may well be suicidal, as witnessed by shooters killing themselves before they can be arrested. “Copycat” killings may play a part, not that they suddenly think, “Hey, I want to do that too,” but rather seeing others as they are and seeing mass murder as a possible revenge for all the people who have treated them badly — in their minds.
Why don’t women engage in this violence? Part of it is testosterone, the hormone of anger and violence (among other things). I’ve often had the thought that, if all the nations in the world were led by women, we’d have a lot fewer wars. This, in my estimation, is a good reason to elect women as our presidents. Old, fat white men in Congress or the presidency are doing a terrible job.
I don’t have answers but obviously, I wish I did. Unless and until we have the political will to make necessary changes, we will go on killing each other.