74% of all pyschiatric illness occurs before the age of 24, and 50% before the age of 14, and between 20-25% of people will suffer depression requiring treatment at some point in their life. How come a quarter of the population isn't out blasting away at anything that moves?

74% of all pyschiatric illness occurs before the age of 24, and 50% before the age of 14, and between 20-25% of people will suffer depression requiring treatment at some point in their life. How come a quarter of the population isn’t out blasting away at anything that moves?

In America, (in particular, but in chardonnay-sipping middle-class households everywhere), it has become very faddish to spout the nonsense “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. And to tortuously link that to a reassuring argument that if only we could keep guns out of the hands of the homicidally insane or depressed, then all would magically be well and our children can skip down the street in the sunshine, free from fear.

I’m sorry to be so blunt, but I call “Bullshit”.

The fact is, 99.99 (recurring) % of mentally ill people (including many, many people you know personally) never pick up a gun and kill anyone. If a gun is available nearby they are very likely to pick it up and kill themselves, sometimes on a tragic whim, but that’s not what is being debated here.

Indeed, mentally ill people are much more likely to be the victims of gun violence than the perpetrators.

Discuss. Please. Before this meme becomes generally accepted, and a soothing (but mythological) salve for our communal consciences.

The fact that murderers are often found to have committed their crimes while the balance of their mind was disturbed is irrelevant. The vast – vast – majority of homicides enacted using guns (or any other weapon) are enacted by people the courts subsequently judge to be perfectly sane. Or imperfectly sane, but not quite insane, either.

In the opinion of this writer, the availability of guns is, of course, the primary cause of gun violence.

No guns, no gun violence.

Fewer guns, fewer violent gun episodes.

Lots and lots of guns, married to a gung-ho macho culture where people are de-sensitised almost from birth to violence, and gun violence specifically, and where police and armed forces frequently use guns in a manner that at best is careless, and at worst is culpable homicide, and you have you entirely predictable result: lots and lots of gun violence.

If you’re going to do something about tackling gun control, in America or anywhere else, do it nationally, do it with wide popular support, do it married to a massive public education campaign, and know that you will probably have to do it consistently for decades before you see any measurable result.

Anything else is just playing with the memories of the dead, and the understanding of the living, in the most monstrous and despicable manner.

If you agree with me that mental illness is more serious than a convenient excuse to cover up the need for action, and/or if you agree that the mentally ill are being unreasonably pilloried in this debate, I urge you to share this blog, either by re-blogging it, or mention it and link to it on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Stumble Upon etc. Thank you.

  1. jvdix says:

    I for one don’t think we (and I refer to our species, not just to my country) know enough about mental health to make consistently good decisions on who should and should not own a firearm, or pretty much anything else. I would like to see a distinction made between mental health and behavioral health, which might at least force us to focus away from what we think might be going on in someone else’s head, and towards behavior which we can see. I don’t think that will make our decisions perfect, or even all that much better, but at least it has a chance of being about facts, and I think we have to try some distinction.


    • A very interesting observation. My point of view is somewhat simpler, in that I think it is highly unlikely that we will be able to spot everyone who could go rogue with a gun – we may be able to ameliorate the problem imperfectly, that’s true – and the solution is less access to guns. Or at the very least, less access to the most harmful types of guns used in massacre situations. That, though, will do nothing to lessen the toll from single shot handguns in homes.


  2. Richard Ember says:

    Yolly, I am hardly likely to engage in a debate with somebody who can write this sort of nonsense that would make even CNN blush.


  3. AsGrayAsGray says:

    Thought-provoking piece, Yolly.
    I’ve pondered this, and I do agree that passing the buck to ‘the mentally ill’ is a convenient means to diluting the collective guilt over our inability to deal with the question of preventing gun tragedies.
    But, personally, I like guns for a number of reasons – mostly admiration of the technology and the ‘craftsmanship’. I don’t own one, but would like to one day be able to sit on my couch and clean my rifle, or whatever. Or maybe I should find a more productive hobby… On top of that, I really hate any form of prohibition.
    But then, how do you stop people, who may have ‘snapped’ at some level, from taking innocent lives in the easiest possible manner (with a firearm of some description)?
    And why aren’t there massacres committed with knives? (Occasional spree kill/serial killer or historical pre-gunpowder events notwithstanding.)
    Is it because of that desensitisation to gun violence generally? Is it a removal from reality caused by the ‘remote’ nature of the process of killing with a firearm (pull a trigger here, bullet kills over there – I didn’t kill anyone, it was that bullet that did it…)?? Knives must be too ‘up close and personal’ if that’s the case.
    In any case, if we ban weapons, there is every chance the ‘real crackpots’ will get their hands on what they need anyway (you’ll never get to a state of ‘no guns’, without a sudden outbreak of World Peace) – but very probably it will reduce the overall incidence of gun massacres.
    A key enabler of this type of gun violence is definitely the desensitisation caused by the saturation, glorification, and ‘third person’ nature of the action movie and the video game. But that is not where the blame should be laid.
    The root cause has to be the tolerance of society to allowing those personality types, who are adversely impacted by what they absorb from TV/film/game violence, to get to that point where they ‘snap’ and decide to kill. If we could just do better at being an inclusive and caring community, wherever we are in the world, and take care of the issues that create personalities who are prepared to take and waste innocent lives along with their own.
    How to make that happen, however…


    • All very true and well observed – the key thing about guns is exactly as you say, they kill at a distance and very easily. I think it was Hitchcock who observed that it is actually quite difficult to stab someone to death.


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