We’re a Terribly Gullible Lot–Mental Illness/Gun Fraud

      What is mental illness? What is a gun?  

   I can take an educated stab at, bring experiences of loved ones to bear on, a reasonably competent layman’s knowledge of what constitutes mental illness. I can speak fairly well to certain of its varieties, some of its pharmaceutical and interactive therapies. Yet I cannot, even with my knowledge and hard-won, sorrow-won, intimate understanding of what the afflicted endure and occasionally overcome triumphantly…I cannot make anything approaching nuanced public policy proposals that stand shot of helping to stem the kinds of horrors we’ve seen. I certainly cannot predict with any hope of sustained accuracy, and this despite my long career working with young people (a handful quite disturbed if not wholly insane) who might grow into bell-tower, movie theater, mall, church, synagogue, or classroom killers.   

     And yet I know for certain what a gun is, how it works, what high-powered rifles are for, what large-capacity clips allow for, what the gun-show loophole accomplishes, what concealed-carry laws do, and what the relationships between gun lobbies and weapons manufacturers wreak.    

     I can bring considerable understanding of weapons-based issues to public policy debate in ways that I cannot lend serious and lasting input to debates about the early identification and treatment of potential mentally ill killers. And I’m confident this speaks for many of you because weapons are tangible and finite and approachable in ways that mental illness is not and won’t ever be. Mental illness can, even for our finest psychiatrists, psycho-pharmacologists and psychologists, feel like grasping soap in a shower. This isn’t to argue that our mental health community ought to abandon the complex of medical issues mass-murders thrust upon us. They should research. They must never give up. 

     Yet the more I hear spokespeople for the gun lobby, for weapons manufacturers and their congressional apologists, promote the idea that the root problem and the cure is all/mostly about the mentally ill, and about how dreadful it is that ours is a culture that gives short shrift to the early identification and treatment of the suffering, the more I know that  

          . they could not care less about the suffering of the mentally ill because this same cabal consistently helps to stymie even minimally adequate public expenditures for mental health services, and that

          . their sole and, to date, accomplished goal is to shift our focus to those more slippery, less concrete issues whose understanding and reform require long-term applied, specialized education and skill, and as far as possible away from what is, in fact, doable by all of us  —  demanding common-sense restrictions on the trade and ownership of the weapons that enrich them at the expense of our far too easily murdered citizens.

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