Editorial

It’s a mental illness issue

Friday, October 6, 2017

The shooting in Las Vegas was on a scale of unspeakable horror. Dozens killed. Hundreds wounded. Predictably, the left immediately launched into an issue they keep in their hip pocket. Gun control. It’s an understandably emotional response, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the problem.

Before I get to that I need to point out a fallacy of the gun control argument. The most obvious flaw is the number of weapons this monster possessed. If news reports are accurate, he had 23 guns in the hotel room and another 19 at home. One has to wonder how he got so many guns into a hotel room undetected, however the left misses one simple point. More guns doesn’t make one more dangerous. You can only shoot one gun at a time. In fact, if he were putting down one gun and picking up another it would stand to reason that he would do less damage, not more. What matters is the capacity of the gun he used to kill.

We won’t know for sure until the investigation is complete, but it appears he managed to convert a semi-automatic rifle to something that approaches fully-automatic. In other words, he was able to turn a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun. There is such a thing as a “full-auto trigger sear kit.” However, these kits are restricted by the 1934 National Firearms Act, the Gun Control Act of 1968, and further restricted by the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986. These laws were written to effectively ban civilian purchase of automatic weapons. The gun control that would’ve stopped this killer from obtaining a fully automatic weapon already exists. Passing more laws is not going to change that.

Now let’s get on to the real problem. The guy was nuts. We seem to have a mental illness crisis in this country. One in six of us is on some sort of psychiatric drug. This includes antidepressants and sedatives. That doesn’t mean that if you’re taking an antidepressant you’re psychotic, but it does mean that roughly 42 million adults are on some sort of psychiatric medication.

If you’ve ever known anyone who’s bipolar you know the difficulty is in knowing where the person ends and the disease begins. We should have the same compassion for mental illness that we do for physical illness but we don’t. It’s easy to dismiss people with mental illness. They’re odd or they’re crazy. Stay away from that guy, he’s nuts. We’ve all heard it. We’ve all said it. It’s part of what causes people with mental illness to go through life undiagnosed.

I can’t imagine that was the case with the Las Vegas shooter. You don’t get that mentally ill without someone noticing. Unfortunately with mental illness too many of us notice, too few of us help.

But what can we do? I don’t for a second think we need the guys in white jackets with nets prowling the streets in a padded van. However, there are far too many people who are dangerously mentally ill roaming free. Loved ones are oftentimes reluctant to report the danger signs out of compassion for the sick person, but you wouldn’t allow a person you knew had cancer to remain untreated,

The compassionate course of action is to help people you suspect are unstable get well. You don’t do that by ignoring the illness. If you suspect someone is mentally ill take action. Talk to one of their family members. If it’s your family member, talk with a mental health professional.

Mental illness is bad enough. A mentally disturbed individual with an automatic weapon is a horribly lethal combination.

©Philip Carr “Phil” Valentine