Gun Control Is Not Going To Save Us From Ourselves!
I hate this mentality of saving us from ourselves through legislation, which the current movement for gun control embodies. Out of a tragedy, on many fronts, is a political battle for gun control. Well, that is a no-brainer. We need background checks, and certain weapons banned. The Newtown tragedy, and other random killings of innocent people—particularly, children—are symptomatic of deeper problems in which guns are the tools that increase the odds of fatality.
These problems are multi-factorial involving mental health, mental illness, our mental health delivery system, effective mental health treatment and medications. They are also intricately woven into our social fabric, where violence, in its different forms of entertainment, is a core part. Violence is a part of our culture (violence defined as physical, mental, psychological, and sexual coercion inflicted on others with malice; simply hurting someone’s feeling by speaking your truth is not violence).
We are witnessing John Kingdon’s window of opportunity at play. That is not a bad thing; it is an opportunity for change. Unfortunately, politicians manipulate the circumstances that arise out of human tragedy to bring about policies and programs that do not fully address the problem and do not serve the marketed purpose.
I have no grievance with gun control, except that it is a reactive down-stream intervention. People who have those thoughts are dangerous. While gun control may limit the fatalities, temporarily, people who have those off-the-chart violent thoughts will still find ways to wreak disaster in other people’s lives. Once you have those thoughts and have acted on them, you are violent; your brain is wired for violence. Our mental health system is not going to help you—it hasn’t so far. A closer look may show it is making things worse by not focusing on mental well-being but rather on controlling symptomatic mental illness with medication.
We need to combine gun control with proactive up-stream interventions. I do not believe restricting the freedom of people with mental illness is an upstream intervention. I believe it stigmatizes mental illness. Do we want people not to seek help? That is a scary thought!
The windows of opportunity are responsible for many positive social changes. That is the reason for my firm belief that
we need to have eyes on our mental health care system for children, families, and adults. It is a revolving door whose goal is to chart (document) improvement by over-reliance on medication.
In general, the entire health care system relies too much on medication and symptomatic improvement instead of recovery.
I think a prescription for gym memberships or yoga classes would be more effective, less expensive, improve mental well-being, and yield longer lasting effects than our current system of medications.
Some of these medications can wreak havoc with your body and produce lasting toxic effects.
Violence prevention should start at birth and continue throughout life. We can prevent violence by reducing the risk factors for violence in children, especially those with multiple risk factors. Early diagnosis can make a difference, so can creating positive school climates where children feel connected. They can be learning social skills, learning the process of thinking about consequences and alternative behaviors. Children, especially those from birth to 8 years old, are easier to salvage than adults. It is less expensive and more feasible to change behaviors in children than it is to do the same in adults. Additionally, there is a better chance of long-lasting success with the added windfall of extraordinary downstream returns — economically, educationally, and medically — to society.
Our reactive, secondary prevention approach does not work well and is costly to the lives of those affected. This approach is adding to the burgeoning cost of healthcare, and stripping this country of its productivity.
During the first five years, children’s neurons are on full blast, strengthening and creating new brain circuits. They are busy learning from their social and physical environments—watch how babies start to mimic those closest to them. The foundations of our adult makeup—psychological, intellectual, and social—are built during the first five years. Those years contain many sensitive periods.
Thank goodness we have opportunities to make a difference early, when it is easier and less costly, economically and emotionally. Neurogenesis, the formation of new neurons, continue way into old age—we can teach an old dog new tricks. Children’s frontal lobes are still developing way into their early thirties, possibly explaining their poor impulse control.
Early intervention can avert the expression or reduce the severity of many mental and behavioral problems seen in teenagers and adults. This is where education should start.
By helping children feel safe and loved, we help them develop bonds—or a sense of connectedness. Studies have shown that a sense of connectedness can help children overcome multiple risk factors, probably the reasons why positive nurturing relationships are pivotal to healthy child development.
Getting back to gun control and the Newtown tragedy: children growing up in positive, nurturing environments are at decreased risk for mental illnesses, behavioral problems and violence. This is across all social classes, and I am assuming, irrespective of gun ownership.
Why would we not put our emphasis there or on other upstream interventions that would decrease gun violence and all other forms of violence?