Mass Shootings in Oregon and Connecticut
It has been 2 days since the tragic shootings that occurred in Newton, Connecticut and Clackamas, Oregon. Both incidents involved young men walking around properties with firearms, shooting anyone they came across and then committing suicide. Not surprisingly, anti-gun groups and politicians are sounding the alarm, making the incidents out to be the reason to pass more gun legislation. Never mind that Connecticut already has stringent regulations on the sale and possession of firearms and that one lone gun owner carrying a concealed firearm helped stop the assailant in the Clackamas, Oregon mall incident.
What makes the shooting in Newton even more disturbing is the age of the victims who were between the ages and 5 and 10. The killer was 20 year old Adam Lanza in which, sadly, he murdered his mother and then drove to a local school where he worked and shot and killed faculty and students before turning the gun on himself.
The situation in Clackamas, Oregon was very similar. A mentally disturbed individual takes up a rifle and starts shooting up an establishment terrorizing innocent men, women, and children then (like Lanza) later kills himself. Fortunately, fewer people than in Newton were killed but the incident itself is no less unfortunate than what happened there.
Lets put what happened in Newton, Connecticut in its proper context. It is unlawful for any firearms to be carried near or even inside a school, college, or university. Educational institutions are gun free zones by law that enable tragedies like this. Lift gun restrictions on public and private property and wrong doers will think twice about shooting up schools, malls, or movie theaters. I would not be surprised if it is later found out that the company that owns the mall in Clackamas prohibited guns on their property.
Regardless if a property is public or private, there is a correlation between mass shootings and no gun policies. Dr. John Lott of More Guns Less Crime fame made an interesting observation about the Aurora, Colorado shootings during a radio interview I heard over the weekend. He said that there were multiple movie theaters within a 20 mile radius of the one where the shooting occurred that were showing The Dark Knight Rises. What made the Century movie theater in Aurora unique was not only was it not close to where the shooter lived but it was the only theater that had a NO GUNS ALLOWED sign posted.
The US military has a rule enacted as per the direction of President Bill Clinton in 1993 that prohibits military personnel (save Military Police) from carrying personal side arms on base while off duty. Gun Owners of America highlighted this fact in a press release citing the Clinton policy as having been the sole factor for the Fort Hood shooting incident. I believe GOA tried to have the military firearms regulation overturned by a friendly member of Congress introducing a bill to do just that but were unsuccessful.
In terms of explaining why these tragedies occur, the one source that makes the most sense is found in a research piece published by The Federalist Society back in March of this year entitled Madness, Deinstitutionalization, and Murder. The study cites numerous examples of people (such as Arizona Congressmember Gabrielle Giffords’ attacker Jared Loughner) who exhibited behavior consistent with someone who was mentally ill yet left school and was not institutionalized.
This is the result of a push during the 1960’s to deinstitutionalize some mentally ill patients. The stark examples and overall research is very well done. What was most poignant in the study was this paragraph in which the author points out:
Deinstitutionalization played a substantial role in the dramatic increase in violent crime rates in America in the 1970s and 1980s. People who might have been hospitalized in 1950 or 1960 when they first exhibited evidence of serious mental illness today remain at large until they commit a serious felony. The criminal justice system then usually sends these mentally ill offenders to prison, not a mental hospital.
Prisons, rather than mental hospitals, become the institutions of choice for incarcerating mentally ill offenders. The author goes on to state:
The result is a system that is bad for the mentally ill: prisons, in spite of their best efforts, are still primarily institutions of punishment, and are inferior places to treat the mentally ill. It is a bad system for felons without mental illness problems, who are sharing facilities with the mentally ill, and are understandably afraid of their unpredictability. It is a bad system for the victims of those mentally ill felons, because in 1960, a mentally ill person was much more likely to have been hospitalized before victimizing someone else. It is a bad system for the taxpayers, who foot the bill for expensive trials and long prison sentences for the headline tragedies, and hundreds of thousands of minor offenses, instead of the much less expensive commitment procedures and perhaps shorter terms of treatment.
The issue is not the availability of guns but how the U.S.’s mental health system is structured in which the end result is a revolving-door effect. There is familial responsibility too since (according to one therapist I exchanged thoughts with on this matter) many times neither the person nor the family of someone who is deranged will take themselves or their loved ones who might be mentally ill to a therapist so they can be seen, diagnosed, and treated. At the same time families and friends should not ignore warning signs when a loved one exhibits obvious behaviors of being mentally ill since to do so is very dangerous.
Regardless of how many restrictions on gun ownership are enacted, it will not stop calamities as seen in places like Connecticut, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Georgia. To enact any restrictions on the sale and possession of firearms enables wrongdoers from being able to have an advantage over the innocent. As long as Congress, state legislatures, and the media continue to ignore the problems resulting from deinstitutionalization efforts and refuse to admit that policies prohibiting the carry and usage of firearms in schools, malls, and other public establishments contributes to massacres, unfortunately, many more instances of large-scale bloodshed involving firearms or deadly rampages of some kind by deranged individuals may occur in the near future.