Social Question

mpippin's avatar

Do you think there should be more emphasis on mental health or gun control?

Asked by mpippin (124 points ) December 21st, 2012

Was just wondering what everyone thought on this.. More help for the mentally ill or more laws for gun owners? What do you think would make the most impact on our society’s safety?

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25 Answers

augustlan's avatar

It doesn’t strike me as an either/or proposition. Both are needed, and both will help. Maybe not so much in the short term, but in the long term each adjustment will pay dividends.

mpippin's avatar

Reason I was asking is that it seems every time I turn to watch CNN/HLN they are simply focusing on stricter gun laws… Havent heard much about mental health…

Bellatrix's avatar

We have to improve the support we give to those who are dealing with a mental illness. That’s a given.

However, you can’t connect the gun control argument driven by the most recent mass shootings to mental illness.

”...there is overwhelming epidemiological evidence that the vast majority of people with psychiatric disorders do not commit violent acts. Only about 4 percent of violence in the United States can be attributed to people with mental illness.

This does not mean that mental illness is not a risk factor for violence. It is, but the risk is actually small. Only certain serious psychiatric illnesses are linked to an increased risk of violence.

One of the largest studies, the National Institute of Mental Health’s Epidemiologic Catchment Area study, which followed nearly 18,000 subjects, found that the lifetime prevalence of violence among people with serious mental illness – like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – was 16 percent, compared with 7 percent among people without any mental disorder. Anxiety disorders, in contrast, do not seem to increase the risk at all.” (NY Times).

This is a quote from Richard A. Friedman, M.D who is a professor in clinical psychiatry.

It is therefore not a useful step to hone in on people suffering from mental illness to stop mass shootings. Getting guns out of reach of people who may choose to use them, mentally ill nor not, makes more sense.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Mental health.

Not everyone who is mentally ill is a dangerous lunatic, but everyone who is a dangerous lunatic is mentally ill. This is why it is irrelevant to point out that most people with psychiatric disorders do not commit violent acts. It gets the direction of fit wrong. Putting greater emphasis on mental health would help both groups, however, which would be good for society beyond whatever effect it may have in reducing the population of dangerous lunatics.

By the way, you might be interested in these two discussions.

trailsillustrated's avatar

This country is awash in guns. It would take 100 years to solve that, this is from an ex-prepper so I know what I am talking about. The mental health approach would be more immediate, now,
Just sayin, there is a small known, (in the US) massacre that occured in Port Arthur, Tasmania, in 1996. I shall never forget it. There are many rural areas around there and all the farmers gave up their guns. It was a big, big, deal and to this day, you cannot own a gun in Australia or Nz . You cannot import one. If you are a farmer, maybe but it is strictly regulated. It is too late in the US.

Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t know if it’s too late @trailsillustrated, although I hear your point loud and clear. I do agree it would take a huge attitudinal change that I am not sure all could traverse. We don’t have the same gun culture in Australia so the transition was quite easy. People were prepared to hand over their guns. I suspect some US citizens would be prepared to fight to keep theirs. Then there will be a stalemate similar to the Cold War. “I am not giving up my guns until they give up theirs.” Perhaps that’s where the ‘mental’ element should focus. On long term change of those attitudes.

trailsillustrated's avatar

@Bellatrix it is not going to happen. As an ex-prepper I know this. This country, may I say again is FULL of guns. This is not only the registered owners. but the very LUCRATRIVE market for guns in this country. Now ask me how I know this, lol. Just sayin’. I shall be happy to leave.

Bellatrix's avatar

You have lived there. You know better than I about whether it is possible. It’s pretty sad if they can’t lay down their arms though. I think that means these types of shootings will keep happening and I don’t know why you would need to leave?

trailsillustrated's avatar

@Bellatrix here is for why: I live only a few miles from a recent mall shooting. I did the prepper life style for a few years. Yes, I am trained. Yes, I can operate any gun. Yes, I have met all kinds of people in rural areas. No it will not change. The national rifle association is a republican party and has more money than god. But, further, what everyone has to know, is that, this country is awash is UNLICENSED, STOLEN, UNREGISTERED weapons. Need I say more?

trailsillustrated's avatar

I don’t know how old you are , @Bellatrix , but when that happened in tassie it was a huge, big deal. Immediately, there were no more ‘recreational, hunting, ’ or otherwise legal guns there at ALL.. And , it was overnight. NO more goat hunts, etc, . Look at it. This country, (USA) has yet to take it seriously, and they way the constitution is written, it’s going to be a problem for years, and years.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Bellatrix It seems to me a mistake to think the issue is an attitude of being unwilling to give up one’s guns. I don’t own any guns—though I do own several weapons—but I’m not for outright bans on semi-automatics (which is what a lot of people mean when they say “gun control,” despite the fact that there are many other ways of approaching gun laws).

Shippy's avatar

I think overall health care and the cost of it is a human disgrace. We speak of humanity, civilization, world love, world peace yet we can turn away people who are dying or need other health care. Maybe this Era will go down in history as the Era of the rich lived the poor were left to die. But society WILL keep on suffering from things like this if it is not taken into cognizance.

Society instead geared itself bit by bit to protect itself from the mentally challenged. However they have a whole new problem arising. Maybe Governments like it, sort of like human culling.

Bellatrix's avatar

Old enough to remember Port Arthur and the gun legislation coming in. People do still hunt. I know people who hunt. They do have to work harder to get a licence and yes, some guns aren’t available. The offshoot, less gun crime. We still have gun crime as you would be aware, but it isn’t as high as it was prior to the legislation.

So what is the other way to approach gun laws @SavoirFaire? I don’t own a gun and I have no desire to. I have seen people here say “I won’t give up my guns”. Do you not think there will be an element who will fight against any legislation, if it were to be passed? Regardless, I would like to hear alternatives to banning semi-automatic weapons and why that will reduce events like Newtown.

trailsillustrated's avatar

Here is the thing: When that massacre went down in tassie, there I was, on Kangaroo Island. I know the government took immediate action. I have lived in the us since 2000, and was, stress was, married to a ‘prepper’, It mnay be a population thing, because australia and nz have so much less than the us., that it was easier to control this thing. I know people still hunt, but, you cannot do so with a 223. bushmaster or any semi-automatic weapon similiar. Please correct me if I am wrong.

ucme's avatar

I believe Stephen Hawking has the right to attach a couple of uzi’s to either side of his wheelchair, but would that be a wise move? I’m not sure, be cool to see him spraying bullets around the place whilst threatening folks with his “terminator” voicebox.

flutherother's avatar

A healthy society should place an emphasis on both. I would point out that it is more difficult to define what is meant by mental illness than what is meant by a gun. For example Thomas Hamilton who perpetrated the Dunblane school shootings was not so much mentally ill as just plain evil. He obtained his guns legally after police background checks.

marinelife's avatar

In terms of stopping mass shootings, I feel like tighter gun control laws regarding restricting assault weapons and large magazines, as well as stronger background check laws and closing gun show loopholes will help the most.

DrBill's avatar

we already have laws to require background checks, what if we amend that law to also require applicants to pass a mental stability exam.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Definitely on mental health, and I’ll explain why: it doesn’t make one shit of difference when it comes to gun laws. If a criminal or crazy person wants to get a gun, they’re going to get a gun. They’ll obtain one illegally if they have to, but they’re going to get one.

It’s just like illegal drugs. Sure they’re illegal and laws are tight if you’re caught with them, but if people want drugs, they’re going to find them. You can get drugs in prison for fuck’s sake, so what makes anyone think tighter gun laws or gun bans are going to stop truly fucked up individuals from finding them?

Also, let’s not forget massive killings that were carried out without guns. A criminal is a criminal is a criminal. A criminal is not their choice of weapon. If someone hurt my child, I would be pissed enough to turn almost anything into a weapon with which to bludgeon them to death, including my beloved shovel. Does that mean there need to be tighter shovel laws?

People need access to better mental health care, which means health insurance needs to be much more affordable. There are several medications that I personally can not afford, simply because insurance is too damned expensive and I can’t afford the meds out of pocket.

Also, although I can see a partial benefit to having someone who wants to purchase a gun be made to pass a mental health exam, it wouldn’t make much of a difference either. A person of below average intelligence would still be smart enough to lie on said exam, and pass with flying colors. An exam like that might actually stop a small number of people from purchasing guns, but it wouldn’t prevent the majority of crazies from getting what they want.

If people would stop and look at this from a rational perspective, stricter gun laws or gun bans are not going to solve anything. How many people have died because of a drunk driver? Should we ban the cars or the alcohol in that case? How many people have died from heart attacks or diabetes due to self-induced obesity? Should we ban all junk food or the fast food restaurants that make it so easily accessible?

Before you say I’m making ridiculous comparisons, take a deep, long breath and think about it hard. The comparisons may seem ridiculous but they are perfectly valid. Just because some people eat themselves into an early grave, does not mean that other people are not perfectly capable of enjoying cheeseburgers in moderation. Just because some assholes make the choice to drive drunk does not mean that other people are not perfectly capable of cutting themselves off at one drink before driving home. Just because some people use a gun to murder people does not mean that you need a gun to murder people, nor does it mean that everyone with a gun is likely to go off half-cocked and blow people away, nor does it mean that guns are inherently bad. What it means is that some people are either complete assholes, or that they need mental help.

The sad thing is that many people can not afford to get the mental help they need, either because it’s too expensive, or because they don’t realize they need it and their family members choose to look the other way instead of demanding that something be done. That is what needs to change here.

Something else that needs to change, and I’m just throwing this out there, is the way parents raise their children. In many cases, a better home life means more well-adjusted human beings.

Sunny2's avatar

Guns would be much easier and faster to do something about than mental health. Therefore I vote for gun control first. Having worked in the mental health field for a number of years, I’m very much aware of the need for identifying and treating mental problems. Start with the lack of agreement in diagnosing and go on to the lack of agreement in how to treat and cure patients.

burntbonez's avatar

Mental health. But that’s because mental health is too expensive for our society to be willing to do anything that will actually help.

Gun laws are much easier. You just have to ban them. It doesn’t cost anyone except the gun companies money. They are an easy target. It will take forever to actually get rid of guns. But as long as the laws are on the books, it’s a start.

I doubt we’ll start on mental health. It’s too hard.

Daisygirl's avatar

Mental health. If someone wants to do harm they’ll use anything against anything (guns on people, hammers on kittens- yes I’ve heard that’s a “fad” right now).

Bill1939's avatar

In the Atlanta area people cannot but heavy weapons fast enough. Gun stores cannot keep them on their shelves; ammunition as well! They seem to be panicked by a belief that this may be their last chance before they lose the right to purchase them. I suspect that this is happening throughout the nation. This seems like some kind of insanity to me. I think the culture is nuts and needs psychological help.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Bellatrix There are various other ways to approach gun laws. This article makes a couple of suggestions. Waiting periods and background checks are also possible alternatives to bans. Yes, there will always be those who will fight against gun legislation of any kind. That’s a side-effect of the fact that there will always be those who will fight against any legislation whatsoever. That’s life in a democracy. The legislative question is never about which option will enjoy universal popularity, then, as no such option exists.

As for semi-automatics, I will repeat the point I find myself making over and over again. Many people have no idea what they mean when they use the term. Those who support banning such weapons often seem to think that “semi-automatic” refers only to assault rifles or submachine guns. This is not the case, however, and leads to any number of dialectical difficulties whenever the issue of gun control arises. This is unhelpful in the extreme, of course, and prevents the conversation from advancing even one step.

ETpro's avatar

I don’t think we can possibly pass the sort of gun control laws it would take to do any serious good. Short of such laws, the NRA argument that gun laws only constrain law abiding citizens has a good deal of merit. Currently, at least 40% of all gun sales in the US occur with no background check. One can logically assume that 100% of the people who cannot pass a background check buy their weapons where none is required.

While the NRA paid lip service to having a criminal and insanity database, they secretly lobbied and put money behind insuring no such database received the funding needed to be effective. I’d like to see background checks on 100% of sales, and those checks having a meaningful database to consult.

And I would like to see mental health services made available to all who will seek them out, or are determined to need them.

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