What comes first? The mental illness or the gun?


It’s hard to begin this article by writing ‘the recent shooting events’. It would make more logical sense to start with ‘the usual monthly event’. After all, we’re the number one country for gun and gun related deaths in the World, and as 17 bodies are prepped for their funerals, it’s not even a stark reminder of what we face regularly, nor does it feel like a wake up call. It’s a regular occurrence that we simply have to deal with and our elected officials aren’t doing anything to fix the problem.

As health professionals, we handle mental Heath issues almost daily. But is it a problem that can be solved? And is it one that can be spotted?


People who knew Nicolas Cruz of the latest attack say he had an eerie sense about him. He seemed weird. Odd. But is that enough to stop someone in their tracks and have them reported for being mentally ill? And even so, what would happen beyond then? There are plenty of ‘weird’ people in the World, but this doesn’t necessarily ensue mental illness.

People call for mental illness solutions. Solve that, and you solve the problem of mentally ill people not wanting to gun down a classroom of children? It’s a question versus a statement here, are we simply going to locate and fix every single mentally ill person in the country?

Flying under the radar

During the last election, a friend of mine once told me that his brother is ‘off the chain’, a ‘weirdo’. And that he’s stockpiling his weaponry should Hillary Clinton get into office. He wanted his arsenal ready for the apocalypse that was to follow. To his friends in Bakersfield, he was just stereotypical of the people that lived in the small town. Small minded, homophobic and racist. His words, not ours or mine. To the outside world, he’s mentally ill. But, by legal definitions he‘s perfectly sane. He could be reported to the police but they’d have no charge, no reason to bring him in to test him clinically.   He has a license to ‘bear arms’ and has no violent or criminal past. Alas, nothing can be done. Yet in his brothers words, he’s a ticking time bomb, and it’s only a matter of time before he snaps.

The Atlantic interviewed John Snook: The director of the Treatment Advocacy Center…

The law is actually different in every state. The system for getting someone [exhibiting signs of a potential mental illness] into care, especially if someone doesn’t want to go themselves, can be very different state to state. It’s called an “emergency evaluation.” In a state like Florida, the focus ends up being on whether the person is dangerous to themselves or someone else. That, unfortunately, becomes something of a barrier [to] getting care. The common story you hear from families is, “Obviously something is going on with my son, but every time I tried to do something, they said, ‘Well but he’s not dangerous yet.’”

Florida has done an inexcusably poor job at funding mental health. They are [44th in the nation], so it’s hard to get someone engaged in care unless they’re at a point where it’s obvious to everyone that they are sick and really dangerous. The examples you hear is if a person is convinced the CIA is after them and running around and yelling, that’s the level of sickness you need to have in Florida to get engaged in the system. That’s why in Florida, you so often see law enforcement being the means by which someone gets into care in the first place.

Protecting yourself and your family is everyone’s right. In America we’ve established a nation, a culture whereby we want the right to bear arms. To most, it makes sense – carry a firearm just incase some lunatic opens fire at you in the local Starbucks. But where are the stories of the local hero taking down the gunman because he or she was carrying a firearm? They don’t exist. The internet was rife with chatter after the Orlando club shooting in which scores of men and women were gunned down, on how the killer could have been taken down if the club allowed a conceal and carry rule. What would this have done? Had two people firing back and forth at each other western style? The idea seems ludicrous and fuels apocalyptic style notions akin to those seen in movies like The Purge.

Every country in the world has mental health issues. So it’s important to consider both sides. Our country will never remove its 2nd Amendment, and as stated earlier, gun control may not solve the problem either. For those flying under the radar it’s a simple trip to the gun store.

Locked horns

Both sides of the argument are logging heads. Mental health changes are slow and even if a dent was made, unless a massive overhaul in procedures for reporting ‘weird’ individuals was introduced, it’s unlikely to do anything to help curb the crisis.

The Trump administration is massively pro-2nd amendment and as long as it’s in power, it’s unlikely that an acceptable gun control solution will be put into place. The sheer fact that no mention of gun control was discussed in Trumps recent speech  indicates everything we’ve mentioned in this article. Therefore the solution is surely to remove the problem. And since you can’t ‘remove’ human beings from the planet, nor lock everyone up Hunger Games style, the logical solution would be to remove the next offender. The weapon.

Remove it and you remove the potential for anyone to commit a crime on a mass scale.

It’s another sad day in America and there’ll be more. Thoughts and prayers can’t offer anything to the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, grandparents, aunts, godparents, 2nd cousins, friends, friends of friends and anyone else who was connected to the 17 lifeless bodies soon to be laying in the ground.

Maybe it’s time we placed guns in the ground, and offer our thoughts and prayers to their owners.

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