Guns and Mental Illness

The tragedy of Newtown Connecticut may lead us to ponder not just gun control but also the intersection of gun control and mental illness. Here is a clip from David Berreby:

One consequence of mass killings like this week’s horror in Newtown, according to reporting by Kristina Fiore, is this: Involuntary commitments of mentally ill men will increase for a while. To which I can only say: Terrific. I hope they triple. Yes, it’s obvious that we need to reduce unstable men’s access to guns (because guns greatly amplify the damage that a killer can inflict in a few seconds or minutes). But it’s also obvious that we should be trying to reduce their access topeople, and increase their access to serious help. Because even if we can get a handle on assault weapons and military pistols, there will still be knives, fertilizer and poison.

That some of the myths used by the pro-gun lobby need debunking:

MYTH #1: More guns don’t lead to more murders.

MYTH #2: The Second Amendment prohibits strict gun control.

MYTH #3: State-level gun controls haven’t worked.

MYTH #4: We only need better enforcement of the laws we have, not new laws.

MYTH #5: Sensible gun regulation is prohibitively unpopular.

And from Emily Bazelon at Slate:

So I wonder: Could this shooting be the one that shakes us out of our deadly paralysis about the twin problems of limitless access to guns and untreated mental illness? Or could this, in combination with the shootings at the Aurora, Colo. movie theater last summer, and Arizona spree that seriously injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, finally change how Americans think and legislators act about guns? I single those tragedies out because we know that James Holmes, the alleged Aurora shooter, and Jared Loughner, convicted and sentenced to life for the mass deaths in Arizona, were schizophrenic men in their early 20s who weren’t in treatment and who had easy access to semi-automatic weapons and rapid-fire ammunition. Also on this list,Seung-Hui Cho, who massacred 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007 while he was a student there. Now we’re hearing about the reclusive 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who kept to himself so much in high school, his former classmates say, that they kind of overlooked what some of them thought was Asperger’s syndrome, and which may turn out to be another disorder. “I think he went so unnoticed that people didn’t even stop to realize that maybe there’s actually something else going on here—that maybe he needs to be talking or getting some kind of mental help,” one former classmate told the New York Times.

The cost of this definition of freedom is too high: That’s the point advocates for gun control make, over and over again. If this lesson sunk in, maybe we’d take seriously the results in Australia, where a massacre of 35 people led to a 1996 ban on semi-automatic and automatic rifles and shotguns. (Adam Lanza had the first, according to reports.) Australia also started a mandatory buy-back program for the weapons it banned. A drop in the firearm homicide rate and the firearm suicide rate followed, according to some research. There are other, smaller fixes, a by now familiar list: Bring back the ban on assault weapons, which Congress allowed to expire in 2004. Ban the sale of rapid-fire ammunition. Quit letting people buy weapons at gun shows without background checks. That alone could help keep guns out of the hands of some people who are mentally ill and not getting treated.


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  • As much has been made recently about the need for more mental health education, I’m including the link for Mental Health First Aid. I both teach and train people to teach Mental Health First Aid. While doing so, I have interfaced with police officers, university personnel, school teachers, clergy, policy makers and the general public. It is a great program and involves an international movement. We also have a Facebook page.

    I’m also including this link from Congressman Barber from Tucson on Sandy Hook and Mental Health First Aid:

  • SteveSherwood

    There must be a way to adequately protect citizen’s right to own a hunting rifle or the like and outlaw weapons who’s created intent is to kill as many humans as possible in as little time as possible.

  • Robin

    I hesitate to weight in here, but I think this needs to be said.

    If people are going to use this incident as a springboard for advocating gun control, then I think their proposed solutions should, at a minimum, be solutions that would have prevented this tragedy.

    What has been put forth today does not meet that requirement. The Democrats have stated that as a result of this massacre they are going to (1) push for an assault weapon ban (2) push for maximum magazine capacity.

    Neither of those would have done a thing to stop this incident. It was perpetrated with pistols which were legally registered in the state of Connecticut, and they wouldn’t have qualified as assault weapons, automatic weapons, or semi-automatic weapons…because semi-automatic weapons cannot be registered in Connecticut.

    I am in favor of reasonable gun control measures, but the haste with which anti-gun legislators have hustled forward their standard, boilerplate ideas to capitalize on a tragedy that is 100% unrelated to their preferred policies makes me doubt there are any legislators that can be trusted to work as honest brokers to arrive at sensible legislation. All I see is zealots trying to capitalize off of a tragedy.

    What laws could have prevented a woman from having her legally registered pistols stolen from her by her mentally ill son and used to kill her and her students?

    That is a serious question, because that is what happened. Do we need to say that if any family member is mentally ill or taking any medications for mental illness, then all family members are prohibited from owning firearms? Even if they aren’t semi-automatic, or have high capacity magazines, etc?

    That is a policy solution that addresses the cause of this incident.

    We could also talk about involuntary committment, or stricter security measures in “gun free zones.”

    I am just sick of people using tragedy to advocate policies that have nothing to do with the tragedy and wouldn’t have prevented it, even if they had been in place.

  • Robin

    I should have said assault weapons cannot be registered in Connecticut. These weren’t assault weapons.

  • Robin

    I will say, as one policy measure, that if a business or government is going to designate a location as a gun free zone, thereby disarming all law abiding citizens entering those premises, they should be required to provide on site security to protect those they have disarmed.

    I went to our local elementary school the other day to drop off some toys. I have no children there, they have never seen my face, and I gained instant access to the entire school just by ringing the buzzer. There was no security on the premises.

    If we expect people to give up their right to armed self defense when they enter such places…and it is entirely fine that we require them to do so…then we should ensure that some security is present. That could be uniformed guards, a more rigorous security entrance, designated officials within the school armed with tasers, etc., but it cannot be 250-500 teachers and children in a location which everyone knows is unprotected, and which any person can gain full access to simply by pressing a buzzer.

  • I agree with much of what has been said, the problem being the definition of mental illness. When do you force a person into treatment? Historically institutions were not the greatest places for treatment, so how do you force a person into treatment? I have had a seizure in my sleep, so my neurologist has to certify that I reliably take medication. How does he know? In fact, he will not even know whether the medication works for two years or more, and even then only by the absence of symptoms. How could a psychiatrist certify that patient x is reliably taking medication for issue y? And, who pays for the medication? Furthermore, does the medication work? I know a guy who has been on 5 medications for severe depression and none have worked. Do we then institutionalize him so as to make suicide more difficult? Then who pays for those he supports? The minute we force people in institutions or the like without their having committed a crime or attempted to commit a crime, we enter a gray area that is quite problematic. In the case of the gunman in Newtown, it is possible that the DSM 5 (i.e. the latest edition of DSM) has now changed his diagnosis, if a diagnosis can be established at all given that it will be in retrospect. If one diagnosis holds up, I know several people who have led productive lives with such a diagnosis. How does one refine the diagnosis well enough to separate them from the gunman? I do note that the guy who knifed 22 children in China last week killed fewer than the guy who shot 20 children last week. The weapons available do make a difference.

  • Rick D

    “the weapon that was utilized most of the time during this horrific crime was identified as a Bushmaster AR15 assault type weapon. It had high capacity magazines…” – police spokesman – see the link below

    Robin, earlier this weekend the news reports were indicating that the assault rifle was found in the suspected shooter’s car. However, the police have corrected that report. The assault rifle is the weapon that was used to kill numerous children in a short period of time. I’m sorry to inform you that you are misinformed.

    I highly value our freedoms in this country, but it is difficult for me to fathom why American civilians need assault rifles with clips that can carry hundreds of bullets. There is no reasonable use for a weapon of this kind.

    I know that someone will almost certainly cry out that “guns don’t kill people – people kill people.” However, there is no denying that people using these types of guns are able to kill a horrific number of people in a short period of time.

  • AHH

    Robin @2, he did use large magazines (capacity 30 according to news reports). So that restriction might have reduced the carnage in this case. And of course it doesn’t make sense to oppose something on the grounds of “it wouldn’t have prevented tragedy X” if it could have prevented Y or Z (thinking about the assault weapon and large magazine used in Aurora).

    On the topic of guns and mental illness, I recall that a few weeks ago some in Congress were trying to amend a bill to carve a loophole in existing law, which would have allowed veterans suffering from PTSD to get guns anyway (I believe they can only do so now after an evaluation process). Even though this shooter was not a veteran, I would hope that bad idea will die a quiet death now.

  • SteveSherwood

    Robin, the most recent news release, now states that almost all the shots were fired by the .223 assault rifle and not the pistols. That has been confusing. This was the initial report, and then it was stated that he used the two pistols, but today the state police have said that the vast majority of rounds came from the rifle.

  • SteveSherwood

    Sorry for being redundant, Robin. Rick & AHH posted while I was finding the link.

  • Robin

    I apologize for being misinformed about the usage of the 223. I now understand the impetus for today’s legislative push.

    I still maintain that gun free zones should be required to provide additional security.

  • Jag

    Man, I am so tired of reading posts on facebook stating that if we only allowed God into the classroom this would not have happened. Using this tragedy to promote prayer in schools is making political hay of the worst kind.

  • jason

    On the issue of mental illness, which definitely needs to be part of this conversation, this essay really should get a wide reading: “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother”
    (sorry, I don’t know how to create a hyperlink to the title)

  • Patrick

    I think that’s a silly issue, but, I for one think the bible narrative is valid and our church is spiritually hitting on about 2 cylinders. That in and of itself causes us more chaos and problems, IMO.

  • Diane S.

    In the U.S., when children are over the age of 18, there is absolutely nothing that concerned parents can do as far as getting help for them if they are unwilling to do so. You can’t even make a doctor’s appointment for them without their permission.

  • Norman

    Perhaps the solution is not the banning of guns but the control of the ammunition. If hunters and gun enthusiast had to go check out ammunition and only a moderate/small ammount as needed at one time from a certified armory and then return the unused amount for the nest venture. (they would need to return used casings) Then we might have a system we could build around and refine.

    Let them keep their guns to show off and display but without ammo they are no threat to anyone unless they had access to ammo. As for home protection give them 6 bullets max to work with along with extensive training. I can’t think of too many scenerios where a running home intrusion gun battle will require more than 6 shots to effectively defend.

    Maybe the ammo restriction is the route to go in order to get a handle on this issue. It would take a while to get it under control but it is likely the simplest solution.

  • Joe Canner

    Jag #11: Amen to that. Second worst: that if more people at the school had been armed (or if there had been a sign to that effect) this wouldn’t have happened or at least there wouldn’t have been as many fatalities. Perhaps true, but ignores a lot of practical realities about how a small-town school system is going to either hire an armed guard or train and equip multiple school teachers. As it is, there are few gun laws in place or proposed that would prevent properly trained civilians from carrying a handgun, but there are few people who are interested in the responsibility of deciding when to take someone’s life in their hands. I also can’t imagine too many elementary school teachers would feel comfortable packing a loaded gun in the classroom.

  • I get tired as well of too many people in the church equating gun rights with Christianity and prayer in school. How did that help the homeschool kid that opened fire on New Life Church in Colorado a few years back? He’d homeschooled all his life apparently, and because of that was undiagnosed for mental illness. Not to pick on homeschool students, but he shot five people on his rampage, before the church security guard shot him. What did that have to do with God not being in a public school?

    Absolutely right to bring up the issues of the second Ammendment, this is something that needs another hard look. Say what we will about the constitution – it’s an Ammendment and Ammendment implies that it was and can be changed further and clarified. (The alcohol prohibition for example, was an Ammendment that was later reversed).

  • Diane S.

    Amen to Joy F’s comment.

    Even if there is gun control, they can still be obtained on the black market. So regardless, the problem remains. If they aren’t accessable, someone bent on destruction will find other options. Suicide bombers don’t need guns.

  • In 1999 guns were just as accessible as they are now. In the last 13 years there have been 31 school shootings. There were no school massacres before that. Why? Gun laws have actually tightened up in that time. I don’t know why. More broken, forgotten people with no sense of community or family I suppose.

  • Norman

    Make the Black market penatlys so severe that effectively the crazies won’t have easy access. I’m not sure how many of these mass shooters would have effectively worked a blackmarket system to pull off their massecres. Anything to make it much more difficult would be truly helpful.

  • scotmcknight

    What if all Christians chose to turn in all guns and show another way?

  • Norman


    I like the proposition of a grass roots Christian leadership regarding this issue, but we are going to need a matching contribution from everyone who is vested in this countries safety. I don’t own guns so it’s not asking anything from me and many Christians. I really want to see some political courage tackle the obscene availability of guns and more importantly the ready access of ammo. Pursuing strict ammo regulation and thus availability with harsh penalties seems doable as it doesn’t have to take their guns away. Even at that, Guns were single shot muzzle loaders when the Constitution was written and it doesn’t seem to require high intellect to discern that we are living in a different world today. Maybe it’s time we had the knock down drag out national debate to expose the silliness of much of the NRA’s propaganda issues. We need to press our politicians on this.

  • Kyle J

    Prophetic words from Gary Wills IMO:

    The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?

    Its power to do good is matched by its incapacity to do anything wrong. It cannot kill. Thwarting the god is what kills. If it seems to kill, that is only because the god’s bottomless appetite for death has not been adequately fed. The answer to problems caused by guns is more guns, millions of guns, guns everywhere, carried openly, carried secretly, in bars, in churches, in offices, in government buildings. Only the lack of guns can be a curse, not their beneficent omnipresence.

    Adoration of Moloch permeates the country, imposing a hushed silence as he works his will. One cannot question his rites, even as the blood is gushing through the idol’s teeth. The White House spokesman invokes the silence of traditional in religious ceremony. “It is not the time” to question Moloch. No time is right for showing disrespect for Moloch.

  • Kyle J

    @John #20

    Gun laws haven’t tightened up since 1999. The federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004. At least one study showed it had a meaningful impact on gun violence when it was in place.

  • JHM

    I am really struggling with this. I grew up in a hunting/gun culture (rural West). I know people who use “assault” rifles for hunting and target competitions. I know of collectors who have WWII machine guns. My father makes his own ammunition (I’m sorry Norman, but I don’t think #16 would be practical or enforceable) and my brother makes long-range (1000-2000 m) rifles as a hobby/side business. I have a hard time imagining why they should give up their guns. They aren’t for self-defense, they aren’t for shooting anybody, they are for sport and subsistence.

    On the other hand, it seems time and again dangerous weapons get into the hands of the wrong people. It does make me pause and wonder what could and should be done. These shootings are just awful, from CT kindergartens to the daily urban violence.

    I do think in the end a US-wide solution is probably not a great idea. Rural communities that have strong gun cultures and lots of hunting are completely different than urban Chicago or New York. Perhaps one community at a time, one state at a time, if we face the issue and work out what is best for our sphere, we can make some headway. A national debate will just be a polarized mess of rhetoric and half-baked solutions, in my opinion.

  • metanoia

    Any attempt to disarm Americans will be about as effective as trying to control illegal immigration. The numbers are just too staggering. The crossroads of access to guns and how to insure that people with mental illness do not have access is a difficult conundrum. As for Scot’s suggestion for Christians to give up their guns, why? Responsible use of guns for hunting, sport and defending hearth and home is something that Christians have no valid reason for giving up. As horrendous as the incident in Newtown is, it is an anomaly. Thousands of rounds of ammunition are fired everyday by responsible gun owners with nary a soul harmed. Many of the cities with the highest gun crime rates also have the toughest gun control laws. There is an old saying that offense wins games and defense wins championships. I’ve never ascribed to that philosophy because the bottom line is you have to score. Offense wins championships. In a world where there are people filled with evil, or mentally ill, or have a lust for power over others, I prefer to play offense. As a responsible gun owner (I’ve got locks, shoot at the range regularly, and practice safety at every point in handling my weapon) I will not give up my right to own a firearm. And, if I ever have to be in a position where I have to use it in order to stop someone from creating the mayhem that has been experienced in Aurora, Newtown or any other place, you can be sure that I will be watching your back.

  • StephL

    I do wonder what the will of the people is in this, and how it could be made known.

    For any ban or restriction on any given type of weapon or ammo to be effective, it would need to be a federal ban. If there are some “no brainer” types of measures that could reasonably be passed, then I would like to know what they are and get to it.

    I wish we could practice direct democracy every once in a while. We have the technology to make every vote across the nation count. We could hold a national public referendum on the very basic measures regarding gun control (if there are any most of us could agree on). But apparently it would take a constitutional amendment to make national referendums possible.

    Then we can get to the really contentious measures all that faster.

  • Norman

    I’m not talking about a perfect system. I’m talking about locking the system down enough that you can significantly lessen the probabilities of the Newton episodes. Let’s rule out the banning of any type of gun and restrict the discussion to just ammo security. Now each locale (county seat or towns with Sheriff or police depts.) can regulate their own local ammo dumps if you will. It doesn’t matter if you have a full blown assault weapon if you have to sign out for a limited amount of ammo at a time. If you really need to test it with large amounts of ammo then go to a firing range that can handle that process as well. We don’t let people make bombs of any size or keep dynamite sticks anymore (my grandfather used dynamite to move dirt more readily but that day is gone) and perhaps the day has arrived when having equipment for loading ammo is over as well (one can always have certifications for proven, trained and trusted individuals; that would be part of the process). I think that would be a small price to pay to help ensure the safety of innocents. Of course America is all about our individual rights no matter the consequences to the larger public good isn’t it.

    I grew up in the country and we had guns all over the place for hunting and predator elimination so I know the culture well. I also grew up with a father who developed mental illness (Paranoia) and his guns became a great family and community concern at that point. Times and people change and so can cultures, even hunting cultures. It doesn’t mean that hunting is ended; it would just mean that another means of regulation is in place for hunters and gun enthusiast but the care free days of guns and ammo everywhere needs to come to an end. Keep your guns, keep manufacturing them but when they need to be tested go and sign out just enough ammo for that specific test or hunt. America would sleep much better whether in the Wild West or urban East. Will something bad still happen? Of course but perhaps not every other month or so at least.

  • StephL

    26, JHM, could you at all envision possibly a combination of federal measures (the most basic laws) and state measures (the hashing it out…?)


    There has to be some limit to the collecting when what you are collecting is an arsenal.

    I do, even as an outsider to the gun community, have an appreciation for the kinds of craftsmanship and history of weaponry and the use in hunting that you are describing. (And my husband was a gun owner and wants to be again. He likely will be. It is not a road I would go down if I weren’t married to him, but I am.)

    But for many gun owners, it is simply a hobby. They could have fewer guns, less ammo, and still be okay. Sometimes you have to step outside the culture and see how very odd it is to collect weapons of mass (dozens rapidly killed) destruction. The average person could stand to ask themselves if we could quit creating the demand and thus reduce the supply. We’d still be vulnerable. But, wow, I’d settle for less of this carnage. “Less” would be a win.

    So let’s talk about the average arsenal collector. Then we can talk about craftsmen. There is probably not just one gun culture?

    Total control never works. But we are talking about changes, and some that would cause pain. But we have had moments where change was forced upon us, even where parts of the nation forced changes on other parts of the nation. And where the courts forced change. And we have even forced segments of industry (tobacco) into some changes that were against their interests. Not absolute dispossessions, but some bitter changes. For the common good.

    It does still exist?

  • It appears from some news reports that the mother was a “prepper” or a “doomer,” that she took security in her guns, that perhaps she target practiced with her son.

    I know that there is so much to this situation and to this topic; likely there is much more that will come out. Much of what came out initially via the media was incorrect.

    How I wish there were an easy solution. I don’t like guns, can’t understand the fascination with them among the Christian culture, don’t understand why Christians demand the right to gun ownership. I know more Christians with stockpiles of guns and gold than ones who sponsor children for basic food, clothes and education.

    At the very basic level, I truly don’t understand a mother with a mentally ill child (who surely showed some levels of either violence or dangerous or irrational thinking) owning a stockpile of guns.

  • Craig

    I think I can prove that banning assault weapons will not reduce the number of non-violent homicides.

  • Mike M

    Over 160 children have been killed by US drone attacks. Yes, children like those kiddy garters in CT. Every one of those parents grieve like we do. When our culture’s answer to violence is more violence, no one survives. Ban the MANUFACTURE of semi-automatic and automatic assault weapons at all levels (please, Father God), and then you’ll have an answer.

  • gingoro

    “What if all Christians chose to turn in all guns and show another way?” I know one high Calvinist pastor who advocates for more concealed carry (of guns) as in his opinion this would improve safety as citizens might be able to kill shooters like the one in Connecticut. So a first step might be for Christians to cease advocating for more guns especially in urban areas.

  • Ordinary Radical

    Scot or anyone,

    Can someone please explain to me how a “mental illness” can affect only men and not women. In the case of mass shootings by guns, etc., over 95% of them have been done by men. Im trying to figure out how this works.


  • Can I add a comment from the other side of the pond? We feel the sense of extraordinary grief at this episode, which is almost beyond words. We share with many others incredulity at the power of the gun lobby in the US which prevents real change.

    But there is a third dimension alongside gun control and mental health, and that is theology. The dead mother was, I understand, a ‘prepper’. I believe that Dispensational Premillennialism can also combine with mental health problems to create a seriously distorted view of reality.

  • Jag

    Being a southern man, I own 12 – 15 guns and pistols. Some I inherited, others I bought.

    I am getting rid of them, all except the two I gave my daughter; those are her decision.

    They are evil. We own too many. We have made guns an idol to the point where a large part of this nation will tolerate mass murders of children rather than let go of these tools of death.

  • Phil Niemi

    Hi Scot,

    Thanks for the post. This event has been on my mind as well, in many different contexts.

    Being a Canadian I see the gun restrictions from a different point of view. The very things that can protect us, can harm us. It appeared they were too readily accessible.

    The Slate article by Emily Willingham was informative, but so is “‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother’: A Mom’s Perspective On The Mental Illness Conversation In America” from the Huffington Post. Knowing others who have worked with persons with Autism and mental illness, the seemingly unthinkable can happen. The question is what can be done to protect the freedom and dignity of all involved.

    As a missionary, pastor or church planter, the cause I see for much of our hurt in life is our desire for autonomy. We really don’t want to share life with other people. We don’t want people to know our struggles, concerns or to even feel indebted to others. How would everything change if we brought our pretences down a notch. If we stopped being afraid of being hurt by others, we might actually be hurt less, and live more enriching lives. A willingness to be just a little more, to hold our cards out a little further might make life more satisfying.

    Grace and Peace

  • Excellent point on homeschooling, too. Often parents will homeschool their child with psychological/psychiatric disorders, after realizing that the school system isn’t equipped to deal with them. The parents aren’t equipped, either, but they are trying to spare their child ostracization. They would like more help…but there just isn’t enough. They are doing the best they can in often horrible situations.

  • Tom

    I don’t own any guns at present but I have in the past and I like shooting clays, etc. That said, it wouldn’t bother me a bit if they passed strict gun laws. I know that our country has a unique connection with guns. We likely wouldn’t have had a revolutionary war if there had been strict gun control at the time. People think that doesn’t affect today but there have been 2 Red Dawn movies that show that there is still a fear of having our guns controlled. That isn’t a reason not to do it, only to say that understanding the American psyche regarding guns is complex.

    What amazes me the most though, is that in 37 posts no one has said anything about banning violent movies, TV shows, music, and video games. We saturate our culture with this rot and then act as if it has no effect. Someone wondered why it was the mentally ill men who do these terrible things rather than women. Could it be that it is teenage boys who spend hours on video games, getting points for killing as many people as possible? I hear that it is time to take action. It is time to get tough. I say pass a gun law and pass violent media laws too. If you are worried about free speech just make the law apply to anything you sell or make a profit on.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Jag @ 37: Now you are a man worthy of respect!

  • Phil Miller

    I hear that it is time to take action. It is time to get tough. I say pass a gun law and pass violent media laws too. If you are worried about free speech just make the law apply to anything you sell or make a profit on.

    Well, honestly, it’s this kind of response that serves as an ammunition (no pun intended) for the pro-gun side of things. It just feeds into their narrative of the government trying to be a nanny-state.

    I hate violent video games and movies, too, but I can’t support their ban altogether. For one thing, I think banning such things is simply not possible in the internet age. But, more importantly, going down the censorship route isn’t something I’m comfortable with.

  • I agree with you on violent media, Tom.

    Regarding the “doomer” mentality – it puts such a different twist on the entire situation. What does that do to motive and catalyst? It’s too early to draw complete conclusions, but wow, does it make my mind go to a lot of places.

    It’s easy to see the tie-in to a dispensational view of eschatology – but the doomer view isn’t only theological. I see a lot of it online minus any religious view. It can be, of course, but it is also right wing political ideology. (Right wing politics are not always religious in nature. There’s just a lot of fear out there right now regarding financial collapse.)

    I think I’m most frustrated by those who are calling for MORE guns in the face of this horrible situation. It seems so heartless and so crass.

  • Tom

    Phil @ #42 – I really don’t think the stronger gun laws are going to make that much of a difference. But I get tired of the slippery slope mentality about even the most basic of gun laws. My point though is that I believe that violent media has a much larger impact on our society and yet everyone is afraid to touch it because of a fear of censorship/freedom of speech issues. But I think there is a difference between a product you intend to make a profit on and your own expression of an opinion or idea. I’m not saying you can’t make a violent movie or a video game. I’m just saying you can’t sell it. We ban all sorts of dangerous products and violent media should be know different. Sure some will still find access through online gaming etc. but it will cut the exposure significantly.

  • Tom

    oops – “no different”

  • Phil Miller

    Well, all I’m saying that tying such a concept to gun legislation will be something of a poison pill. Such a ban would also be thrown out of court in a heartbeat. For one, define “violent”. Is a classic video game like Asteroids “violent”? Sure – you’re shooting spaceships. But it’s not very realistic. I just think that the type of ban you’re talking about isn’t realistic.

  • Tom


    I know it will never happen. But I believe that we have to stop being afraid to tackle those issues. As for determining what is violent, they do that already. The bar is just extremely low. I’m not saying it is easy but it can be done and it should be part of the conversation.

  • Robin

    I think the gun control crowd also seriously needs to think about who should be the messenger on this sort of legislation.

    The three people who were out in fron of it this weekend were all from very liberal states, Feinstein, Bloomberg, and Schumer.

    Bloomberg is a particularly bad spokesman because he is primarily known for wanting to control most aspects of everyone’s lives, from salt intake, to Transfat consumption, to how big your soda can be.

    Any successful push for legislation needs to be spearheaded by moderate Democrats, preferrable from swing states, who don’t appear to be authoritarians or “nanny staters.” You need to get Bloomberg off the television, and get someone like Jim Webb or Max Baucus or Ben Nelson.

  • I think it’s all a powder-keg; and any insinuation of any loss of freedom is going to only make people dig their heels in deeper.

    To flip the conversation (and it’s only fair to do so in order to adequately represent responsible people…)

    My brother and brother-in-law own guns. But quietly, not boastfully…in fact, I’ve never seen them unless they are shooting clay pigeons. Last month my brother-in-law shot a rattle snake in his carport in Georgia, one that was close to where my sister and grandchildren were standing. (Then skinned it and ate it. It was delicious, apparently, and the skin will soon become part of a beautiful, leather, hand-made belt.) I’ve never known better, more responsible men…they are not part of a stock-pile mentality, and it would be a true infringement on the rights of good people to say they couldn’t carry guns.

  • Robin

    One more interesting data point surrounding gun control. England passed legislation in 1997 banning private ownership of handguns almost completely. Apparently they did this following a mass shooting.

    The Daily Mail is reporting today that since passing that legislation, violent gun crime has gone up 89%. They are still well below our rates, but crime appears to have gone up following gun control, not down. I think the overriding narrative in the daily mail story is that it is cultural issues driving the violence, despite gun control.

  • Rick

    Holly #43-

    “I think I’m most frustrated by those who are calling for MORE guns in the face of this horrible situation. It seems so heartless and so crass.”

    I am declaring a position one way or the other, but I do think many of the people advocating more guns are doing so with the mindset of deterring violence and protecting people, not a mindset of advocating more violence.

  • Josh T.

    Re: Kyle J #24

    Here’s another prophetic word about American’s gun idolatry:

  • Robert

    Someone just posted on Facebook that the recent shooting tragedies have all involved kids that were on “Methylphenidate”. This is from it’s makers website;
    “Methylphenidate, as with any medication, stimulant ADHD medication used …in treating ADHD can produce adverse side effects in some individuals. In rare cases, stimulant medication can lead to nervous tics, hallucinations, and bizarre behavior.”
    Read the last sentence again….

    Is this true? Has anyone else heard this? If mental health pros are dispensing a drug that occasionally leads to bizarre behavior? Mix that with available guns….
    Is this really true?

  • Oh, yes…you’re right, Rick. I was just thinking that is can help us to be able to understand that most people are driven by what they see as the best solution. I may disagree with the definition of “best,” but I should largely assume they are trying to do good. (Protect others.)

  • Josh T.

    Tom #40, Re: violent movies, etc…

    I would imagine it would be difficult to legally differentiate between media that glorifies and inspires (or perhaps makes light of) violence and media that legitimately tells a good story that has violent aspects to it (movies about true war stories, e.g., the 1989 movie Glory comes to mind, or perhaps something fantastical like the Lord of the Rings trilogy), assuming one would want to make a distinction for regulation purposes. It seems that the gun culture may also affect the desire for certain media and vice versa. So perhaps modified gun regulation and/or bans would reduce some of the gun culture aspect, even if the violent media aspect would be difficult to define and regulate.

  • metanoia

    Since this thread has opened up another aspect of the debate about violence, I’ll weigh in briefly. As a Christian I have always struggled with the idea that Hollywood (and by extension video game manufacturers) make its living out of glorifying the breaking of the basic 10 Commandments. But it bothers me most that as Christians we readily subsidize a medium and entertain ourselves by that same industry. Not pointing fingers, just looking in the mirror. 🙁

  • BradK

    John #20,

    No school massacres before 1990? What about the Bath School Disaster in 1927?

  • Bill

    Correct Brad #57. Folks better get their facts straight.

    And how can we forget Laurie Dann.

    I completely disagree with the idea that we have made guns an idol. The idea misses the point altogether. Guns are tools and they are not evil in and of themselves any more than a screw driver chain saw, knife, spears, arrows, swords, table knifes, box cutters, ropes, cars, trucks, the right mixture of fertilizers and chemicals (OK City bombing if you care to remember), etc. which can also be used to kill people. While guns have great killing potential, this doesn’t automatically make them evil. Guns don’t pull their own triggers any more than a knife makes its own stabbing or cutting motion.

    What we have made an idol is own own comfort and ease. What we want is a society where we are not bothered by the menatlly ill and others who need legitimate help. Anybody or anything that makes me feel uncomfortable or impinges on my comfort, I want out of my sight.; unless of course some mentally ill person kills a bunch of children and then we can collectively complain about gun control because it makes us feel good while ignoring the real problem.

    Did it ever cross your mind where most if not all these shootings seem to take place? Let’s see, movie theaters, schools, shopping malls, restaurants, churches, workplaces. Places where chances are, there are lots of unarmed people.

    While it may make you feel good to get rid of your guns or spout off about gun laws, it doesn’t address or solve the problem and it certainly doesn’t bring down our idols.

  • metanoia

    Let’s put this incident in perspective. Every single day, thousands of children die of hunger, inner city violence, and abortion, and we shrug. Unfortunately, in a few days, weeks tops, most of us will be back to “normal.” These comments are not mean to sound cold. My concern is that; we have these shocking episodes, have an initial reaction, process it into a safe corner of our minds and hearts, and then move on. It’s going to take a higher level of involvement and awareness by more of us to address these societal problems. I can only hope these children did not die in vain, but that perhaps a greater sense of the value of life will grip our souls and we will respond by creating a life giving culture rather than a life taking one.

  • AHH

    Robin @48 has a good point that reasonable legislation in this area will have a better chance of succeeding if it is not the “usual suspects” on the left out front pushing it, who can be easily dismissed by 40-some percent of the polarized electorate.
    Robin mentions some moderate Democrats; what would really help would be if a few brave, relatively moderate Republicans (maybe John McCain, Chris Christie, even Mitt Romney) got on board. And perhaps some Christian leaders not associated with the Left, like Rick Warren or Tim Keller or Joel Hunter.

  • Robin

    Responding to AHHs comment,

    Yesterday Joe Manchin came out in favor of some legislation. You probably couldn’t ask for a better Democrat. He is NRA approved and has been seen shooting rifles at copies of ‘Obamacare’ in his campaign commercials. Republicans will be a tougher sell because the people likely to support it (McCain, Graham, etc.) are already heavily distrusted by the base. Someone respected, maybe like a Paul Ryan, could push the issue without getting much RINO blowback.

  • Holly

    Yes. Maybe guns aren’t evil. But they do give a certain power to the one who holds them, which isn’t exactly usually associated with fertilizer.

  • TJJ

    I am not really pro guns or anti guns. I have two guns that I used to hunt with but have not used in over 15 years. What I find interesting as someone who lives in a city (Louisville) is that this kind of school shootings do not happen (or rarely so) in urban areas, where security is higher, less access, more layers to the access, because that is just typical of places in cities, and the expectation for armed security of assigned police presence higher.

    But to me the failed, almost nonexistent mental health system in this country is at least equally to blame as gun laws. Your average garden variety gang banger or drug dealer or others harries, just don’t have an interest to go into schools and shoot 20 first graders. This is something very sick, broken, hurt, wounded lonely unloved people do.

  • Mike Allison

    Regarding your myth #3, the above link seems to contradict that myth.

    I’m in favor of technologically regulating weapons to only be useable by the registered owner, and only be able to be used on targets or game. We probably are at the point where we could even have a smart gun distinguish between someone breaking into a home vs an innocent. Gathering up the dumb weapons would of course be the game breaker.

  • True, TJJ. I really do agree with you. I would support armed guards at schools. Here in my own small town (5,000) the police don’t patrol the halls, but they do park outside the schools and they do patrols throughout the day. It’s not specifically funded by the school system, but they consider it part of their duty. (My neighbor is a police officer and a good friend.)

    Thing about this specific case, though, which I think breaks down most of the regular thought patterns regarding this type of crime, even regarding mental illness – and that is that the mother thought the world was basically ending and passed that on to her son. Even with outside help for mental illness, the stockpiling of guns and the training she apparently helped him obtain coupled with a hopelessness were simply toxic. What mental health system could have helped with that? His mother might have thought she was protecting him, but she (not the mental health system this time…although broadly I completely agree with you) is the one who failed him in this. She taught him that guns were the way to survive and she helped prepare his marksmanship and gun skills. That’s the crazy part. Most parents of children with psychiatric or behavioral/mental health problems would not keep guns available and teach their children how to use them.

  • TJJ

    The mom may have used guns as a point of relational contact with her otherwise emotionally withdrawn and isolated son. It may have Been one of very very few common interests or points of contact that they had.

    I would be very surprised this young man did this because he thought the world was ending, etc. This strikes me to be more a of an act fueled by emotions of anger, rejection, loneliness, lack of male affirmation, utter brokenness with underlying mental illness.

  • TJJ, just to be clear, I didn’t say that the young man thought the world was ending. I said that his mom thought that it was, or at the very least that there would be financial collapse with violent ramifications – she stockpiled at least guns, food, and water. (I am friends with several people who have retreated from the world over the last four years in the same manner and have taken their children with them. It is a very sad thing.) I think Lanza’s actions speak of carefully exacted anger too. What I was saying was that a parent’s hopelessness and her worldview affects a child, whether he believes the same or not.

    It is HARD enough to raise teens, particularly teens who are a little different, who may have sensitivities or psychological problems. (Please take this with the grace with which I say it….but I’ve had four teenagers and I think that most teens struggle with reality at times….and they come from a very healthy home and marriage.) I found that one of the very best gifts I could give my teens (particularly one boy that I was very worried about and lost a lot of sleep over) was to be hopeful, joyful, positive, and forward looking. (That’s not to deny difficulties, but to always say, “God is with us, He will help us, we will come out of this and have a future.) I can’t imagine the outcome with my own boy if I had been mired in despair and felt that the world was collapsing and everyone would be out to get me. Whether he agreed with her or not, her outlook could not have helped his mental state. Maybe the government (and mental health budgets) failed him, but so did his mom.

  • And so did his dad.

    And I do think this is a big deal and worth asking uncomfortable questions we might not normally ask. Too many children dead and lots of choices ahead of us: gun control, mental health funding…

    Doomer (prepper, survivalist) mentality is dangerous. Sometimes people take themselves so far away they simply can’t be helped. Usually people who fear government (directly, I don’t just mean fear tax hikes) will not avail themselves of governmental services anyway.