- better gun control laws.
- better mental healthcare.
However, something different was brought up by people this time. It is not that this topic had not come up before, but that people had not really discussed it at length before. At least that was the case with my social circles. The conclusion was that better gun control is unrealistic. Most of these mass shooters have a mental illness, and while it is easy to say background checks should screen for mental illnesses, screening gun applicants for mental illnesses is not that simple. Mental health records are like all medical records, private and confidential. There is no way for the government to even be aware mental health records exist, much less be able to check them if a person has never committed a serious crime. Personal interviews by a law enforcement officer would not even help in screening for mental illnesses. Many with illnesses as serious as paranoid schizophrenia. can pass as "normal" when on medication. So that leaves us with two options. First, make all medical records public, and second create a database of all individuals that have suffered a mental illness even if is something as common as depression. Privacy advocates are going to balk at the first, and rightly so. No one wants to be passed up for a job because he or she seriously hurt his or her right knee in third grade, and the potential employer assumes that he or she is a medical risk. The second one, privacy advocates are going to balk at more. The idea of collecting any database of individuals that could be used against them is unappealing as we are not but 70 years from Nazi Germany when Jews and other minorities were collected in concentration camps and killed.
As for better mental healthcare, few would argue against that. But in order for people to get better mental health care would mean a total overhaul of our healthcare system. People would have to be taught to spot mental illnesses, and how to convince mentally ill individuals to seek treatment. Even then we could not use any sort of "force" to make people seek treatment. If we start making people seek treatment against their will, esp. if they have committed no crime, it is going to be decried as a human rights violation. Then medical costs such as therapy, doctor visits, and medication would have to be kept cheap enough that all individuals be able to afford them. Improving ways of spotting mental illness will do no good if one does not have a way to afford treatment. Short of going to a one payer system or price controls or something else that will not happen. The American healthcare system is a capitalist system made for profit by corporations. Without some sort of intervention they will not lower their goods and services even for the benefit of society. This means many Americans with mental illnesses even if they want treatment, may go untreated because they cannot afford it.
Therefore, gun control and better mental healthcare are not as simple as they may seem. And besides, focusing on those two things is overlooking the bigger problem in my opinion. Other countries have guns, a lot of guns, maybe not as many as the United States, but they do not have the gun crime we do. It is true they may have better gun control laws, but we all know if someone is willing to kill people they will obtain a gun illegally regardless of the country they are in. Similarly, other countries have the same percentage of mentally ill individuals in their population. Yet those mentally ill individuals do not go out and shoot a room full of people. Yes, they may have a better healthcare system, but even then that would not explain why people with mental illnesses that have gotten treatment in the USA are killing people. No there is a deeper problem than guns and mental illness at work in the United States of America when it comes to these mass shootings.
People in the United States of America, in general, do not view other individuals as humans. Instead they view them as objects. This lack of empathy towards other humans, the ability to understand their feelings, to share in their joys and sorrows has lead to a lack of compassion on the part of the American citizen. Perhaps, this is a gross generalization, and the majority of individuals are not that way, but I feel enough are that it is showing an impact on our society, and has for many years. Add to this inability to have compassion for others the excessive self-centeredness of many Americans and you have a society that is bound to have a great deal of crime. After all if one views other humans as mere objects to be used, and places his or her own well being over that of all others, what is to keep him or her from killing just to have his or her way?
This lack of empathy and compassion is even reflected in our politics. The Republican Party regularly complains about money spent on social programs such as food stamps, and even cut aid to military veterans that served in wars they started to make profits for their friends. The Democratic Party is no better focusing on such liberal issues as helping illegal aliens while largely ignoring the plight of American citizens in just as much need. But again our politics are symptomatic of our entire culture. People are only there to be used to further our own means. For the Republican Party opposing social programs gains them support from Americans who being self-centered do not want their tax money spent on anything that does not benefit themselves personally. For the Democrats helping illegal aliens allows them to feel good about themselves without ever having to put a bigger investment in the much larger population of American citizens who are in need of better roads and schools.
It all goes deeper than just attitudes though, and it can be seen in the everyday interactions of people in America. How often do you hear, "please" and "thank you" anymore? When was the last time you saw someone allow an elderly person to go ahead of him or her in line at the store so the elderly person would not have to wait as long on his or her feet? How often have you seen a pregnant lady be forced to stand because no one will offer her a seat on the train? We have forgotten common courtesy, and I think therein rests the sickness of America. We are not taught to be kind to other people. Somewhere after preschool we cease being taught to be loving and caring. Instead we are taught to do for ourselves in accordance with whatever the establishment tells us we should be doing, and we expect others to do the same. Somewhere after preschool we forget how to share, how to say "please" and "thank you," to wait our turn in line.
I think the way to prevent more mass shootings and killings is to again ingrain in Americans so it is second nature the ideas of courtesy and politeness. Teach people to be kind to other people, to do acts of kindness. Perhaps, in time folks could learn to love their fellow man, Being kind, doing the right thing, helping others is so unusual that it sometimes makes national news. Recently, some college football players came into a store that unbeknowst to them was closed. The system that locked the place up and turned off the lights had failed. They shouted for a worker, and looked for them, and finding none they got the items they needed, walked to the counter, waved at the security camera, and left the exact amount of money on the counter including the tax for the items they purchased. Had this happened 70 years ago no one would have thought it an unusual occurrence. Now it makes national news.
Our country's citizens have become so used to people doing the wrong thing that doing the right thing is unusual. And how we treat people is no different. It is little wonder then that mass shooters feel misunderstood, lonely, and under appreciated. The latest shooter in his manifesto complained about having no friends, and having no girl friend. These shooters have, as all of us in America have, been met with unkindness at every turn. People cut us off in traffic, people butt in line at the convenience store, someone forgets to say "thank you," the cashier at the store ignores us. Each one of these things can make us angry. Now imagine you had a mental illness and had no way to shut that anger off, and it built up and built up with no relief. That exactly is how mass shooters are created. No one has been kind to them. No one has given them a way to feel good about themselves. No one has given them a way to let go of that anger. But if we dismissed no one's feelings of loneliness, if we sought to help even a little those in a bad situation, perhaps then that person who has a mental illness will not become the next mass shooter.
Research shows random acts of kindness improves one's mental and physical health as well as the health of the person one is being kind to. The only way to end these mass shootings is to change the entire mindset of our culture, to make Americans value the lives of others. It will take years to do so, but if we start today, encouraging folks to be kind to others, to place others above oneself, then perhaps there will be a day in America when mass shootings are as rare as they are in Europe or other places in the world. There is no short term solution to the problem. If guns were banned tomorrow and as many confiscated as possible there would probably be another mass shooting. If every person with a mental illness got treatment in America there would still be one that went rogue and shoots up a school because they feel lonely and unappreciated. No, we need a long term solution, and that solution is in how we view and treat other human beings. The solution to me is for people to treat each other with kindness, to show common courtesy, and go even beyond that to greater acts of kindness.