Last night I watched a gut-wrenching update report on the CBC about yet another tragic mass shooting involving a semi-automatic high capacity assault rifle and a disaffected local resident with an apparent score to settle, this time in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Towards the end of the piece, the CBC news anchor asked two well-respected US-based CBC reporters, Keith Boag and Paul Hunter, whether they thought that this latest in a recent string of such American tragedies would result in any changes to the attitude of the public and their elected representatives toward gun control.
You could see the frustration and despair etched on the faces of both reporters as they concluded that last Sunday’s events in a small town Texas church, which killed off 4 per cent of the town’s population, wasn’t likely to change a darn thing.
Paul Hunter conceded reluctantly that the National Rifle Association had won and that we, as Canadians, should accept the fact that this is the way it is going to be in the USA. There appears to be a prevailing laissez-faire attitude among Americans, manifested as personal impotence to effect change, which is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
Both commentators concluded that we should reluctantly wish our good neighbours ‘good luck’ and get on with our own lives.
To some extent, I agree with their conclusion. As a coroner, I have researched the issue of gun violence extensively. I know the statistics and acknowledge that the USA is an aberration in an otherwise mostly sane world.
While the current president of the USA is wont to label “mental illness” or “radical jihadist terrorism” as the root causes of mass killings (defined as four or more deaths, excluding the perpetrator, resulting from a single relatable event), research does not support either conclusion.
While many mass shooters are later shown to have had mental health issues, not many of them suffered from major psychotic illnesses upon which to blame their actions. In most instances, mass killers in the USA have had no trouble legally amassing their collection of weapons of mass destruction, usually assault rifles with oversize magazines, because it is way too easy to purchase such articles, the sale of which is inconsistently regulated in America.
As a result of an overly permissive regulatory environment, there are nearly 320,000,000 firearms in the hands of private citizens. To nobody’s surprise, there is a direct correlation between the number of guns in circulation and the incidence of gun-related violence, including mass killings.
This is a subject, which has been studied to death. Alas, the conclusions of a large number of experts have been labeled “fake news” by the majority of gun-owning Americans, energetically supported by the NRA, the Republican Party and the current Commander-in-Chief of the USA.
In my opinion, when it comes time to hold politicians in Washington accountable, the current leadership of the Republican Party should be condemned to the everlasting fires of hell.
I have written in the past of the risks to personal mental health from overexposure to mainstream and social media. I would exhort you to consider doing two things. Take a break from your continuous consumption of “the news”, and write letters to Paul Ryan, U.S. House of Representatives Majority leader and Mitch McConnell, U.S. Senate Majority Leader, expressing your concern about the future of their country in the absence of restricted access to guns.
Students of history will recognize the warning signs of the imminent cultural collapse of the most powerful country in the world. I would beseech our mainstream media to impose a moratorium on the reporting of mass killings in an effort to mitigate its influence on copycat killers who keep upping the ante. Let me leave you with a thought.
‘Let them have guns' is as much a solution to mass murder and gun violence as 'Let them have drugs' is a solution to drug addiction.” - DaShanne Stokes, PhD. American sociologist and author.
- Desmond Colohan is a semi-retired Island physician with a keen interest in mental health.