Friday, October 09, 2015

Yes, It Is About Guns.

Once House Republicans claimed the scalp of Speaker John Boehner, there was speculation that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be the next target of the right wing of America's right wing party.  However, though it appears many House Republicans want to see the Kentucky Senator lose his position, he is safe with the group, his own caucus, which really counts.

That is wise given that Senator McConnell again has demonstrated strategic deftness, as his spokesperson maintains of mass shootings "The president told them to politicize the issue, and apparently they're taking him up on it."

The statement is reasonably accurate inasmuch as, following the mass killing at Umpqua Community College, Obama boldly stated "And, of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue.  Well, this is something we should politicize."   Although the President might have noted that Republicans already have politicized the issue, he did not, probably because he is unaware that their remarks, avoiding the issue of gun violence, not only are insufficient but misguided.

McConnell's comment allowed him not only to criticize the Democratic President, but to remain wisely agnostic on the excuse offered by his fellow Republicans as they themselves rushed to politicize the issue- as they have in the past.

Following the incident, Donald Trump released a statement criticizing gun control efforts and claiming

All of the tragic mass murders that occurred in the past several years have something in common – there were red flags that were ignored. We can’t allow that to continue. We need to expand treatment programs, because most people with mental health problems aren’t violent, they just need help. But for those who are violent, a danger to themselves or others, we need to get them off the street before they can terrorize our communities. This is just common sense.

On ABC's This Week, presidential candidate Chris Christie argued

that the focus needs to be put on mental health and take some of the murkiness out of the law.
“Let’s make involuntary commitment of people who speak violently easier for doctors,” said Christie, who says he has proposed similar legislation in New Jersey.

The governor also seemed to brush off calls for tougher laws following the shooting.

Interviewed by GOP partisan Hugh Hewitt, Ben Carson contended

Obviously there are going to be those calling for gun control but that happens every time we have one of these incidents. Obviously that’s not the issue. The issue is the mentality of these people. And we need to be looking at the mentality of these individuals and seeing if there are any early warning clues that we can gather that will help us as a society be able to identify these people ahead of time.

There is an "obvious" here, but it's not what Carson evidently thinks it is.  Most mentally ill people are not violent and the vast majority of violent crimes are not committed by a person with a serious mental illness (John Oliver on the subject, below). The Huffington Post reports 

According to Harold Pollack, co-director of the Crime Lab at the University of Chicago, gun reform can't be achieved until Americans stop looking at mental illness as a scapegoat for violent behavior.

"We don't want to stereotype people with a severe mental illness," Pollack told HuffPost Live host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani. "Severe mental illness accounts for something like five percent of the violence we see in America, and we don't have a particularly higher rate of severe mental illness than many other places that have much lower gun homicide rates than we do."

Additionally, Pollack argued the practice of concealed carry permits fosters a culture that normalizes firearm possession -- no matter the state of mental health. 

"What kind of norms are we really creating by having people walking around in public with dangerous weapons?" he said. "The people who have concealed carry permits are not particularly the people who are the dangerous people, but they're contributing to an environment that is a problem."

Real estate mogul Trump, Governor Christie, and brain surgeon Carson have something in common other than wanting to ignore gun safety. It is not hypocrisy because only Christie has cut psychiatric services and additionally made it easier for mentally ill individuals to purchase firearms. Instead, none of the three had ever examined, or even met, Christopher Harper-Mercer or any of the other mass murderers. But they just know they must have been mentally ill.

They do not. But what we do know is that Christopher Harper-Mercer would not have been able to kill nine people if he had been running around with a knife. Mental illness is a factor, but only sometimes; it is handier as an excuse.

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