As with most every other issue of critical importance, Americans can’t seem to agree on whom or what to blame for the epidemic of mass shootings, including school shootings that took the lives of innocent children who did nothing to hurt or offend anyone. And like most other emotional and contentious issues, it’s being shamelessly politicized. Those on the political left tend to blame the guns; those on the right, anything but the guns and particularly, mental illness. Mental illness is the new pandemic, some say. There are signs of it all around us, especially among the homeless populating the streets of our cities.

We used to institutionalize the mentally ill and as long as they were out of sight, nobody except close relatives gave them much thought. That all changed about the time of the Reagan Administration when it became extremely difficult to institutionalize them against their will and we were essentially told to live with them among us because mental illness was just another illness. But it’s not just another illness. It’s often extremely difficult to determine reliably whether or not mentally-ill persons are a lethal threat to themselves or to others.

And it’s far from clear that we are actually experiencing an epidemic of mental illness. We may just be more aware today of its prevalence among us. In any event, it’s a rush to judgement and too convenient to blame it for the rise in mass shootings. What seems abundantly clear, however, is that we are experiencing an epidemic of violence and those who act out violence, mostly young males, are probably not all mentally ill. We see violent behavior in public on a regular basis; on the streets and highways, at concerts and athletic events, in the stores and markets and almost anywhere that alcohol is sold. You witness, hear or read about young men who are much too easily offended and enraged, acting out their anger and showing little regard for human lives including those of innocent bystanders and their own.

The statistics tell part but not all of the story because many, perhaps most, acts of violence are not even reported let alone prosecuted. We have become numb to violence. Homicides rose last year in almost every major city in America; in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Houston by over 15% and in Indianapolis and Columbus by over 20%. Chicago, the murder capital of the U.S., leads the nation with 739 in the first eleven months of 2021. In twelve major cities in the U.S., homicide rates hit all-time highs. So, what do these cities have in common besides lots of funerals and grieving survivors? You know the answer. They are mostly run by Democrats and have prosecutors that don’t prosecute, de-criminalize serious offenses and release violent offenders to commit crimes again. There are, to be sure, socio-economic factors involved but they don’t excuse the fact that many of those elected to protect the public have failed miserably in their most important responsibility. They have, in fact, made matters worse by their soft-on-crime policies.

With the massacre of two teachers and 19 children in Uvalde closely following the racially- motivated murder of ten Blacks in Buffalo, Americans are again demanding action but again, as in the past, agreement on what action to take is elusive. Please, candidates, spare us the simplistic campaign promises during the coming elections to get the guns off the streets. Guns don’t murder people any more than cars do. Murder requires intent. It’s the violent person who pulls the trigger or uses his car as a weapon that kills people. And we will never get all the guns off the street. There are more of them than there are people and violent people will always find a way to get them. Besides, we’ve ceded control of the streets in many areas to gangs and criminals. It’s a little late for major gun control legislation now that we’ve defunded and re-purposed many police departments. Therefore, law-abiding citizens will indeed cling to their guns ever more tightly because they now realize that demoralized, undermanned and demonized police have become overly-cautious and cannot possibly protect us from all the violence. After almost every mass shooting, the sale of guns and ammunition soars. Most people will do whatever it takes to protect their families.

And then there’s the matter of the Second Amendment. Some members of Congress are responding to public demands for action by attempting to find some common ground for bi-partisan legislation but each side remains suspicious of the other side’s motives. Besides, gun control legislation is largely the responsibility of the states and they are very jealous of that responsibility. Guns are part of the culture in much of America, like it or not.

And speaking of culture, there is an urgent need for a cultural transformation regarding our attitude toward violence, authority and parental responsibility. Where were the parents of those young mass murderers? Oh, right. The shooters came from broken or dysfunctional families. Too often there is no dad around to teach them responsible male adult behavior. We have another pandemic in this country and that’s a failure of parenting with too many kids being reared by a single mom, too busy earning a living to deal with a rebellious teen. There are too many being dumped on aging grandparents to raise. It’s such fun being a parent when the children are small, cute and adorable. Not so much when they become big, sullen and rebellious. A parent’s assertion that they can no longer control a child does not relieve them of responsibility. We also have an epidemic of disrespect for authority and especially for the police. What gives young men the idea that they can resist arrest or try to evade police or engage in road rage or ignore laws? That has to change.

Would I be in favor of limiting gun ownership to persons 21 or older? Absolutely. Brains are not fully developed in persons under 21, especially the functions having to do with restraint and judgement. Yes, I know they’re old enough to go to war but fighting is something they tend to do well; anger management, not so much. And they are carefully screened, trained and supervised before they are even allowed to handle a military firearm.

Vol. 38, No. 23 - Thursday, June 9, 2022

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