By Dr David Laing Dawson
No doubt the perpetrators of recent mass shootings in schools, churches and university campuses were troubled young men. They may or may not have each suffered from a treatable psychiatric illness. They did nurse grievances. Their solutions for those grievances were at the least misguided, and at the most delusional. They were also suicidal, though possibly young enough and deranged enough to not really grasp the finality of death.
In each case the impetus for their actions was partly internal, partly fueled by internet propaganda and hate.
And they were each able to acquire an arsenal of weapons, openly, not secretly – proudly, not furtively.
In another time and place each of these young men may have come to grief, may have hurt someone, may have been brought to good counsel and treatment, or simply continued to fantasize an end game without acting on it.
But in this time and place, in the United States of America, each was able with credit card and basic computer skills to fill their shopping carts with lethal weapons. They can be delivered to your door without much more fanfare than a medium pizza.
Unlike all other personal weapons the gun is fast; it can respond to an impulse and the movement of a finger; it is immediate; it can be instantly lethal, and it permits some distance, some emotional and physical distance. It allows the user, the killer, to depersonalize the victims.
In Canada, over the years, I have seen many young men who fit the description in that first paragraph. Some responding to terrible childhoods; some to persistent social and academic failure; others to developing psychotic illnesses; some whose grievances were clearly delusional.
At no time have I feared them. Because they did not have access to guns. If there is a gun in the home I insist it be removed from the home.
Some I have been able to help, to treat, along with social workers, nurses, psychologists, alternative educational programs, family support.
I would fear them if I knew they could proudly or secretly collect an arsenal of handguns and assault rifles in their bedrooms.
Eggs break when you drop them on the kitchen floor. We could spend an enormous amount of time and money looking for a bio-engineering solution, some genetic splicing, to create a breed of chicken that will lay eggs with resilient shells.
We could spend an enormous amount of time and money trying (and probably failing) to engineer a foolproof assessment system and an implementation program that might keep guns out of the wrong hands without interfering with those cherished second amendment rights.
Or we could stop dropping the eggs.