Of Course Guns are the Problem.

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.

3 thoughts on “Of Course Guns are the Problem.

  1. Buffalo News – Another Voice / Gun Violence

    Change the discussion on gun violence to strengthening families

    The recent Oregon shooting and the usual political discussion that centers on the either better management of mental illness or more gun control misses the root cause: we live in an angry and violent society.
    The United States has not only high rates of gun violence, it has high rates of bullying, road rage, animal and family violence. One out of every four students report being bullied during the school year1. More than half of those surveyed by NHTSA admitted to aggressive driving. A woman is assaulted or beaten every 9 seconds in the US. In one survey, 71 percent of domestic violence victims reported that their abuser also targeted their animal.2

    As a mental health profession for over 30 years, I agree that this country must strengthen its mental health system. There are too many barriers for people to access behavioral healthcare including stigma, high cost to consumers, and a shortage of providers. But, people with mental illness are less likely to be aggressive than the general population and are far more likely to turn their aggression on themselves than others. So, targeting gun regulation on the mentally ill will have a negligible impact on overall gun violence.

    The most fundamental reason we have a violent society is that we are raising angry, aggressive children. The vast majority of violent teens and young adults are simply damaged and do not have serious mental illnesses. They are damaged by their parents, by wars, and their school and neighborhood environments.

    Childhood abuse, neglect, and exposure to traumatic stressors are common in the U.S. Almost two-thirds of participants the ACE study reported at least one exposure to abuse, neglect or trauma, and more than one of five reported three or more adverse childhood experiences.3 The short and long-term outcomes of these childhood exposures include a multitude of health and social problems including substance abuse, depression and violence.

    The solutions are multi-level. They start with reducing unwanted pregnancies. Too many young adults are ill-equipped to raise children. We need safe streets and schools. Parenting is challenging. Parents need more resources to be successful role models for their children. Our religious, social and mental health systems must offer more evidence-based prevention and proactive intervention programs to stop child maltreatment and help struggling families.

    There is no excuse for not providing better family support services. The return on our investment is improved workforce productivity, reduced crime, improved student academic performance and reduced healthcare costs.

    Jerry Bartone MA MBA is the Chief Executive Officer at Community Concern of Western New York, Inc.

    1 National Center for Educational Statistics, 2015
    2 Ascione, 1997
    3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


    1. Absolutely. The entire world needs the United States to improve its health care, public education systems, welfare, family support, income support, to become a kinder, more enlightened society – to actually live up to its lofty ideals. But that is the point of the egg metaphor. With respect to gun violence a simple rational improvement is at hand: banning, at the very least, automatic weapons and assault rifles. Though judging by some of the responses to the latest tragedy, perhaps the U.S. needs to become a more enlightened and kinder nation before such rational legislation can pass. — David Dawson


  2. Where is .the scientific evidence that terrible childhoods are a cause for mental illnesses later in life?

    Perhaps “terrible” childhoods are early stages of serious mental illness (SMI) in children. Rather than give more legs to this old social assumption, wouldn’t be wiser to fund the scientific brain research that will eventually ameliorate and then cure these brain diseases.

    Citizens have bought into social explanations for schizophrenia, depression, autism and related diseases because we didn’t have the scientific tools at first to find the biological roots,(like microbes) of these diseases in human brains. (Early microscopes were not strong enough to see them. But newer microscopes spot them easily)

    A reading of science writer’s Jay Ingram’s “Fatal Flaws: How a Misfolded :Protein Baffled Scientists and Changed the Way We Look at the Brain” will provide the insights we need if we are to eradicate these diseases.

    A visit to the website of The Treatment Advocacy Center will inform you about latest scientific research into schizophrenia and other related diseases.

    This won’t happen if we don’t move on from unscientific assumptions generated in early days, which we know has not changed for decades but still dominate public opinion.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s