In the wake of this week’s Navy Yard shooting, the talk has started again about gun control. Now I’m not fond of guns. I have a MacGyver-like aversion to them. But when pundits start going on about gun control after one of these incidents, I get angry, not because I oppose gun control, but because the guns are not the problem.
After every one of these incidents, we hear about the perpetrator’s history of mental illness. The Navy Yard shooter, for example, told police two weeks ago that he was hearing voices. He was already under treatment by the VA and may have had post-traumatic stress disorder from having witnessed the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001.
I understand you can’t commit somebody to a psychiatric ward against their will just because they hear voices. Then all us writers would be in trouble. That’s not my point.
My point is that we keep focusing on guns as if guns were the problem. That’s like giving someone aspirin for a fever when what they need is antibiotics to treat an infection. People with mental health problems can, and often do, hurt themselves or others with stuff other than guns. What we need to figure out is how to best help people with mental health problems.
That’s probably going to mean allocating dollars and time to solving a difficult problem. It’s going to mean sometimes restricting someone’s liberty for their own good. But it needs to be done. Taking people’s guns away won’t help them if we still can’t give them peace of mind.