Time and time again, when mass shootings take place, the American public becomes extremely polarized: The gun advocates stand firmly on their Second Amendment right to bear arms while others demand action to regulate gun ownership. In the end, the status quo remains and nothing changes. In due time, another crazed person on a rampage slaughters innocent bystanders. Enter Elliot Rodger and his attack on men who stood in his way to the women he wanted and on the women he couldn’t have in Isla Vista. To further complicate the mess, his family’s efforts to intervene and call attention to his mental illness were not given as much consideration as they should have been.
In an attempt to prevent mass shootings, Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, authored a bill this week that would allow family members, intimate partners or friends to act as mental health professionals, a bill whereby they can alert authorities to prevent suspect people from purchasing guns or prohibit them from having them. While on its face, it sounds well-intentioned, it can easily be abused and law enforcement could be dealing with any number of incident reports that have no merit yet are given credibility since the reporting followed this law, thereby restricting any person’s Second Amendment right. This bill may go too far to stop such tragic events.
This terrible situation has also led to various conversations on violence in media, male chauvinism, feminism, etc. We continue to analyze and over-analyze the best procedures that should have been followed and could have prevented Rodger from choosing the path he did. Further, much discussion has occurred over the importance of mental health and that we need better options and that those options need to be available immediately, such as more mental health institutions and more beds. But the common thread that no one is really speaking about is the sense of helplessness, even hopelessness, on both sides, that responsible gun owners can’t stop crazy people from accessing guns and gun control advocates can’t stop the proliferation of guns no matter how many innocent people die.
We have been at a crossroads over this subject for many years, highlighted with the Michael Moore 2002 film Bowling for Columbine and the regular mass shootings since then. We have seen hysteria over the president possibly taking away our guns and then gun lovers stockpile. We know of the panic over the possibility of such incidents happening again, Americans demanding gun control, any kind of control, anything more than what we have now. And nothing changes except for the gun industry seeing massive profits.
Since the only real changes we anticipate happening are in the area of gun sales, we beseech gun advocates to take some responsibility: How do we stop mentally ill people from purchasing guns? How do we make gun owners more responsible and ensure that guns don’t fall into the wrong hands? Gun control advocates have exhausted their voices. Perhaps, now, it’s time to step up and demand changes. Go to your legislators with your ideas on how we can stop this craziness and sense of helplessness — and please, don’t default to the idea that more guns equal less violence.