A Passing Comment on Guns and Mental Illness

My Facebook newsfeed is always a bit schizophrenic when it comes to politics. Name the issue, and I probably have friends standing on either side of it. Lately, the issue (again... *sigh*) is gun control. My news feed has once again been flooded with sarcastic memes, facetious questions, and dismissive rhetoric from each side targeting the other. Citing the recent flare of gun violence, some are targeting the blame on guns themselves, others think those folks are just scapegoating guns and that moral deficiency and mental illness are really to blame (and some others are accusing those folks of racism... seems difficult to avoid that issue in any dispute). Whatever the case, each side is protecting something. I think it would be reductive to suppose that conservatives are just trying to protect their right to bear arms, they're trying to protect their view of liberty (specifically for middle class white folks) and they see gun control as a representative sample of that larger issue. Likewise, liberals are protecting an optimism concerning human nature. "People aren't the problem, guns are!" But when you take away the protective instincts that lay behind all the facetiousness and sarcasm, it seem clear that the issue is more fluid and complex.

I would submit that the truth is on both sides. The fact is, any act of violence which results in the death of another has its foundation in moral deficiency. There is no moral way to take the life of another. So, in a way, the conservatives are right. Guns aren't the problem, people are the problem. Also, I would submit that the kind of indiscriminate killing displayed in a mass murder is definitely a clear evidence of mental illness (and yes, this transcends racial distinctions, even if we've failed to name it as such under certain circumstances). However, I don't see how guns get themselves off the hook by this reasoning. Morally deficient and mentally ill people don't commit murder on the scale we've witnessed without guns. A sociopath with a knife doesn't present the same threat to a crowd of people as one with a pistol or a riffle.

So it seems to me that some of us need to do more and have a greater sense of urgency about guns. As John Oliver pointed out, "[we have] one failed attempt at a shoe bomb and we all take off our shoes at the airport. Thirty-one school shootings since Columbine and no change in our regulation of guns." However, we cannot scapegoat and ignore the brokenness and moral deficiency of humanity. Mental illness is a real thing, a pervasive and growing problem in the United States. It should be much harder to get a hold of a gun than it is... but I'm afraid gun control will only treat the symptoms of the world's real illnesses.