Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sandy Hook Elementary School

 Honor student, no criminal record, parents well educated, shy, reserved, and bordering on the (genius) twenty-year-old Adam Lanza’s1 ultimate act before his death has shaken Americans…Their core beliefs in regards to faith, ideology and inherent rights references to the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution; is yet again re-examined.

It is critical to retrospectively make clear distinctions between the culture of guns in the United-States and mental illnesses; in which create very sick, delusional, diabolical, mechanical individuals. Although (connecting the dots) would logically associate both issues in the most recent massacre which occurred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut on December 14th; 2012 it is not a predetermining factor in willful destructive behaviors by mentally ill persons.

There exist 312.8 million people living in the United-States; of which 4.3 million American are members of the NRA with annual revenues of $205 million dollars; investing in the Republican campaign to the tune of $10 million dollars. There are approximately 40-45% of American households who possess a gun; which loosely translates into roughly 47-53 million people. Figures showing the use of a gun among adults accounts for 30-34% (or 70-80 million) Americans. 2

2005 statistical data indicates a 75% of the 10,100 homicides committed using firearms were done by the use of handguns, compared to 4% (rifle use) and 5% (shotgun use). In addition, the percentage of Americans purchasing handguns for self-protection has risen considerably,

“Over 50,000 homicides and suicides occur each year in the United States, making them among the leading causes of death, particularly for young people. In 2001, homicide was the second leading cause of death and suicide the third for persons 15–24 years of age. Approximately 60 percent of all homicides and suicides in the United States are committed with a firearm.” 4

The “right-to-carry” laws in some states in the USA have predominantly held fast the assumption, in which deterrence carries and diminishes the risk of becoming a victim. Economists such as John Lott have long subscribed to this ideology. The “disconnect” in American policies pertaining to independent States lies in the regulation of new gun control legislation; conjunctive with Federal laws passed by previous administrations,

'President Obama signed a law permitting people to carry guns into National Parks. He did not protest when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states and local governments could not overrule citizens’ federal right to bear arms or when legislators in Louisiana and Arizona passed laws allowing people to carry weapons into churches and bars, respectively.'4

Causal connections vs. mental illness related gun homicides are increasingly difficult to corroborate. Too many variables exist in associating gun regulations in conjunction with violent crime rates in the United-States. The British Journal of Medicine review of 1999 expressed the view in which homicides incidents caused by the larger segment of the mentally ill are rare; and should not be subjective to legislation designed to further entrench stigmatized perceptions that the mentally ill- should be institutionalized for life-.

‘There seems little doubt that, based principally on public fears after homicides, there is a sense of needing some sort of action. There are many justifications for reviewing the principles and practice in the provision of most mental health care and treatment in the community, but presumed homicidal tendencies of a people with a mental disorder need not be among them… There is, nevertheless, embedded in the homicide figures a small but important problem for which mental health and social services must find a better solution. Some groups of people with mental disorder are at statistically higher risk as a group of being violent to others than the general public, but it is vital to understand the size and nature of the risks involved ’ 5

Attacks of this nature in the United-States puts aside logical assertions and furthers the need to identify, neutralize and find solutions in order to re-introduce balance within society. Americans are seeking as sense of normalcy, reclaiming their streets, communities and restoring the moralities of pre-world war two America. The accelerated rate of technological progress which governs societal parameters has grown too rapidly; the introduction of new systems of delivery designed to make our daily lives more productive has given rise to other sources of physical and mental threats previously deemed minimal. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Psychiatric Times, Ronald W. Pies, argues,

Laws may also reflect society's wish to reduce the likelihood of certain types of injurious behavior, even while realizing that this wish may not be fulfilled. There are, of course, always people with evil intentions who will ignore the law--but that is no reason to omit or expunge the law. Research might show, for example, that laws against private citizens possessing shoulder-fired missiles do not, by themselves, prevent certain people from illegally obtaining and firing these weapons. Nevertheless, we would still have a strong ethical justification for keeping such laws on the books. Similarly, even if we could not demonstrate that laws banning production and private ownership of rapid-fire, semi-automatic weapons actually reduced mass shootings, a civilized society would still have sound ethical reasons for retaining these laws.
That is, these laws legitimately reflect society's value judgment that no good will come from the possession of such destructive weapons by private citizens--and that much harm may ensue. We can agree, as a society, that an individual “right to bear arms” should be respected, under recent interpretations of the second amendment. Yet we may still insist that stockpiling semi-automatic weapons against a hypothetical totalitarian state is no answer to the here-and-now reality of the carnage on our streets. Placing sensible restrictions on firearms—such as eliminating the sale of semi-automatic weapons—has been advocated by groups as politically diverse as the American Psychiatric Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. 6

 Economist Richard Florida’s views offer a different analogy according to journalist Ezra Klein,

'…Higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness were not correlated with more deaths from gun violence. But one thing he found was, perhaps, perfectly predictable: States with tighter gun control laws appear to have fewer gun-related deaths. The disclaimer here is that correlation is not causation. But correlations can be suggestive.'7

Individualistic freedoms are prized above all else in American dogma; this dictum is best reflected by the US. Civil War; state law is sacrosanct. The rising numbers of Americans affected by mental illnesses illustrated by acts perpetrated by Lanz should be made apparent; greater resources need to be invested in order to better serve the afflicted and society at large. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) essential services for mentally ill people in the United-States are non-existent,

'Even during the best of economic times, youth and adults living with mental illness struggle to access essential mental health services and supports. Services are often unavailable or inaccessible for those who need them most. One in 17 people in America live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder. About one in ten children live with a serious mental disorder. From 2009 to 2011, massive cuts are projected in 2011 and 2012. States have cut vital services for tens of thousands of youth and adults living with the most serious mental illness. These services include community and hospital based psychiatric care, housing and access to medications… Medicaid funding of mental health services is also potentially on the chopping block in 2011. The temporary increase in the federal funding of Medicaid through the stimulus package will end in June 30th 2011. Medicaid is the most important source of funding of public mental health services for youth and adults, leaving people with mental illness facing the real threat of being cut off from life-saving services.'8

These causal determinants within state and federal legislation are the primary, empirical data base sources of information; when examining the financial degree of responsibilities given to entities designed to protect and offer vital services within a community. NAMI data on state-by-state mental health cuts are astounding; to the tune of 1.8 billion; 9 for instance in the state of Connecticut a decrease of 6.7% in health expenditures were recorded in the 2009-2011 fiscal year.  The projected loss of federal Medicaid funds for 2012 in Connecticut stands at $204 million. In retrospect one cannot nullify the importance of these figures as in pertains to the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre.

NRA proponents would like to disassociate acts committed by Adam Lanz as the causal determinant (i.e. getting mom’s lawful purchased guns) and instead lay responsibility in different directions. Mental Health advocacy institutions would illustrate the gradual dismissal of state and federal support towards the mentally ill. Society at large would demand to be properly safeguarded by acts of violence which attack the basic tenets of American values by state and federal legislation; by whatever means.

Perhaps Adam Lanz has sufficiently acerbated the American psyche into action; indeed… citizens either in America or anywhere else have felt the consequences of ignoring the sick, the poor, the mentally disturbed, and the disenfranchised.  

'The challenge that lies ahead is one of further specifying the form of the relationship of mental illness and community violence and testing theorises of how this relationship can differ across subgroups of mentally ill persons. Uncovering a broad relationship does not in itself promote sounder policy or more effective services. However, continued integration of research and service provision sensitive to what this relationship means in the lives of people with mental illness could move towards this goal.'10 

10 Assessing the evidence of a Link Between Mental Illness and Violence Edward P.Mulvey, Ph.D.

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