Category Archives: TheSecondFear

With A Gun

Lots of good stuff in this article.

Before the initial shock wore off in the aftermath of yet another horrific American mass shooting—before we knew about the extent of the injury and death, or the events that transpired or the biography and motives of yet another angry white male armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a grudge—before we really knew anything, President Donald Trump jumped into the fray with a diagnosis. “Mental health is your problem here,” Trump opined from Tokyo in his first comments after 26 people died when a gunman opened fire on a church service in Sutherland Springs, Texas. “This isn’t a guns situation,” he said. “This is a mental health problem at the highest level.”

Respectfully, Mr. President: It’s not that easy.

If there were a Propensity to Mass Violence disease, perhaps it would make a little more sense to involve psychiatrists in identifying potential mass murderers. But absent a formal means of assessing predictive violence, such as a diagnosis, mental health practitioners are often left to trust the power of their observations when asked to gauge which one of the thousands of patients they see might go on to commit a violent act such as a mass shooting. And, unfortunately, we’re not that great at it. As gun expert Jeffrey Swanson succinctly puts it when summarizing a great deal of research, “psychiatrists using clinical judgment are not much better than chance at predicting which individual patients will do something violent and which will not.”

And this stood out:

As such, I believe there are more meaningful ways for psychiatrists to help in the effort against gun violence and mass shootings: by also addressing shifting American beliefs and attitudes around guns, and about our increasingly polarized reactions to mass shootings. As but one example, in 1999, far more gun owners cited hunting, rather than self-protection, as the main reason they owned guns. By 2013, those attitudes had shifted: 48 percent said protection was the main reason to own a gun, while 32 percent pointed to hunting. The question of why Americans feel so unsafe around, and mistrustful of each other seems like a pressing one for mental health experts.

The saying goes, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun“.

And, ‘good guy with a gun’ was present at the TX church shooting. He didn’t stop what happened, but he was there, and he’s received a lot of accolades for at least slowing down the shooter. And if he saved lives, that’s good.

But here’s the thing: if you’re carrying a gun in defense, or for ‘protection’, or you’re carrying a gun thinking you might need to be that ‘good guy with a gun’, your actions are a consequence of the fear that the 2nd Amendment requires. So, not only does this fear require non-gun owners to live in fear of being shot, it requires that gun owners also experience that fear. Which is great for gun makers but terrible for everyone else. More guns around, more wanna-be vigilantes, more guns ready to be used whenever the owner has a bad day.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun“.

See the problem?

Crap Shoot

It’s a little-acknowledged fact that the second amendment, as currently interpreted, does much more than give people the right to ‘bear arms’. Everyone knows that it allows people to own and use guns. That’s what the text of the amendment talks about, after all. But owning and bearing are what gun owners do, and most Americans are not gun owners. But, the second amendment’s range far exceeds simple gun ownership. The second amendment’s greatest effect is to require that the possibility of gunfire is present in every situation in the US. It ensures that every situation you, gun owner or not, can find yourself in contains a non-zero chance that you will be shot to death – not the certainty, just the chance.

Like most people, I don’t own a gun. Decades ago, I had two, but I sold them because I wanted some money to buy a guitar. But I can still be killed by one! There is always the chance that there will be someone with a gun nearby who shoots it my way. The second amendment guarantees that chance.

And people fight to maintain this possibility. They fight hard. When someone tries to say “No, gunfire will not be a possibility in this situation,” they get very upset, indignant, red in the face. They yell and scream and call their Congressmen. They demand that the possibility of death by gunfire be restored. They march they wave copies of the Constitution. They brandish their guns menacingly, whenever someone tries to create a situation where gunfire is not a possibility. They are deeply committed to maintaining the possibility that everyone in the US can be killed by a gun.

In fact, the requirement that being shot at, or being shot, or being killed by gunfire is possible in every situation is, to them, a fundamental and defining feature of the US itself. They insist that without it, we, or least they, would be diminished.

We hold this truth to be self-evident: that all men have the right to be a possible casualty of gunfire, goddamnit.

Good luck.