Guns, Mental Illness, and “Autistic Shooters”

Screenshot of a now deleted Facebook page intended to scapegoat people with Autism for America's gun problem.
Screenshot of a now deleted Facebook page intended to scapegoat people with Autism for America’s gun problem.
In the wake of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, a  Facebook page was created with the title, “Families Against Autistic Shooters.”   Scapegoating people with autism for America’s gun problem is as irresponsible as blaming people with mental illness.

We can have a conversation about autism.  We can also have a conversation about mental illness.  But if we are going to have a  conversation about gun violence in American life, then we need to talk about guns.

Gun advocates like to point to anything but the problem, whether it’s misplaced blame or irrelevant statistics.  Automobile deaths are a favorite among the most vehement opponents to sensible gun legislation. But that stat is no longer at their disposal, as deaths from gun violence  (deaths- not including casualties) are poised to surpass auto mobile deaths in the U.S.  Downplaying the frquency of mass shootings is another. But there have been 994 mass shootings– 4 or more fatalities and/or casualties in 1 incident- over the last 1,004 days in the United States.  In 2011, the most recent year compiled by the CDC, there were 32,351 firearm related deaths.  It isn’t just homicides recorded by the FBI that must factor into this conversation.  We must include ALL firearm incidents that result in fatalities AND casualties.

This problem isn’t a parenting issue, or an autistic issue, or a mental health issue, or a blacks-in-Chicago-issue: this is a gun problem. The only pathology I see is the defend-the-second-amendment-at-all-cost mentality, even it means a rising body count of innocent people. The 2nd Amendment won’t be repealed.  But it needs a serious reinterpretation for the 21st century.  This isn’t 1778.  We’re not carrying around musket rifles anymore and we have a standing army (modern day militias are usually driven by hate and fear mongering). There’s no such thing as a zombie apocalypse and nobody is coming for our weapons.  The latter would be  a terrible decision anyway, as it would be a fantasy come true for gun fanatics itching to use their weapons  against the government.

It’s time we start finding solutions born out of reason and concern for the safety of the public and not driven by scapegoating, fear, paranoia, or profits from gun sales.

*Part of this post was paraphrased from the linked articles and reports found in The Atlantic, The Guardian, and form the CDC.

Resolution 2013: Let’s try this again

The Earth has completed another revolution around the Sun as it has for over 4 billion years. It is another reminder of how insignificant we are in the context of time.  We’re simply not as important as we think we are.  

Blue Marble courtesy of NASA

So, may this next trip around our Sun be filled with more joy, gratitude, and respect toward the planet and ALL of its inhabitants (including the people we find hard to like and love).

May our resolutions be filled with meaningful and purposeful goals that benefit the good of all.  May our speech, including our Tweets and Facebook status updates, be gracious, showing restraint in regards to unmitigated scrutiny, judgment, and contempt.   May we cease to be peddlers of fear and instead become voices of hope. 

May we, as it has been said by others, be tough on the problems facing us all and a lot easier on each other.  Our appearance on this stage, as Shakespeare once called it, is brief and, unlike very few, may be without fame or celebrity status.  But as we live and breath on the brink of 2013 we get to take another spin on this planet and a chance to make a positive and productive contribution.  So, let’s try this again, only with less rage and hate, and a lot more peace and love. 

Happy New Year!