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guns don't kill people....
the ongoing fight for mental health
by tracey l. kelley (@TraceyLKelley)

In light of another tragic mass shooting, this time in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, many people are pounding their chests about the need for gun control.

And once again, these people are missing the point.

While it's unfortunate the United States ranks first in the entire world for private gun ownership, and our country's firearm licensing is permissive rather than restrictive, further regulations can't guarantee a violence cease-fire. After all, a mass murderer isn't going to blink twice at a charge of illegal firearm possession.

What we continue to fail to realize as a society is that anything can be used as a weapon if intent is behind it: guns, knives, tear gas canisters, hammers, mauls, saws, chains, tweezers, ballpoint pens.

A fully-fueled airplane.

A disclaimer: I'm not a proponent for gun ownership. Unless someone is hunting animals for sustenance, I see no viable reason to have a firearm. In this modern age, I don't necessarily agree with that practice either, but know some families put food on the table that way. I would like to adjust the ownership age from 16 in some jurisdictions to 30, since science has proven the prefrontal region of the teenage brain is often unable to make just decisions, but as long as our country enlists 18-year-olds as soldiers, that view seems rather myopic. I don't believe gun ownership makes our society safer. I don’t think gun ownership reduces the impact of violence against women and children. I seriously doubt someone in the movie theater audience with a handgun tucked into a waistband could have taken down the gunman and saved the day.

These are just my opinions, and I make my personal choices accordingly. Our country's laws and citizens' rights state otherwise. Could our laws be more progressive about licensing, access, and purpose of ownership? Of course.

Will these movements stop a madman?


The news is filled with horrific actions. Two young girls abducted while riding their bikes along a country road. A mother killed her infant son with a hammer. An estranged father stabbed all three of his daughters, then tucked them into their beds and called their mother to tell her what he'd done.

All in the past week. No gun involved.

The common factor in these and hundreds of thousands of other crimes is mental illness. As a society, we fail the individuals who struggle with sanity, either by genetic makeup, environmental trauma, hormonal/chemical imbalances, or addictions. Scientists marvel at the complexities of the brain, and while some diseases have been clearly identified as manageable, treatment and services continue to diminish. Federal funding for proper facilities is scarce, so people with mental illnesses are often in prison or worse, homeless. Veterans physically survive war because of advancements in technology, but return home with severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

There are walks and runs and $3,000 plate dinners for a multitude of physical diseases, but when is the last time you wore a ribbon for the Schizophrenia Support Group?

At press time, the gunman in the Aurora, Colorado, shootings did not commit suicide. He was determined to watch the play-by-play of what he envisioned unfold--a characteristic usually found in the profile of someone diagnosed as psychopath or a sociopath. This diagnosis can sometimes be recognized in teens as young as 15, especially if other factors are present, such as harming animals, an understanding of negative consequences without a care to the outcome, and conflicting aspects of compassion and narcissism. In time, I'm sure more details will be revealed about the intent of this 24-year-old, but there will also be endless questions left unanswered.

We're so afraid of the abyss that we ignore this crisis in health management. It will continue to be our undoing. Instead of rallying around positive choices, peaceful practices, moments of calm and quiet, and spiritual loving kindness, we clutter our lives with the perpetual static of shock and awe. We mask the wrongs of society by pushing for a soundbite issue such as gun control without first striving to understand why people commit such heinous acts.

In the audience for the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight" was a 3-month-old, a 6-year-old, and a 9-year-old. Many wonders of brain development are still unknown, yet the parents of these children thought:

-This movie was appropriate viewing, with its violent subject matter, graphic imagery, and loud noises.

-There would be no need to have a discussion to explain the story or the actions of the people in it, because it's simply entertainment.

-Midnight, right in the middle of REM sleep for most children, is a good time to have a family movie outing.

Exactly how and when does madness begin?


Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou

more about tracey l. kelley


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reem al-omari
7.20.12 @ 4:34p

I was thinking the same about kids being there. Never mind it's a violent movie, it's PAST MIDNIGHT. Anyway, great piece that hits the nail on the head. I want more fun control, because I know there are sick people who can do these things with them. Yes, there are people who can kill w/ their bare hands, but bare hands kill a lot less people than a gun w/ rounds. So, it's a matter of reduction and protecting innocent passersby.

reem al-omari
7.20.12 @ 4:35p

*gun, not fun control. Autocorrect is rated G, apparently.

william carr
7.20.12 @ 10:44p

Whatever else people might think about the philosophical origins of our nation's constitution and its underlying concepts, at some point how we think and behave must be governed by standards more secure than opinions, personal choices, laws which can be changed at whim, rights (vs. what is right), and even being "progressive" (even "post-modernity" has come to the realization that progress is not ineluctable).
A present adult generation will have to restrain the self, which will be a truly and thoroughly counter-cultural move--and very hard work--and then teach its next generation how to restrain its self too. Self-restraint will not stop every madman, but our present obsession with self-aggrandizement is going nowhere.

tracey kelley
9.17.12 @ 6:09p

More astounding proof that America';s mental health system is incredibly broken and in dire need of renovation. Heartbreaking: When My Crazy Father Actually Lost His Mind


tracey kelley
12.15.12 @ 8:43a

Can we please find a way to heal and protect?
NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — A man opened fire Friday inside two classrooms at the Connecticut elementary school where his mother was a teacher, killing 26 people, including 20 children, as youngsters cowered in corners and closets and trembled helplessly to gunshots reverberating through the building.

The 20-year-old killer, carrying two handguns, committed suicide at the school, and another person was found dead at a second scene, bringing the toll to 28, authorities said.

Police shed no light on the motive for the attack. The gunman was believed to suffer from a personality disorder lived with his mother in Connecticut, said a law enforcement official who was briefed on the investigation but was not authorized to publicly discuss it.

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