Have we gone mad?

There’s some crazy stuff happening in the US. We’ve recently had two mass murders and a couple of other close calls.

The shootings in El Paso and Dayton could sadly be the tip of an iceberg and we could see more of these tragedies as the presidential election in 2020 gets nearer. Especially, as the vitriol that is part of these campaigns begins to ratchet up, it could really trigger even more of these terrible events.

Current political discourse has led to a real heightened sense of emotion on the part of many people and I think there is a correlation to what we see happening.

Are we seriously addressing our mental health?

What about the fact that America has a major problem with its mentally ill? As much as anything, this is a mental health issue.

Back in the early 1970’s Ronald Reagan removed an element of funding for mental health clinics and that essentially has led to thousands of people who really do need treatment, not receiving it. This has put a lot of Americans at risk.

There are clearly many individuals who are mentally ill, and they are increasingly being involved in violent acts. We tend to say that they are “at risk” people, however, the reality is the one’s mostly at risk are the broader public, which is exactly what we’re seeing play out today across the US.

In my own hometown of Albuquerque, there were two veteran officers that were killed several years ago by an individual who was mentally ill. This was a person who had already killed other people. In fact, I think there were three others that this guy had killed previously however, they didn’t realize he was the same guy connected to these other murders.

In the end, you have two great officers senselessly killed which has burned into the soul of an awful lot of police officers in Albuquerque.

There’s plenty of public debate around the issue of weapons in the community, but you know, we don’t really hear a lot about the issue of mental health. We hear the rhetoric, that it’s not firearms that kill people, it’s people that kill people and there is a real push in the States at the moment to do something about the proliferation of rapid-fire, assault style weapons, but you do wonder what is happening on the ground in terms of getting these people away from the potential to cause tragedy and to get the help they need.

If Congress really wants to do a great job rather than pass senseless, Second Amendment legislation, which I believe is going to go nowhere, they really need to put their funding back into mental health and start to build that up and do it now. Every day that they wait is a day where the American public is at risk.

Can we rely on the government to fix the problem?

There is a role for government to play, I just wonder whether it’s pointed in the right direction. Important issues of mental health are not seen as important compared to action on firearms. Unfortunately, mental health does not have the same prominence when it comes to political agendas.

You know, there are well over 300 million firearms in the United States, with some estimates above 400 million. That that’s a remarkable statistic. We only have 300 million people living in the country. That’s at least, one weapon per citizen. Here’s an equally mind-boggling statistic, the fact that between 15 to 20 million assault-style weapons are out there in the hands of the public and there is an ever-increasing demand as law-abiding citizens seek to protect themselves and their families. To the largest extent, most weapons are bought and owned for the purposes of self-defence.

As more mass shootings occur and the public continues to feel very unsure about what is happening in their country, there is going to be a continuing growth in demand for greater self-defence and therefore more guns.

One concern I have is that as Congress debates trying to put a Prohibition on firearms it will drive up the price of assault weapons and the sale of these weapons will go underground. Therefore, if people are waiting for government to solve the problem, then I fear they will be sorely disappointed.

The first thing that should be done is to put funding back into mental health. This is what we should be screaming for. It’s something that must be done and can be effective. If you’re waiting for government to do anything else, you’ve got a long wait because government in my opinion is a part of the problem. They’re not currently acting as part of the solution.

What can the public do?

There are two things the public can be doing. Number one, they need to be more vigilant and they need to be reporting people that they consider to be at risk. Now, this becomes somewhat an intrusion on an individual’s privacy, but there are obvious signs of people that have either major anger issues or in some way shown signs of high aggression. These are individuals that law enforcement needs to be aware of.

Secondly, I think that the use of Crime Stoppers is really being underutilized in this entire area. As a matter of fact, I read today that there’s some politician in Washington who wants to have a violence hotline. Can you imagine? I’m here thinking to myself that we’ve already got a violence hotline, it’s called Crime Stoppers.

I think the public through Crime Stoppers has a role to play in this. We have focused hard enough on the issue of aggressive violence-prone individuals and firearms legislation, we now need to ensure that all people within the community become part of that equation.

A new normal

The other thing that the public need to accept is how they best operate within the construct of a “new normal” where we have so many violent individuals causing tragedy on our streets.

In this new normal, shootings can happen at any place at any time and as a result, the public need to become much more aware of their environment. They need to be thinking “What will I do if the unthinkable happens?” “Where are the potential escape routes, where can hide should something happen?”

We can no longer accept that everything and everyone will be safe and serene because I’m afraid that those days might be behind us. It’s sad to say, but there needs to be some planning whenever we go out in public. I mean, even now the sound of a car or motorbike backfiring in the streets can cause pandemonium with people running in all directions. The fear is just palpable.

From the outside looking in?

People from other countries looking in are asking themselves, “What on Earth is going on in the United States. These are our fellow human beings and it’s just so hard to begin to understand that these things are happening?”

I describe the United States right now as going through somewhat of a nervous breakdown. The country has been at each other’s throats with the left and the right in an endless myopia of blaming each other. We have become so polarized that there seems to be very little room in the middle. Me personally, I’m more of a centrist, you know, I can see some points from the left and I can see some points from the right but there are many out there who cannot see beyond their own limited perspectives.

With the extreme rhetoric that we are hearing from both the left and the right it seems as though our current issues are not going to be solved easily.

It going to take a total change of heart on the part of the citizens in the United States in order to really recapture the glory of our country.

There must be a transformation of mindset at a very human level and its up to you and me, the public, to make the change.