Jim Hartman: Mass Shootings: Young Men, Guns, and Mental Illness

Jim Hartman

Jim Hartman

The May 24 massacre of 19 children and two of their teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas sparked anger and outrage among many — and mourning among all of us.
The profile of the 18-year-old gunman, Salvador Ramos, is depressingly familiar.
Ramos was a teenage loner from a dysfunctional family. As a child, he was bullied and immersed himself in video games and other virtual reality. He fought with his mother and hinted at violent actions.
This history is similar to the profile of other young mass murderers.
The 2018 Parkland gunman regularly posted violent and threatening images, and his classmates later told investigators that if there ever was a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, they thought it would be him.
The gunman behind the May 14 racist attack in Buffalo specifically told classmates that he wanted to commit murder/suicide after graduation.
Similar warning signs have been there for mass murderers from Sandy Hook to Aurora — and in shootings in Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Newtown, Thousand Oaks, Tucson and Sutherland Springs.
As after any of these past atrocities, there is the usual demand to “do something” against gun violence. But “doing something” is easier said than actually done in identifying viable steps to reduce the likelihood of future slaughter.
President Biden has called for “common sense” gun reforms without detail. Former President Obama tweeted, “It’s long overdue for action, any action.”
Both easily demonize Republicans and the gun lobby.
This call to “action, any kind of action” means that everything will seemingly work, even if it turns out to be useless or counterproductive.
The RAND Corp., respected government policy experts — no sycophants for the National Rifle Association — conducted a 2018 investigation and failed to find a single gun control policy proven to be mass shootings in the United States. States decreased.
“We found no qualifying studies showing that any of the 13 policies we studied reduced mass shootings,” their report bluntly concluded.
A 1994 ban on “assault weapons” actually caused sales of weapons like AR-15 rifles to increase during the era of the ban and skyrocket when it was lifted in 2004.
A 2004 report for the Department of Justice found that the “effects of the gun violence ban are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurements.” Congress dropped the ban that year with little debate.
Are there common ground actions a bipartisan majority in Congress can take to stop mass shootings by deranged young men?
So-called red flag laws that allow police to refuse guns to people who could pose a risk to the community can be helpful, but they are difficult to enforce. New York state has a red flag law and the Buffalo shooter was referred for mental counseling and was still given a gun.
Nevada is one of 19 states that passed a “red flag” law along strict party lines in 2019. AB 291 allows family, relatives, or police to apply for a court order to confiscate weapons for up to one year.
Requests for red flag seizures are extremely rare in Nevada. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo reported last year that Metro had seen only two applications for extended protection warrants, and both were never dealt with by the state.
The increase in mass shootings reflects deeper problems than gun laws can solve.
Society needs to rethink our hands-off attitude to antisocial behavior and mental illness.
Safety in schools and churches will have to be improved.
The rise of dysfunctional families and the decline of institutions such as churches and social organizations have consequences.
Hollywood movies, television and video games contribute to an overall culture of violence that negatively affects our society.
Anyone who thinks gun laws will end mass shootings in America is ignoring our much bigger societal problems.
Email Jim Hartman at [email protected]

Leave a Comment