Monday, September, 16th, 2013 was marked by yet another mass shooting in the Washington Navy Yard. Unfortunately, this massacre, which resulted in the death of 13 individuals, has far too much in common with the growing number of mass shootings the American People have witnessed over the last couple of decades. Just as with the Fort Hood massacre, as well as with the data dumps associated with Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, there appears to be serious failures when it comes to properly securing supposedly secure US security infrastructure and utilizing background checks for security clearances.
Meanwhile, commentators are already focusing on the weaknesses of gun laws and the mental health issues of the suspect. Subjecting gun buyers to wait periods before they can take their guns home may help discourage spontaneous acts of violence while closing loopholes in background check laws could also help prevent the wrong people from buying guns. For the mentally ill, there certainly needs to be a means of temporarily flagging individuals who present a significant danger. That is as long as reporting can be made more accurate and an appeals process is put in place for those who recover from such issues.
Furthermore, addressing mental health issues can help save lives, yet there are many challenges. For one, mental health and other resources, such as a healthy support structure or temporary financial support, are not necessarily available, especially when individuals are inflicted by disorders that make them so dysfunctional that they cannot provide for their own needs or they have a low socioeconomically standing. In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy is largely geared toward self-actuating strategies, i.e. individuals must actively choose to address their inflictions, and guided introspection, i.e. councilors use a variety of methods to help individuals recognize unhealthy emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in order to facilitate the correction of these traits. This approach certainly has limitations, including the potential for councilors to over intellectualize innate, deeply entrenched behavioral, emotional, and broader psychological issues, as well as externally determined, exasperating circumstances, i.e. a person can’t think a broken leg is healed and start walking on water should he find himself injured in the middle of the ocean. Clearly, medications exist to assist councilors when treating individuals with underlying physiological issues, but our understanding of the human mind is incomplete while the field of psychology is composed of conflicting schools of thought and worldviews. Consequently, those most in need of help either find the treatment they need does not exist or the treatment available to them falls far too short of the intervention needed.
Moreover, the threat of mass shootings will never disappear. As such, there are limits to what legislators, security officials, community leaders, and mental health professionals can do, yet there are things all of us can do to lessen the likelihood of these crimes. A lot of different factors leave the threat of mass shootings unchecked while it is our tendency to overreact to these tragedies with ineffective options already on the table. I think it is time the American People sit down and develop strategies that can address the underlying causes of these violent outbursts. In closing, there are thirteen families grieving the loss of their loved ones as the entire Washington D.C. community struggles to cope with the emotions of such a terrifying act. They and all those who have experienced similar event should understand their pain is felt and their pleas for action are heard by their fellow countrymen. Unfortunately, these crimes are complicated challenges that demand a myriad of novel solutions, thus meaningful action requires time.
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