New Century Weapon Awareness

Originally Published 2012

If you’re like me, the events of Newtown Connecticut were the last straw. 

“As a nation we have endured too many of these tragedies.” Pres. Obama. 

I agree and I am compelled to act. 

I have not been able to stop thinking about what can be done to respond to this crisis. I want to help and I do not like feeling helpless.  The children of this world are my responsibility, our responsibility.  How could we let this happen?  I set to thinking about what to do, researching and hashing out ideas.  I am not an expert on anything except perhaps my own music. I have no experience at putting an organization together or starting a political movement. There are millions of little details that have to be worked out and mountains of red tape to be cut.   But at least I can put my ideas on paper and that is a start.  It is my intent to put my thoughts out there, to run it past my network for constructive feedback, and to fine-tune a proposal to be submitted to those who do have the experience and resources to make implementation a reality.   
  
I started to think… 

We are wasting too much time and energy arguing about gun laws.  It's getting us no where. But does having the right to bear arms mean we should do nothing about the problem of mass shootings?   I believe in the human ability to evolve, expand and create change that can lift us to greater heights. We must use our intelligence, our hearts and our astonishing ability to adapt and work together to find a solution.  With the right to use such deadly weapons must come the enormous responsibility of protecting our children and each other. 

It is certain that no law will make a difference without an evolved shift in cultural attitude. This is not the America of 1776. Our culture is changing and evolving at a staggering rate.  We must adapt our perspectives at the same rate if we want to keep from destroying ourselves in the process.  This applies to so many things but for now I want to focus on the problem of deadly weapons and mental health. And to start, we must look deeper.   

…and a picture began to take shape 

This is a very different world than it was 200, 100, even 50 years ago. We need to look honestly at the things that shape our culture.   

It used to be that kids who had trouble with social interaction had fairly uneventful lives (books, model airplanes, one or two TV shows if any) and they would be more inclined to step outside and find a friend or die of boredom.  But no more; from a very early age and on a daily basis we are exposed to vivid images of hard-core violence from the iconic TV and Movie superstars that have become our role models, as well as news reports and online videos. We can watch movies any where, any time, and over and over again. We and our impressionable youth marvel as our heroes fly through the air firing dozens of rounds from high powered guns in both hands, always hitting their mark and always getting the girl (or boy). People of all ages can live their fantasy in virtual worlds, playing at shooting games and battle scenarios for hours every day utilizing all kinds of modern and fantasy weapons; never needing to step outside, never needing to show their face, never needing to make a friend and never learning to interact with or understand themselves or others.   

Meanwhile mental illness is on the rise and sophisticated assault gear like semi automatic guns with high capacity ammunition clips and body armor make killing a lot of people relatively easy.  Don’t get me wrong - I love video games and action movies.  I am just pointing out some things I see that are shaping our minds and our culture.  We need to take these influences into account because when you add a sick, troubled mind to this mix innocent people die. 

Below are seven ideas I have roughly outlined for solutions. I submit this for honest constructive feedback.   I ask for your help in making these concepts work – or telling me why you think they will not. If you have a criticism, I challenge you to offer a solution.  My hope is that these ideas will lay the foundation for change that will save lives – even one life – even your life or the life of your children. 

1. Promote a more educated, aware and mature culture surrounding gun ownership and safety for the 21st century. 

When Candice Lightner’s13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver she founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a nonprofit organization that seeks to stop drunk driving, support those affected by drunk driving, prevent underage drinking, and overall push for stricter alcohol policy.  Alcohol is a problem but certainly making alcohol illegal is not the solution. MADD and other organizations like it helped to change our attitude and promote awareness through things like public service announcements and placing crosses by roadsides and effective preventative options like offering free taxi rides to people who have been drinking and much more. Their work helped to develop a culture around drinking and driving that made things like designated drivers and taking car keys away from friends who have been drinking too much, acceptable and common place behavior. 

I think we can do the same thing when it comes to the mix of mental health issues and deadly weapons in modern America. It’s time for us to educate ourselves, admit that we have a problem and work together towards making a solution. 

2. Educate the public on the warning signs that have become a very real pattern in mass shootings and create avenues of effective preventative action for parents, teachers, counselors, friends and if need be law enforcement. 

In most cases of mass shootings there are behavioral warning signs; a pattern has emerged: 

     
Columbine - According to journals, notes, and videos that [killers] Klebold and Harris left to be discovered, Klebold had been thinking of committing suicide as early as 1997 and they both had begun thinking about a large massacre as early as April 1998 - a full year before the actual event. Klebold and Harris were angry teenagers…. As early as spring 1998, they wrote about killing and retaliation in each other's yearbooks, including an image of a man standing with a gun, surrounded by dead bodies, with the caption, "The only reason your still alive is because someone has decided to let you live." 

     
Denver Theater Shooting KMGH-TV reported that a university psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton, reached out to campus police in June partly because James Holmes talked about killing "a lot of people." It said she opted not to place him under a psychiatric hold because he was leaving the school. A university spokeswoman said she could not comment on the report. 

     
Virginia Tech Shooting - Cho, a senior English major at Virginia Tech, had previously been diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder. During much of his middle school and high school years, he received therapy and special education support… Because of federal privacy laws, Virginia Tech was unaware of Cho's previous diagnosis… Cho was accused of stalking two female students. After an investigation, a Virginia special justice declared Cho mentally ill and ordered him to attend treatment. Lucinda Roy, a professor and former chairwoman of the English department, had asked Cho to seek counseling. 

     
Newtown Shooting - “This was a deeply disturbed kid,” a family insider told the Daily News. “He certainly had major issues. He was subject to outbursts from what I recall.”Lanza, who friends and officials said suffered from Asperger’s syndrome or a personality disorder, had a tortured mind.  He was socially awkward and at times unstable, but also extraordinarily bright. 

     
What a deadly combination: Tina Burgess Examiner.com regarding Adam Lanza - A child with an emotional pain that is stronger than any physical pain, a lack of support by the local school district to attend to any emotional, psychopathic, sociopathic, or other kind of disability, a lack of social interaction, a most likely excessive interaction with computers, nothing to have to work for, and training in how to shoot. 

In a Huffington post article entitled “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”, Liza Long writes terrifying accounts of her son’s disturbing behavior - threatening herself and her other children. “When I asked my son’s social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. “If he’s back in the system, they’ll create a paper trail,” he said. “That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges. 

Liza Long's son could be our next mass murderer.  She is warning us right now. There should be something we can do.  

  

3. “Citizens Defense Council.Com” (arbitrary, non existent name) Create a network of information and resources for people like Liza Long, and a fund to help promote and implement it to the public. 

Provide a website to go to, a place for her to call, steps for her to take… 

     
Call on behavioral specialists, psychiatrists, social workers, educators and law enforcement to get together on effective steps that responsible citizens, school kids, mothers, fathers or neighbors could take when they see this pattern emerging or get wind of a potential attack.  For every person that we know about who saw some warning signs, there are surely more we don’t know about that might have come forward. 

     
This network/website/organization could generate things like an anonymous hotline for people to call, public service announcements, effective plans for school drills, public education and awareness services and more. 

     
 If we have an interactive network to gather our collective resources for solutions, more solutions will reveal themselves. 

4. Make a Mental Health Class part of school curriculum at every grade level 

These classes could include such things as: 

     
Learning to effectively and safely express difficult emotions 
     
Exercises in compassion 
     
Learning to make friends 
     
Tools for managing disagreements and keeping friends 
     
Self esteem building exercises 
     
Fun Physical Group activities – participation with classmates could be homework 
     
Diversity and tolerance training 
     
Education and response to bullying 
     
Once a month, or a quarter, have one class that parents attend and participate in, 
     
Encourage parents to participate in homework for this class. 

There are a lot of privileged angry young people out there.  They are not poor or abused and come from ‘good’ homes. They have an education and all the possibilities for a bright future. Why are they so angry? Why do they hate so strongly? Giving kids mental health tools as a part of their curriculum in school not only addresses some of the root causes of the mass shooting crisis, but will build a stronger, healthier country all the way around, cut crime and save lives. 

     “You know what I hate? Star Wars fans: get a friggin life, you boring geeks. You know what I hate? People who mispronounce words, like 'acrost,' and 'pacific' for 'specific,'  and 'expresso' instead of 'espresso.' You know what I hate? People who drive slow in the fast lane, God these people do not know how to drive. You know what I hate?   The WB network!!!! Oh Jesus, Mary Mother of God Almighty, I hate that channel with all my heart and soul” 

     Columbine mass murderer, Eric Harris 

5. Encourage residential security education and non-lethal options for home defense. 

It is my hope that more effort will be put into developing effective non-lethal home security weapons. Also that self-defense education, including home invasion drills and training in the use of single shot firearms and non-lethal weapons; i.e. tasers, stun guns and mace will be more widely available and implemented. 

How many people who have guns in their home for protection have the training to use them effectively in an intruder situation and under intense emotional duress?  If you decide you need to keep a lethal weapon in your home, you should at least give yourself and your family the training to use it wisely in an intruder situation.  Here are some instances where training might have saved lives. 

“FREEZE!! I HAVE A GUN!!!” 

     
New Orleans, Sept 12, 2012 - Charles Williams was mistakenly shot by his wife who thought he was an intruder. 

     
Connecticut, Sep 28, 2012 - A man responding to his sister's call for help during an apparent burglary at her home next door, shot and killed a masked intruder who turned out to be his own teenage son. 

     
Rochester, Dec 11, 2012 - A 61-year-old man shot his granddaughter at  the patio door of his home late Monday night, telling police he had armed himself with a pistol to investigate a suspected intruder, police said. 

     
Alabama, Oct 14 2012 - Jesse Rainey, 15, was shot in the head by his friend when he played a home invasion prank on him. 

6. Encourage people to store lethal weapons outside of the home. Store semi-automatic rapid-fire assault weapons and ammo at gun ranges, gun clubs, lockers or special storage facilities. 

This is a tough life. Even a normal well-adjusted person can snap in an emotional crisis. If you have to drive somewhere to get your gun, maybe by the time you get there, you have calmed down just enough to keep from killing yourself or someone else.  I am not suggesting we make this a law but simply encourage this as a part of a more enlightened attitude about these types of weapons. 

Some personal experience: 

     
I was a victim of a home invasion by two masked gunmen. They burst through the door with guns aimed directly at myself and two friends who were watching TV.  A gun as held to my head as they demanded money.  I thought I was dead.  I am very lucky to have  survived. If I had had a gun I would not have been able to get to it. I was tied up shortly after they broke in.   

     
During an argument a friend of mine’s husband grabbed his gun and shot himself in the head. He died right there in front of her. 

     
My brother killed himself by a shot to the head with his 12 gage hunting rifle. 

I believe it's time to admit that some of us are not stable enough mentally and emotionally to keep deadly weapons in the home and we need to do something about this.  Perhaps the rest of us who are could shape a more evolved strategy so the rest of us are protected. I believe home security education and training along with non-lethal weapon development and implementation is a better solution to personal safety. 

Also, according to several statistical websites, there are an average of 600 accidental shooting deaths a year. About two-thirds of accidental shooting deaths happen in the home. In 45 percent of the cases a child shoots him or herself. And in the remainder of cases friends or family members pull the trigger. 

7. Require a license to sell guns – period.  Unlicensed gun dealers found at gun shows are not subject to, or give, background checks.   

In the days following the Tucson shooting that left six people dead and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) in critical condition, New York City sent undercover investigators to an Arizona gun show to explore how easy it was to buy weapons without a background check. Just 15 days after the shooting, and just over 100 miles from where it happened, the investigators bought a Glock and a 33-round magazine — with no background check. In two instances, the New York undercover officers specifically said before buying a gun, "I probably couldn't pass a background check," but were still sold guns, city officials said.  In a third case, an investigator bought a Glock pistol and two high-capacity magazines like the ones used in the Tucson shooting. Such purchases were made without any background check but were perfectly legal. 

     
Compare Japan's Gun policy to American gun poilcy in this Washington Post Article. Japan has almost no gun deaths each year  

Ok.  This seems like a big enough bite to chew on for a bit. I am interested in your responses. I call upon the divine spirit in each of us to shine through and remember the innocent victims of these tragic shootings, to shed a light on the way to help us work together and to protect one other from people who abuse guns and are careless with gun safety.

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