Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Shrink Rap

David Brooks goes Dr. Phil on killing sprees:

Looking at guns, looking at video games — that’s starting from the wrong perspective. People who commit spree killings are usually suffering from severe mental disorders. The response, and the way to prevent future episodes, has to start with psychiatry, too.

The best way to prevent killing sprees is with relationships — when one person notices that a relative or neighbor is going off the rails and gets that person treatment before the barbarism takes control. But there also has to be a more aggressive system of treatment options, especially for men in their 20s. The truly disturbed have always been with us, but their outbursts are now taking more malevolent forms.

In other words, better gun control won’t subdue the demons in the heads of the psychotics. (Maybe not, but like chicken soup for a cold, it couldn’t hurt.)

The problem with his solution is that it’s really hard for the relative or neighbor to make the kind of judgment as to whether or not to contact someone like the police before someone goes “off the rails.” Who’s to say that the guy next door just likes a quiet weekend doing the crossword puzzles and catching up on TiVo as opposed to the guy with the secret closet full of high-grade ammunition and pomegranate pits? And now that guns have become so politicized that neither candidate will even bring it up, nothing will be done about assault weapons or, for that matter, Mr. Brooks’ suggestion that we keep an eye on quiet loners who max out their credit cards at the sporting goods big box store.

The defenders of the 2nd Amendment rightly note that it is unfair to conflate the gun owner and collector with the mass murderers. (Ironically, a lot of people have no problem conflating gay men with child molesters, but that’s another post.) But as long as we avoid the issue; as long as the line in the aftermath of Aurora, Tucson, and Virginia Tech is “Now is not the time to talk about guns…” the more we will find out that the time to talk about it is before it happens.