The FAMCare Blog

Gun Control vs. Mental Health

Posted by George Ritacco on Oct 27, 2015 3:52:00 PM

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The social worker friends I talked to agreed that we don’t need any more laws. We need to educate society very quickly on the danger signs of “troubled” adolescent men who have not yet been diagnosed with mental illness. Only parents, not politicians, can solve this modern societal problem. 

Since social workers are at the very epicenter of the Gun Control/Mental Health debate, I decided to talk to a few of my social worker friends, after the recent Oregon shooting. Their insights were knowledgeable, incisive, and troubling. 

GUN CONTROL 

They reminded me that the FBI reports there are more than 250 million guns in the United States. That’s almost as many guns as there are people. The question my social worker friends asked was: "Given that many guns, what do you mean by gun control?" 

Do you control access to new guns, the trading of guns, or who can buy guns?  

If everyone already has a gun in the house, what are you controlling if you attempt to control the buying and selling of guns? Remember Sandy Hook? Connecticut has one of the strictest set of gun control laws on the books today. Every week, the violence in Chicago makes the news. Chicago also has one of the strictest set of gun laws on the books – and yet the level of gun violence is higher in proportion to that of other major cities. Maybe the answer lies in the type of guns or the amount of guns one can own. The debate is still ongoing…  

In my home state of Georgia – the town of Kennesaw has had a gun law since 1982, but it’s not what you may think. Every homeowner must own a firearm in Kennesaw – that’s the law. It should also be noted that Kennesaw has among the lowest crime rates in Georgia.  

See: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/02/georgia-town-not-alone-in-using-gun-law-as-deterrent/2048059/ 

MENTAL ILLNESS 

...which brings us to mental illness. Obviously people who shoot multiple victims at random are mentally ill, right? But, my social worker friends ask: "What do you mean by mentally ill?" 

Studies have found, they tell me, that if we were able to cure schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, overall violence would go down by only about four percent. It turns out that most violence is not attributable to mental illness. Mass shooters, however, do present a specific psychological profile. 

They tend to be: 

  • Young, isolated, delusional young men. 
  • 70% of mass shooters are described as “loners”. 
  • 61.5% suffer from some form of substance abuse. 
  • 48% are preoccupied with weapons. 
  • 43.5% have been victims of bullying. 
  • But less than 23% have a documented psychiatric history. 

Restricting the sale of guns to people with no history of mental illness, does not exclude the mass shooter described above. 

However, think about someone who’s in the middle of their first episode of psychosis, but hasn’t been treated. This might be a serious, dangerous mental health crisis - a person with paranoid delusions, believing that everyone else is out to get him, isolated, and maybe drinking heavily - but because he is not yet documented as mentally ill, he is not disqualified from purchasing any number of guns. 

SOCIAL WORKERS SUGGEST THAT 

  • Family members need to recognize the danger signs of male adolescent discontent and to take them seriously. He's not just "going through a stage." 
  • They must get over feeling the stigma of “mental illness” and begin to recognize that troubled, delusional young men are a commonplace of modern society. If left untreated, alienated young men can become a danger to themselves and others. 
  • In some states, 50% of people live in homes where they have guns already. They must learn to limit access to these guns. 
  • Families must become aware that modern psychiatry now has multiple effective treatments for temporary psychiatric disorders. 

PARENTS NOT POLITICIANS 

The social worker friends I talked to agreed that we don’t need any more laws. We need to educate society very quickly on the danger signs of “troubled” adolescent men who have not yet been diagnosed with mental illness. Only parents, not politicians, can solve this modern societal problem.

Topics: Social Services Industry News

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