A New Epidemic
In Newtown, Connecticut, a 20 year old named Adam Lanza went into an elementary school and killed 26 people after first shooting his mother in the face. Described by relatives as “not well” and other as “brilliant but remote” (truly, genius is close to madness), the young man put on a bulletproof vest, took 2 handguns and a semi-automatic rifle (registered to his mother) to the school and started shooting. Apparently, he was quiet the whole time that he put 2 bullets into each victim. The incident ended when he shot himself.
The shooting comes hard upon another event where a masked gunman killed two people at a mall before shooting himself. Just yesterday, a man was arrested for firing off 50 rounds in a California parking lot. My question is, what the heck is going on? Does this have something to do with the Mayan apocalypse? Are unbalanced people, thinking that the world is going to end in a few days, wanting to go out in a blaze of “glory”? Are we finally seeing the end result of putting kids on medications for attention deficits and other disorders? Have violent video games made the idea of killing no big deal to the average young man?
Perhaps, but this doesn’t explain why mass murders are becoming so commonplace. In the past, a mass murder might occur a few times a decade, but there have been 24 in the past seven years, just in the United States. In fact, 6 of the 12 worst incidents have occurred since 2007. This is all happening at a time when violent crime has generally been decreasing.
I am already seeing the outcry for more gun control. Protesters associated with gun control groups were in front of the White House chanting “Today is the day”. Countries like Israel and Switzerland, however, have historically had relatively easy access to guns without a history of mass shootings. Recently, these countries have tightened their laws to decrease access, but the reason was more to prevent suicides than murders.
If someone wants to commit suicide or murder, they will use whatever method is available to them. Where there are no guns, people commit suicide, they hang themselves or take overdoses. In China, a man went into a school and stabbed 22 children. I admit that guns are deadlier than knives, but the old saying goes: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”.
On the other side of the story, there are those who say that if everyone carried guns, few mass murderers would get far before they are shot themselves. Perhaps, but nobody thinks that the Newtown schoolchildren should all have been armed. Some say it shouldn’t be given publicity, that being on the news is just what the killers want. Yet, if that’s the case, why do they often shoot themselves before they get their 15 minutes of fame? The Newtown school gunman didn’t even leave a note.
Where do I see this going? Schools and malls may soon have their own version of “air marshals” providing tighter security than today’s “mall cop”. They will be openly armed and they will have rifles. The sight of armed guards may stop some of the shootings; it might be worth it even if it saves just one child’s life. I can tell you, however, that I often see guards walking around with automatic rifles when I travel out of the country. It doesn make me feel safer.; I feel like I’m in a police state.
If you’re a gun enthusiast, get ready for more and more restrictions. At a local gun show where we live this weekend, there was a lot of business. People see their right to bear arms under attack, and, indeed, they are. If these shootings continue at this rate, there might be one less amendment to the constitution.
I don’t have answers. I don’t have a political statement to make. I just know the beginning of an epidemic when I see one. I’m a doctor, and my usual advice for these uncertain times is to be medically prepared. How many of the Newtown kids would medical readiness have saved? I don’t know. I can only say that a sick society begets sick people. The sicker society gets, the more sick people will be out there. Be quietly aware of your surroundings in public, protect yourself in the way you’re most comfortable with, and be prepared for tough times (they’re a-coming). And, lastly, pray for the children.