It makes sense for someone who is anti-gun to ignore the connection between antidepressants and mass shootings. From a purely tactical perspective, mass shootings are a big win for the anti-gun lobby, with each shooting causing a litany of anti-gun articles in every major news outlet (save Fox News) in the country. The gun rights lobby may have logic and reason on their side, but logic and reason mean very little in the wake of seventeen dead school children, and a gun ban hits all the right emotional buttons, whether it would be effective or not. The gun lobby also bears some responsibility, as they spend all of their time politicizing the right to bear arms, and none of their time discussing alternatives to gun laws that may help reduce mass shootings.
An honest debate on reducing the numbers of mass shootings would have to look, not only on the lethality of legal weapons and the propensity of gun-free-zones to be turned into shooting galleries, but also on what might drive the desire to kill.
People kill for a variety of reasons. Most murders are crimes of passion, committed in the heat of the moment, with no forethought. Most murders are also very personal, involving a specific target or targets. Most gun-murders are gang-related. Some murders are committed in pursuit of other crimes, such as a burglary that goes wrong.
We can wrap our minds around the majority of murders; we can at least understand the motivations behind them. Mass murder is different not only because of the higher body-count, but because of the apparent randomness of the crimes. The Las Vegas shooter, and several other mass murderers, seemed to be picking targets with more of an emphasis on body count than on anything related to the specific people they were killing, and even in the case of Columbine and now Parkland, there is no indication that Dylan Klebold or Eric Harris made any attempt to single-out the specific people they felt bullied by. Even where the location seems personal, the specific people killed still seem random.
It’s difficult to wrap our minds around a random act of killing, but the fact that all of the mass shootings over the past twenty years were all committed by young men on the same kinds of medications should give us a moment of pause with regard to those medications. I’m not going to pretend to have the answers on this – I’m not a psychiatrist – but I would think that those who are psychiatrists might look at such things as a gun ban for people who are on these kinds of medications, for the duration of the time they take those medications. We could make not having guns a prerequisite for taking those specific medications, such that those who take these kinds of drugs have to have their firearms locked up with the police until they are no longer on those medications. We should be monitoring people who are on these medications for signs of homicidal thoughts, and working to intervene when those thoughts are found.
I was on Accutane when I was a teenager. At the time, the side effects were unknown (and I was on a strong dosage), but eventually doctors learned that severe depression and suicide are some of the side effects. I went through a round of depression while on Accutane, and it lasted for a few years after I finished taking it before it went away. Doctors learned to be very careful with Accutane, prescribing it far less often, in far smaller doses, and with far more care given to watching for emotional changes. With antidepressants, we seem far more flippant, ignoring the possibility that drugs aimed to cure one kind of emotional instability may in turn cause another.
There is no call on the left or the right to look into antidepressants, yet there is widespread support on both sides for taking guns away from people who are mentally ill. If a particular kind of medication helps to make young men mass killers, do we not owe it to our children to at least look into that connection, and to then take relevant steps to prevent these kinds of senseless killings, or are the political points that can be earned by dancing on the graves of dead children worth enough to focus only on guns? On the other side of the fence, is exposing the flaws in the left’s anti-gun agenda really worth ignoring the potential to reduce these kinds of crimes by doing something about people on antidepressants having access to guns?
It does not seem unreasonable to make surrendering one’s guns (and not being able to buy more guns) a precursor for being prescribed the certain antidepressants that are linked to mass shootings. The police can lock-up those guns, and can then give them back once the person who surrendered them is no longer on medications that are linked to mass shootings. This is a no-brainer solution that would at least help to address mass shootings (and might solve the problem) without infringing on the rights of others to keep and bear arms. We can have that discussion while still debating the right to bear arms and the efficiency of gun-free zones, but antidepressants have to become the focal part of any discussion on mass shootings, or we are being grossly dishonest as a society, and doing so while our children quite literally bleed in the hallways of our schools.
Enough is enough. Let’s change the conversation and focus on the desire to kill.
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