The entire city was still reeling from that news when reports began coming in of the horrific school shooting in Newton, CT, that left 20 first-graders and six school employees dead. Coming shortly after the movie theater shooting in Aurora, CO, where 12 people were murdered, the tragedy left a grieving nation searching for answers. And as H.L. Menken once noted, "for every complicated problem there is a solution that is simple, direct, understandable and wrong."
In this instance there were actually plenty of simple, direct and wrong solutions being offered up ranging from more prayer in schools to more corporal punishment of bad behaviour in young people. Apparently some people believe that severe mental illness is something that can be beaten out of a person. But most of the media and politicians in this country ultimately decided to center their attention on the type of rifle used in the two shootings. You rarely hear any mention of the prescribed psychotropic drugs, which commonly list suicidal tendencies and violent outbursts as major side effects, that are a common factor in pretty much all mass shootings.
The book Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker thoroughly examines the widespread increase in mental illness rates, and the severity of mental illness, that has coincided with the widespread use of psychotropic drugs. What is amazing is that, like with the statin drugs used to lower cholesterol, some of the most damning evidence against modern psychotropic drugs can be found in the studies used as supposed evidence of their effectiveness.
If you take two people with the same risk factors for heart disease and give one a statin drug to lower their cholesterol and the other a placebo, the person taking the statin is more likely to end up dead, as Harvard Medical School educator Dr. John Abramson noted in his book Overdosed America. This is on top of all the other negative side effects statin drugs have.
Studies on drugs are generally paid for by the pharmaceutical industry, which frequently leads to studies with conclusions that make no sensel based on the actual data obtained in the study. That is how we end up with anti-anxiety medications that cause chronic anxiety, antidepressants that prolong depression and significantly increase the risk of suicide, and ADHD medications that greatly increase the odds that a child will end up bipolar.
Please note that I am absolutely NOT recommending that anyone taking psychotropic meds suddenly stop taking them. These drugs rewire the brain and create chemical imbalances in a way that makes getting off of them very difficult. When someone on psychiatric meds quits cold turkey the results can be horrifying. Getting off of them needs to be done with counseling and under the supervision of a doctor. And there are some people who are genuinely helped by psychiatric drugs. The medical industry just seems to ignore the fact that there are also millions of people whose lives are made much worse by them.
Ironically, the fact that patients have so much trouble when they stop taking the drugs is used as evidence of their effectiveness even though people who go off the drugs end up with drastically worse symptoms than patients who never took them. It is like if a researcher gave someone heroin every day for a couple months, suddenly made them quit cold turkey, and used the resulting pain and sickness as evidence that the person had been suffering an "opium deficiency" before ever starting to use heroin.
Beyond the chronic overmedication of our population, there is plenty of evidence that our current way of life is as bad for our mental health as it is for our physical health. Corporate welfare and other government subsidies have caused us to design our communities and our food supply around the wants and needs of big businesses instead of individuals.
We are recommended a diet based on taking care of grain cartels and processed food manufacturers instead of our bodies. The human brain is made up almost entirely of saturated fat and cholesterol. Cutting fat from the diet, and getting an increasing amount of the fat someone does eat from refined vegetable oils, is going to have a negative impact on mental function. Even worse, expectant mothers will try to avoid animal fat and cholesterol at a time when their body is forming an entire new central nervous system for their child. This would be viewed as insane in most traditional cultures.
A huge portion of Americans are chronically deficient in magnesium and vitamin D. Anxiety, lack of energy and depression are major symptoms of magnesium and vitamin D deficiency. How many times do you hear about a person complaining of depression or anxiety having their magnesium and vitamin D levels checked before being put on a constantly changing roller coaster of anti-anxiety and antidepressant meds? Vitamin D is cheap and you can't patent it. Therefore there aren't any pretty, high-paid vitamin D reps taking doctors out to dinner or flying them to vitamin D seminars in exotic locations.
In blaming society for things like mass shootings people are generally far too quick to point their fingers at things like violent video games or music. A sick mind may harbor obsessions, but blaming the focus of that obsession is confusing cause and effect. In other words, millions of people read A Catcher in the Rye, but only one of them used it as an explanation for shooting John Lennon. Or as comedian Sam Kinison bluntly pointed out, if Charles Manson never heard the Beatles' White Album, he would have still been insane.
Mass shootings are a near uniformly young, white, male, suburban middle-class phenomenon. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of other demographics grappling with crippling mental illness in this country. Different people express pyschosis in different ways. If a 60-year-old woman commits suicide by herself with sleeping pills it is still a tragedy that represents the end of the world for that individual.
Instead of focusing on mental health the official line seems to be that these tragedies are occurring because people suddenly have access to weapons like the AR-15s used in Newton and Aurora, and that these tragedies can be averted by firearm restrictions.
The AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle that fires a .223 caliber bullet. It has been around since the 1950s when Eugene Stoner developed it for the company Armalite. That is where the AR in its name came from. It is not an abbreviation for "assault rifle" as some people claim.
In military terms an assault rifle is a relatively small, lightweight rifle with a detachable magazine that is capable of full-auto fire like the U.S. Military's M-16, which the AR-15 design is based on. Fully automatic weapons are so expensive and heavily restricted for civilian use in the U.S. that they can effectively be referred to as illegal. When politicians or the press talk about fully-automatic weapons being readily available to civilians they are either being willfully ignorant or intentionally deceitful.
The Federal "Assault Weapons Ban" that the U.S. had from 1994 until 2004 didn't apply to actual assault weapons. And it didn't stop anybody from owning any weapons. It merely banned the sale of semi-automatic weapons, and their magazines, manufactured after the ban went into effect based on cosmetic features like pistol grips, flash suppressors and collapsible stocks. Semi-automatic weapons that didn't look like assault weapons weren't affected by the ban.
Being semi-automatic means the gun will chamber a new round each time the trigger is pulled until its magazine is empty instead of requiring the shooter to perform some action to chamber a new round. The Winchester Model 1894 is named after the year it was introduced. If you are unfamiliar with guns it probably looks significantly less menacing than the AR-15 underneath it. But it can be fired as quickly as you can rack the lever with your hand. And the tubular magazine underneath its barrel can have ammunition fed steadily into it without ever disabling it like a magazine-fed gun with the magazine removed.
The press frequently refers to the AR-15 as a "high-powered rifle." But it's .223 caliber ammunition, pictured at right, has considerably less power than the .30-30 round, pictured at left, fired by the old lever gun. The .30-30 is still the most common round for deer hunting in Tennessee, while hunters mainly view the .223 as a varmint round.
If access to to high-powered rifles that can be fired quickly is what drives mass shootings, why wasn't there an epidemic of them when lever guns became wildly popular in the late 1800s? There were Tommy Gun shootings in the 1920s, when there weren't modern restrictions on civilian ownership of automatic weapons, but that was gang violence caused by alcohol prohibition the same way drug prohibition drives gang violence today.
Mass shootings first really entered the public consciousness with the Columbine High School shooting in 1998. The Columbine attack was planned around the anniversary of the 1995 Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing that killed 168 people. The assailants in the Columbine massacre planted large bombs made out of propane tanks in the school cafeteria and parking lot planning to blow up the cafeteria during the busiest period of the day, shoot any fleeing survivors, then blow up the parking lot after police, fire fighters, medical personnel and the media arrived. The pair went on a shooting spree after the bombs failed to go off, killing 12 students and one teachers before turning their guns on themselves.
While Columbine was an enormous tragedy, it would have been far worse if the two waves of bombs had detonated. There is a good chance it also would have made later mass killings much worse too. Because it was remembered as a mass shooting, later copycat attacks were also mass shootings. If it had succeeded as a copycat of the Oklahoma City bombing it would have shifted the media narrative to a situation where subsequent copycat attacks would have been centered around explosives.
The Oklahoma City Bombing was carried out with fertilizer and diesel fuel in a rented truck. The only mass murder on U.S. soil with a higher death count occurred when nearly 3,000 were killed on September 11, 2001. The only weapons the assailants had in that attack were box cutters. And the bumbling TSA response to that attack has shown just how pointless the results can be when government officials starting changing policies and demanding new powers just to be seen "doing something about the problem."
Banning a handful of guns based on their appearance isn't going to solve anything. And removing guns from our society is an impossible pipe dream. Guns are very simple devices. I built the AR-15 pictured above myself. Granted I bought all the parts for it, but that is because the AR-15 is manufactured from materials like CNC-machined billet aluminium and injection-molded plastic. It was designed for an industrialized, first-world nation.
The world's most commonly used assault weapon; the preferred firearm of illiterate rag-tag armies, rebel forces, pirates, war lords and poachers throughout the entire world; is the AK-47. The AR-15 was designed to be light and highly accurate. The Soviet AK-47 was designed to be cheap, ultra-reliable, and so simple that a child soldier can learn how it is put together and how to use it with a few minutes of instruction.
Keep in mind how completely the war on drugs has failed at stopping anybody who wants illegal drugs from having access to them. Then realize that you can easily go online and read about making a completely functional semi-automatic version of the AK-47 out of a shovel. As long as there is a demand for semi-automatic rifles in this country among people who don't care about laws the firearm genie can't be put back in its bottle. But mass shootings didn't start with widespread ownership of semi-auto firearms anyway. They do strongly coincide with widespread use, decades later, of psychiatric drugs by an increasingly alienated and unhealthy society.