A Response To The Responses

PopFop - A Response To The Responses

In light of the recent atrocity in Connecticut, there have been calls for various legislative changes.  These calls are underscored by a sense of urgency which, rather cynically, takes advantage of our desire for easy answers and quick solutions when faced with senseless violence.  This post is my reply to those responses.

An Emotional Response is Not a Rational Response

The most common responses we’ve seen are calls for more or near total gun control.  The severity of the act and the fact that most of the victims were young children is being used to say, “let’s put our partisan differences aside and pass this partisan legislation.”  I will return to the issue of gun control later, but for now I want to address the illogic of this reasoning.  The merits or ineffectiveness of such legislation should of course be up for debate but for those who are pushing for it in light of Sandy Hook, the atrocity itself is the argument.

It should be pointed out that this line of (un)reasoning is the same that was used in favor of the PATRIOT Act.  If I were to name this fallacy, I would call it the Big Tragedy fallacy.  As with the September 11th attacks, there is, sadly, nothing unprecedented about the Sandy Hook massacre.  Secondly, even if there was, by what measure is a barbaric act deemed exceptionally barbaric?  Thirdly, who gets to decide this?

Our political rights and freedoms, such as free speech and the right to own firearms, are largely considered absolute.  If they can be discarded because something really, really bad happens then they aren’t really rights they’re privileges.

Gun Control: As Useful as the War on Drugs

Just how gun control could’ve prevented the Sandy Hook massacre is never answered by those pushing for it.  As with the shooting at a mall in Oregon a few days before Sandy Hook, the perpetrator stole the weapons from someone who had obtained them lawfully.  While random mass shootings seem to be occurring in alarming frequency since the 1990s, they constitute a tiny fraction of all gun violence which occurs in the country each year.  Gang related gun violence is far more frequent and almost all of the weapons used are obtained through black markets. 

Mexico has alarming rates of gun related deaths due to cartel violence despite the fact that Mexico has near total gun control.  This is because weapons primarily bought in the USA are trafficked to Mexico, just as drugs manufactured in Mexico and other parts of Latin America are sold illegally in the USA.  Even if the United States had total gun control, criminal syndicates like the cartels would still have access to other arms traffickers.  Black markets, like white markets, are global and ever flowing.

Now it should be said that mass shooters are almost never involved in other criminal activities.  Some gun control proponents use this fact to note that if access to firearms were restricted, potential mass shooters would have trouble obtaining the weapons needed to carry out their crimes.  This may be true but it conveniently ignores the fact that there are other means to mass carnage, such as explosives.  In fact, the worst mass murder in United States history bears an eerie similarity to the Red Hook massacre.  In 1927, Andrew Kehoe bombed the Bath Consolidated School killing 45 people, 38 of whom were elementary school children.  As far as I’ve seen in the reporting on Sandy Hook, this case has not been mentioned.  Perhaps because it isn’t compatible with the gun control narrative.

The Onward March of the Therapeutic State

Even those who oppose the current cries for gun control remark that there should be greater access to mental heath facilities and greater awareness of mental health issues.      On it’s face this is a reasonable, noble and non-partisan request.  In the same general manner in which it is presented, I support such endeavors  A problem arises when it comes to specifics.  There are many schools of psychiatry which are often at odds with one another when it comes to methods of treatment and diagnosis.  If I were to create a spectrum to classify them, one end would be the medical-institutionalization of psychiatry while the other side would be the socialized, subjectivist phenomenological school.

Broadly speaking, I am most sympathetic to the socialized, subjectivist school.  This is because most disorders and syndromes are diagnosed based on social behavior instead of medical science.  As such, there is no standard medical treatment as there would be for someone with a brain tumor.  My criticism of this school is that it can lurch into relativism and seek to create a social identity out of said disorder.  The use of the term neurotypical is a good example of this absurdity.  Those afflicted with such disorders are abnormal which is why they need treatment.  Just because there are multiple options for treatment does not negate their need in first place.

The other side of the psychiatric spectrum, the medical-institutional school, is going to be gaining in prominence in light of the Sandy Hook atrocity.  The news that Nancy Lanza was looking to commit her son and that this may have been the trigger for the massacre certainly gives credence to this school of psychiatry.  While it seems that Adam was severely autistic, he had a host of other problems including congenital analgesia, a medical problem that I’m sure has psychological consequences.

While it is safe to assume that institutionalization would have prevented this massacre, I am wary of giving this school of psychiatry too much power.  I do not believe that medical professionals should have the power to commit individuals to institutions based on social behaviors except when they are shown to threaten the well being of themselves or others.  The history of medical institutionalization is rather horrific and should give one pause to bestow them with such powers again.

The Culture of Narcissism and a Lack of Empathy

One of the main reasons blanket solutions to the problem of mass shootings do not work is because there is very little which ties most mass shooters together.  In fact, most mass shooters are not mentally disturbed in the sense that Adam Lanza was.  One  thread of commonality between all mass shooters is a lack of empathy for others and a near solipsistic concern with their own problems or grievances.  George Sodini felt so debased by not being able to land a girlfriend that he shot up a women’s aerobics class.  Eric Harris was a born sociopath who simply wanted to destroy others for the pleasure of feeling superior.  His accomplice, Dylan Klebold was a depressive who numbed himself to empathy until he was able to commit mass murder as some sort of grandiose prelude to his own suicide.  The public and the media love to speculate what motivates someone to commit such heinous acts but when motive can be discerned it is often over mundane grievances.  This is because mass shooters are weak, self absorbed people who can’t see beyond their own pedestrian problems.

The problem lies in a society which is increasingly atomized and prioritizes ego fulfillment over all else.  Relativism has removed any meaningful indicator by which an individual can measure the legitimacy of their grievance.  A fragile ego or the failure of others to recognize one’s self-created identity are now widely considered reasonable outrages.  Similarly, groups of people from men who can’t get laid to those who identify with another gender despite biological evidence to the contrary consider themselves deserving of special interests rather than face their own lack of social skills or mental instabilities.  While most of the people who fall into this culture of aggrieved navel gazing are peaceful and law abiding, the process by which this culture is perpetuated normalizes disproportionate response to mundane issues.  As such, it makes it much harder to recognize those who are legitimately a threat to society and those who are your common narcissistic bore.


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