Lyles: Bans won’t work; Mental health services will
By Dick Lyles
The logic of cause and effect tells us that when an event occurs then something else had to happen to cause that event to occur. If the event is negative — if it is a problem — then in order to find a solution, it is important to look at all the contributing factors to determine which are the most causal. Think of the factors as being causal, intervening and output variables.
For example, consider a football team winning or losing a game. The most causal factor is the quality of the players. A group of people who can’t play the game will most likely lose. But a talented group might not necessarily win, either. Intervening variables might include how well prepared they are for the game and the level of competition. Output variables deal with how well they perform on game day.
When a murder is committed the most causal variable is that a deviant made a choice to kill people. Intervening variables include things like the murderer’s choice of weapons, location and timing. Output variables deal with the actual carrying out of the crime. The Oregon mall shooter fired more than 100 rounds and killed three. At Sandy Hook about 60 rounds were fired, leaving 26 dead.
People who think stricter gun controls will solve the problem of mass murders are focusing on the wrong level of variable for two reasons. First and most important is that gun control simply will not solve the problem. Timothy McVey didn’t use guns in Oklahoma (nor did Chelsea King’s killer). The same day as the Sandy Hook shootings, a madman in China stabbed 22 school children and a teacher.
The second reason is that gun control in America simply won’t work. Americans are not going to give up their guns. Only 26 percent of Americans support gun control. The number has decreased in recent decades. The number didn’t change as a result of the Aurora shootings (Gallup) and isn’t likely to change as a result of Sandy Hook. Americans own about 300 million guns they are not about to relinquish.
Amy, if you believe we’re going to rid this country of guns, you are making the same mistake as those who believe we’re going to ship 16 million illegal immigrants back to their home country to solve the illegal immigration problem. Neither will happen. But we do share common ground in thinking that mental health services hold a key to viable solutions.
In recent years we have learned that certain behaviors warn when someone has the potential to carry out a mass killing. Forensic psychiatrists say there are just over 20 of these warning indicators and in all recent cases at least two of these were present. In the case of Congresswoman Giffords’ shooter, 11 were present.
The problem is we’re not using this information effectively to prevent tragedy. Resources are limited and public policy guidelines are pathetic. We are not effectively dealing with people who are potential threats. Let’s let go of the “feel good” strategies of ranting about guns and pretending mentally ill people are normal. Let’s implement at least one solution that can make a difference. Let’s funnel resources into responsible mental health-focused initiatives that can prevent these murders.
In the meantime we should beef up security at our schools the way they have in the Harrold Independent School District in Texas. Several teachers at each school, whose identities are confidential, are trained as “Guardians” and armed to defend their school from assault. The program is carefully planned and executed and makes remarkable sense.
Lyles, a Poway resident, is a business/management consultant and best-selling author.
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