Guns: A Psychological Perspective

March 30th, 2013
in Op Ed, syndication

Written by

Three thousand gun deaths and counting since Sandy Hook.

"No time left, they're comin for to protect ourselves against minorities and looters...lock and load." That's Wayne La Pierre and his gun absolutists talking, with racial undertones, and the Republican establishment isn't calling them out on it. Far-fetched verbiage? Yes, and looney from this psychologist's perspective. Tyranny is far from imminent yet insurrection is being promulgated with no thought to the chaos, carnage and pain that would ensue.

It's 1791. The Second amendment is passed. It takes 10-15 seconds to load a musket, twice as long for a rifle. Fast forward to 2013. You can now kill more people faster with one depression of the trigger than an army could! This can not be the original intent of the Second Amendment.

Follow up:

The NRA has a psychologically misguided and atrophied vision for America as they want us scared, submissive and robotically catering to their conspiritorial viewpoint. They would return us to the days of the Wild West and individual vigilanty justice. What kind of a society is  it where it's easier to buy a gun than find a job?

The data speaks for itself. America has the highest rate of gun deaths among the developed nations  and the highest rate of gun ownership according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Why is this so? The answer is complicated, but our fetish for ever-more powerful shooting machines and their easy access is an obvious factor.

We urgently need to gather scientific date to better understand the many aspects of gun violence. Why, for instance, are  men mass murderers? But the NRA and their footmen have blocked attempt by Congress at gathering a scientific data-base.

Our country is awash with violence. It's easier to get worked-up about violence that's visceral and immediate, but "silent" forms of vehemence are just as virulent, e.g., losing one's home, job, health coverage and spiraling poverty. These are all purveyors of emotional stress, anxiety, depression and anger - distabilizers to the psyche.

For over 50 years, the American Psychological Association has issued reports that viewing of large amounts of violence on TV by young children has been correlated with increases in violent behavior into adulthood. If TV viewing can impact our aggressive tendencies, what about the music we listen to?

A 2007 study found that by the time the American child starts elementary school, he or she will have seen 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence, just on TV. Ad to this, that a small percentage of the population suffers from various forms of mental illness, and that we perpetually under-fund treatment for psychological disorders. As a psychological practioner for many year, my share from insurance reimbursement diminishes while patients' share increases. Insurerers have become increasingly therapist and patient inhospitable.

Proposals are afoot to identify and report people who could potentially be dangerous to others. Organizationally cumbersome, it would also be very expensive. Once reported, the identified person might be apt to minimize their threat level to avoid negative consequences.

On the positive side, legislatures are increasingly holding workplaces, schools and universities accountable for violence prevention. Threat assessment is a burgeoning field  of research and practice. A new journal of Threat Assessment and Management from the American Psychological Association will be accepting manuscripts in November. Meanwhile, the most direct and effective route is to keep firearms out of the hands of potentially dangerous people.

We need to ask ourselves, what kind of society will best foster mental and physical health and well-being. Certainly, one parameter that our teachings tell us is that preserving human life is the highest calling, and murder the most depraved act of man.

The need to stockpile sophisticated weaponry at paramilitary levels brings into question OCD, hostility/aggression and sometimes a more pervasive diagnosis. Sandy Hook should have pricked the conscience of the nation (Freud's reference to superego), but not everyone's superego has matured. Superego lacuna  is associated  with sociopathic leanings.

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