Monday, December 24, 2012

People, Pills & Murder

I'm a branding guy, which means that a fair amount of my time is spent monitoring the media, poring over the hype in an attempt to find real value in whatever they pass off as news to the good people of America. Unfortunately, most of stories dumped in our laps is hardly news. The vast majority is little more than titillating tidbits of violence designed to lure viewers past the next commercial and into the depths of gore and pessimism.

As they say in the news biz, "if it bleeds, it leads," which is why bad news permeates the airwaves and interwebs.

To make matters worse, media invites what can loosely be called "experts" to what can even more loosely be called "debate" the causes and effects of the latest violent news stories. As of this writing, the big topic is guns, murders and laws imposed to curb citizens' ability to murder each other with guns.

Let me state at the outset that I have no problem with guns, just like I have no problem with cars. I think cars are great for transportation and picking up dates. I also think that when a deranged lunatic gets behind the wheel of a car with the intent of mowing down innocent people, he's committing an assault with a deadly weapon. In fact, most courts would hold that to be true, and often send those perpetrators to jail. Yet despite the tens of thousands of vehicle deaths that occur each year on American roads, one rarely hears any public call for tighter regulation of automobiles.

The reason that nobody calls for tighter restrictions on cars is, well, I can't really say. I can't really explain it, because the logic for tighter regulations on anything never results in curbing the damage done by errant miscreants who actively choose to inflict harm on others. And this is where the advocates for stricter gun control fall short in their arguments.

If you really want find what causes murderous rampages, you have to look in the right places -- and gun control simply isn't the right place. But I can point to two places that are:

As I wrote in 2010's The Tipping Point of Terror and in 2004's Prozac, Paxil, Pathetic, there are two fundamental reasons why this country suffers from increasing numbers of violent events. One is the sheer number of people in the country. The other is the sheer number of anti-psychotic and psychotropic drugs prescribed indiscriminately as a matter of expedience.

As the first article pointed out, the population of our country has grown to the point where its criminal and mentally unstable element -- a percentage of the population that remains relatively constant -- has grown in real numbers. Two percent of a 50 million member nation is only 100,000 people; but two percent of 350 million is seven million people, where even the chance of random occurrences increases the incidence of violent behavior to a daily certainty.

What that means is we've grown to the point where crime is no longer an anomaly; it's simply a fact of daily life.

The big question is what to do with all those borderline and over-the-edge cases. Since we have neither the facilities nor the will to warehouse them, many of them are controlled with anti-psychotic and psychotropic drugs -- many of which have drastically dangerous side-effects, including tendencies toward suicidal and violent behavior. The thinking is that borderline cases "treated" with these drugs can move about society in a harmless haze, prevented from doing any harm.

But those are just the diagnosed cases.

There are millions of kids, teens and adults who gobble down these pills at the first instance of depression simply because it's more convenient to prescribe than prevent. At any given moment, any of these walking time bombs could blow -- usually during a psychotic episode in which they illegally procure someone else's legally-purchased and registered semi-automatic weapon.

All of which means if you really want to curb the violence in America, you need to regulate mental health in America. Not cars. Not machetes. Not guns. In fact, there's no point of regulating any kind of weapon since almost anything could be used as a weapon. As the mob's late hit man, Jimmy "the Weasel" Fratianno, once told a reporter who asked him about illegal weapons, "What's a weapon? I could torture you with a pair of pliers; I could kill you with a pencil."

Hey, I'm no gun fanatic. But I'm also no fan of ill-conceived solutions that value expedience over effectiveness. As politically incorrect as it may seem, it's time to realize that cars don't kill people, but drivers do. And guns don't kill people until a human being pulls the trigger.

If you really want to stop the killing, start addressing the real problem. Put less effort into controlling people's behavior and more money into programs to aid those mentally at risk.


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