The predictable talking points are flying thick and fast after Adam Lanza stole an AR-15 from his mother, killing her and 24 others, 20 of which where 6-7yr olds. The mind cannot, will not allow us to comprehend this horror without reaching some sort of biased opinion on the topic du jour; gun control.
The left wants the assault weapons ban reinstated (I pretty much support this, although the rifle used in this case would not have been banned) however inneffectual and cumbersome it is. The right are pointing fingers at mental health, some at violent video games and some are yammering on about their rights and “second ammendment remedies”. Read this to get an idea of just how derptastic that notion is these days.
My take on armed revolution is … hey, you’re too fucking late, idiots. More on that in another post perhaps.
To understand where I’m going with this we need to take a brief look at Adam Lanza, reportedly a lonely stay at home 20 year old with aspergers syndrome, who may have played some video games. (by age 20, I’d perhaps played 10 solid years of games, yes 87,658.1 hours) I would be surprised if he’d actually not enjoyed a few rounds of Counter Strike every now and again.
Adam was apparently home schooled by his mother, who as it turns out was a gun owner. Nothing special going on here is there ? nope.
Wait. We should look at this in more detail. Adam’s life included a few major ingredients of a perfect storm.
A. compromised mental health – I have no idea of the condition of Adam Lanza’s mental health or to what degree his aspergers syndrome made his day to day life difficult, but consultation of wikipedia gives us an idea of the implications:
“A pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger syndrome is distinguished by a pattern of symptoms rather than a single symptom. It is characterized by qualitative impairment in social interaction, by stereotyped and restricted patterns of behavior, activities and interests,”
“A lack of demonstrated empathy has a significant impact on aspects of communal living for persons with Asperger syndrome. Individuals with AS experience difficulties in basic elements of social interaction, which may include a failure to develop friendships or to seek shared enjoyments or achievements with others”
Impairment in social interaction and lack of demonstrated empathy. Check.
B. home schooling – likely to further exacerbate problems with making relationships and practicing social skills
C. some video games – hypothetical interaction (I don’t know if he played violent games, or which ones if he did) in virtual reality environments of a violent nature in which repetitive acts of violence are sometimes the extent of the interactive experience. (not your farmville or Myst)
Most of us experience online gaming, say in your half-lifes, counter-strikes, halos, call of duty’s etc.. etc.. as enjoyable social interactions where skills are honed, personal scores bested teams built, and destroyed.
How do people with aspergers syndrome experience these complex systems which allow repetitive depictions of graphic violence ? How do they manage with their existing lack of empathy being almost intentionally utilized in a pseudo-realistic environment ?
I have no background in research, other than playing games, most violent, for hours on end. I don’t know any mentally ill or disabled people who play these games, is someone writing a grant for this research as I type ? it would surely be a worthwhile area of study to investigate the questions I just outlined.
D. Mother owned guns … but not your regular .38 special, Colt 1911 or even a 30/30. Mrs. Lanza owned an AR15. It was not, as far as I can tell, a full-auto or 3 round burst version of this platform and as such would not have been illegal under Conneticut law or the federal ban before it expired. It does however come with a 26 round mag as standard.
E. His mother, brother and other family members did not have their suspicion aroused by any of Adam’s activities or mannerisms, or by the lack there of which can be equal indicator vis a vis state of mind. Therefore did not see fit to refer Adam to any mental health professional.
In summary: Experienced a mental disorder which degraded his sense of empathy and hindered his social skills, was possibly isolated further by his education situation, could possibly have enjoyed a similar pastime that millions of people his age do; violent video games. Guns where available to him in a family environment. Nobody thought any of his activities, verbal expressions or actions where cause for alarm so there was no reason for mental health treatment.
Perfect. Bloody. Storm.
Just look at the array of possible factors, and perhaps quite a few more I haven’t thought of that effected an outcome. Can we now agree that blaming one or another single causes, and legislating accordingly is all but futile ?
Yes, availability of guns is an issue. Availability of guns to mentally ill people in family care is a further issue still. The mentally ill being exposed to violence (video games, film or news coverage of endless slaughter of the “other” in “wars for our safety” ™) is yet another problem.
You can’t blame “the mental health situation” or those that cut funding for treatment if a shooter was never going to make it through the door of a clinic in the first place. If nobody notices, or isn’t paying attention to the activities and mood of a mentally ill person in their care then they’re not going to get any help. Voluntarily submitting to mental evaluation is a rarity in cases of sociopaths.
This is how a cancer of our society presents itself. When you’ve got groups of people that love their guns and need them for a “rainy day”. And you’ve got groups of creative and artistic people who love building interactive experiences which glorify militaristic violence for fun, but in which nobody gets hurt.
Perhaps you also have layer upon layer of mental and social problems, quirks and opinions which lead to home schooling, or perhaps its something as simple as geographic happenstance. Maybe there are millions of people who are not paying close enough attention to each other, and not caring as deeply as they should about one another.
Toss into this miasma a kid who has trouble making friends, maybe he kicks the cat a bit too often, that girl he liked wouldn’t even look at him. He has a syndrome which his mother would rather he didn’t have.
Until gun ownership is predicated upon mental health evaluation (good luck !) our problem will persist. Until guns are banned in the homes of those who house and care for the mentally ill, likewise. The problem becomes that gun ownership can be the first indicator of ill mental health, and guns will always find a way into the “wrong” hands.
Until every gun on the face of the earth is destroyed our problems will persist. Then we’ll look at knives.