Dozens of mass killings have occurred in a variety of locations during the past ten years in the U.S. Sadly, now we must add to the list the mass killing of 17 school children and wounding of 14 more last Wednesday by Nikolas Cruz at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Coral Springs, Florida.
Many people blame our mental health system for the violence. The problem is those who first encounter mentally disturbed people, like Nikolas Cruz, may not be capable of dealing with the complex issues of mental health. We need to fix the problem before it becomes a problem because we’ll never identify all the red flags of all the people who seem determined to act out in violent ways.
We need a new approach. It should start with mental health evaluations in schools. If we begin at the K-5 level, then it will become ingrained in our culture that mental health evaluation is part of every school curriculum for every child, every year. I know, it may not help. But we need to do something dramatic.
Japan may not be a fair comparison with the U.S. with respect to gun violence. Our cultures are different – like night and day. But, we can learn a lot from the Japanese who value respect, civility, and love of family.
Do you know what it takes to get a gun permit in Japan? First, you have to attend a one-day training session that you pay $60 and are given several books to review for a test you have to complete.
After you finish the class and pass the exam, you must contact the local police to apply for training at a licensed shooting range. You’ll need to complete an application; a certificate of residency, photo identification, a list of past jobs and addresses. Then, and get this, you are required to visit a mental-health professional to be assessed for competency to own a firearm. All done? Not yet.
Congratulations, though. You do qualify for a certificate and can go to your neighborhood police station, where you will be asked some questions: "Why do you want a gun?" "Where do you live and what do you do for a living?" "Do any of your relatives have mental-health issues?" Each answer is carefully documented.
In the days that follow, your application is checked against police databases — a process similar to our national background check — and subsequently you will be notified if you have been approved. All done? Not yet.
To move to the next step, you take a training session at a shooting range. What does that entail? A written exam covering gun safety, training on the range and a target session. After an hour of instruction and the exam, you’re ready to practice and pass the final test.
When will we agree as a nation that getting guns off the streets is the logical next step? It doesn’t matter whether it’s right or wrong. How can we call ourselves a civil society when school kids are gunned down with increasing frequency, innocent others are slaughtered at concerts, in their churches, on college campuses, and we do nothing? We wait for the next horrific event, share sorrow, and go on with our lives like nothing happened.
It doesn’t matter whether getting guns off the street helps to stem the rising tide of senseless violence. We have to try it if only to say – we tried it. How can we call ourselves a civil society while we stand idly by tragedy after tragedy and do nothing?
The Scottish author Sean-Paul Thomas said: "Better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all."
Oh, BTW, in 2015, there were more than 13,000 non-suicide gun deaths in the U.S.; in Japan, there was only one.
Blog posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on February 20, 2018. Visit Dr. Mintz’s website and sign up for his newsletter.