Guns Guns Guns

Recently there was a murder/suicide at UCLA where a mentally ill graduated PhD student killed his former professor.

UCLA is a gun free zone.  The engineer buildings also had doors that couldn’t lock from the inside.  I think this is telling in the gun debate — declaring a place “gun free” has no real economic cost… and it also doesn’t prevent somebody from coming in with a gun and killing people.  It might prevent some accidental shooting, like somebody shooting themselves in the foot in the bathroom, but these kinds of events aren’t what people are complaining about – they’re complaining about mass shootings, and “gun free zone” doesn’t do jack shit for that.  Improving the locks on doors can lower the body in a mass shooting incident significantly, but it requires thinking and money… so we don’t do it.

Similarly, this guy who shot his professor likely had several things going on:

  1.  Fantasies about shooting his professor
  2. A disconnection from other people

These fantasies are fueled by media.  By video games, by movies.  And by the news media which turns people like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold into villain celebrities, complete with biographies.  Websites publish even their childish drawings and pictures of their weapons.

Asking the media not to print such stories would decrease their revenue from the ads which depend on their sensational content.  An economic cost the media doesn’t want to bear.  I’m not suggesting that they caused him to shoot his professor.  But I would suggest that we don’t have a strong enough alternative course of action emphasized in our society.

Similarly, connecting with people struggling with mental illness has a large time/economic cost.  By all accounts, this professor helped his former student to graduate even when the student’s work wasn’t very good.  When we talk about situations like this, we talk about restricting guns, but we don’t talk about the economic investment required to keep mentally ill people connected to society.  For sure, this is a challenging, expensive problem with no simple solution.  People don’t want to pay for it.  People don’t want to spend their time on it.

Re: the restriction of guns, this is also a cultural issue.  They ways Americans use guns has as much to do with their potential for misuse as the presence of the gun itself.  For example, the instructions and material to create a bomb are freely available to anyone, but not very many people accidentally blow themselves up with their home bomb.  This is because bombs are treated differently in our culture than guns.

I generally land on the side of freedom and personal responsibility, so I don’t like the idea of solving problems by restricting freedom and handing control to a centralize authority.  That is typically a one way street, and history shows where it leads.


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