Guns and school shootings: The dirty and deadly big secret

In the aftermath of yet another horrific mass murder of innocents, we are, as always, besieged by calls for stricter gun control laws, from the daily media buffet of rallies and protests to politicians spewing what now has become a familiar script.  But is the redundant, knee-jerk reaction calling for gun control a viable solution or just another political football being tossed into our daily cultural scrum? 

People had guns in the 1950s (and in the '60s, '70s, and '80s), and the gun laws were more lenient than today, so why wasn't there an epidemic of school shootings back then?  What's changed, especially in the lives and minds of many young people, over the last two decades?

A lot has changed.  From accelerated "progressive" cultural rot to more broken and latchkey homes to incredibly easy access to violence and sex via TV, movies, the internet and social media, and video games, all of these can be listed as possible contributors to the scourge of heinous behavior – much of which is perpetrated by males under the age of 30.  But in almost all cases, the killers are found to be "unstable" or "depressed" and taking some type of psychotropic prescription drugs: mind-altering substances to deal with depression, emotional frailty, or just the dramas of everyday life as a young adult.  Too many doctors and parents are too quick to dispense some pills; toss the kid a smartphone; and say, "Feel better."

We hear so much about the opioid crisis killing so many young people today.  But aside from the speedy, almost inaudible disclaimers at the end of every anti-depressant commercial that state "may cause anxiety or thoughts of suicide," we are not hearing much about the mind-altering medications epidemic.  Adding these powerful chemicals to still developing brains, and then setting them loose into the wilds of social media to be cyber-shamed, bullied, or propagandized, can't be therapeutic.  But why aren't the media all over the excessive prescribing and the dangers of all these psychotropic drugs and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)?  Why aren't there protests outside big pharmaceutical plants rather than NRA headquarters?

According to a study by the British Medical Journal from 2012, for every dollar pharmaceutical companies spend on "basic research," $19 goes toward promotion and marketing.  Billions of dollars are spent by companies like Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer to promote their drugs – from commercials to payouts to medical professionals to prescribe their drugs.  Billions are spent in advertising revenue to networks and media outlets.  In September 2016, the N.Y. Times reported that Big Pharma spent $2.3 billion lobbying Congress over the previous decade.  Meanwhile, the NRA has donated $3,533,294 to all current members of Congress since 1998, according to The Washington Post.  Feel free to do the math.

As a society, we need to take a deep breath and long look in the mirror before we so easily look to "cure" our kids with mind-altering drugs dispensed by doctors like Halloween candy.  Energetic or hyperactive young boys don't always need Ritalin for breakfast – perhaps just more activities outside Xbox playdates.  Moody teens in many cases need to deal with and work through adversity without Prozac or Zoloft.  Mixing these powerful chemicals into growing and often confused and over-stimulated young brains needs to be more thoroughly scrutinized. 

Guns in the hands of the wrong people is certainly a bad thing, and good steps to deter this should be welcome.  But today, too many of the wrong people are just mixed up, over-medicated young adults whose triggers to committing unspeakable acts of violence are manufactured not necessarily in gun factories, but perhaps in chemistry labs.

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