It was a bumper sticker years ago: “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Like most clichés, it’s true, but incomplete. Knives and baseball bats also can be employed by people intent on murdering others—but they can’t do as much damage so quickly.
Who didn’t pale in horror at the news out of Aurora, Colorado, news about innocents, including children, gunned down at random in a movie theater? The suspect had an arsenal of modern weapons, some capable of spewing 60 rounds a minute, all purchased legally, along with high-powered ammunition, much from the Internet.
The immensely powerful NRA used to be about access to hunting, about teaching children gun safety. The “R” is for rifle, not assault-style semi-automatic weapons, of no legitimate use in hunting.
Today we cannot know if the shooter is mentally ill or an angry man intent on random vengeance and creating mayhem. But we do know that mental illness will not be vanquished for decades or even centuries, and rage, drugs, and alcohol will be with us at least as long. If senseless tragedies are to be limited in their scope, we must push back against today’s easy access to weapons of mass slaughter.
-Alan J. Gelenberg, M.D.
Editor, Biological Therapies in Psychiatry
Shively/Tan Professor and Chair, Psychiatry, Penn State University
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry