Yesterday was a tough day for America, and particularly Oregon. A shooter opened fire on Umpqua Community College campus in Roseburg, Oregon. 10 people are dead, including the shooter. It is a tragedy whenever there is a wrongful death, but especially a mass shooting to add to the list. The fact that there is a list is already disconcerting enough.
Help and prayers are pouring into this small community south of Portland, and the rest of America mourns along with them. The victims will be remembered in a montage on the morning news, with their smiles faces plastered across the T.V. as family and friends talk about their hopes and dreams and the impact they had on the world. This will last for a few days, maybe a week, as more information is released from law enforcement and we collectively shake our heads as we learn more about this senseless tragedy.
As friends and family start the path toward healing, the dialogue for the rest of the country changes. I hate to mix politics with a crime of this magnitude, but unfortunately that’s the script Americans follow. Soon panelists will begin arguing about gun control on every news channel, and guest psychologists will make an appearance to give their two cents about the “why;” why the gunman did what he did, why this campus, what happened in his life that led him to this?
This opens up a bigger, broader conversation that undoubtedly comes in the weeks following a mass shooting- how can we prevent this from happening again? Some say gun control is to blame. We need to have stricter regulations for weapons. Some even suggest making guns illegal. Why do regular citizens need guns anyway?
I honestly don’t think gun control is the problem. After all, drugs are illegal. Does that stop people from doing them? Robbery is illegal, and so is murder. Yet we have robberies and murders. If someone is bad, they aren’t going to begin following the letter of the law. So gun control won’t help. It might put up a slight road block, but it wouldn’t make it impossible.
We haven’t heard much about this shooter yet. Actually, we haven’t heard anything. The most we know is maybe his name, and that he is 26 years old. I think this is a purposeful omission so the focus isn’t taken off of the victims. We will begin talking about him, though, and when we do, it will sound familiar.
“He was always withdrawn.”
“He had a few incidents before this.”
“He said some questionable things on social media.”
There always seem to be a sign. I can’t think of a mass shooting that didn’t involve a shooter who turned out to be showing troublesome signs very early on. Yet no one ever speaks up. They just assume nothing will come of it. At least until it does.
I think mental illness should be the focus. Our country’s view of mental illness is highly skewed. Those with mental illness aren’t treated the same as someone with a physical illness. Why is that? In many cases, their untreated mental illness can end up hurting innocent people.
Now I’m not saying mental illness is a scape goat to commit heinous crimes, because it certainly isn’t; but maybe the stigma surrounding it should change.
This won’t fix all of our problems, but if our attitude about mental illness changes, there’s a possibility we can prevent this in the future.