I have noticed that on the comment thread of my post from yesterday that there seem to be a lot of people who seem to know with absolute certainty that guns are the problem and that we must be blind and ignorant not to see the legally obtained guns as the cause. They seem equally as confident that we cannot assign blame to Adam Lanza’s mental state. Me, I wonder if we are even asking the right questions about the Sandy Hook tragedy. Stopping the discussion at “guns are to blame” seems to me to be too superficial where the murders of 20 6-7 year-old children and 3 teachers are concerned.
Could it be that we should be discussing something else all together?
Adam Lanza was reported to be “on medication” for a psychological disorder.
Should we be discussing the use of psychotropic drugs on our children?
I know from personal experience that one of the first reactions to an unruly child is the diagnosis of ADHD and the subsequent issuance of a prescription of Adderol or Ritalin. My middle child, my firstborn son, was diagnosed at 13 and he presented a mild case for which a low dosage was indicated. Now at 25, he has grown to become an extremely intelligent, natural leader and is a positive and productive person – but in school and without the drug, he lacked the ability to focus.
I’m beginning to wonder if, in the attempt to mainstream more severe cases of some mental states, we are to blame. I have to wonder if in attempting to normalize the abnormal, we are creating the very monsters we fear.
I don’t think I have ever done this here but I am about to link to a post on Daily Kos because I think this is an issue that demands much closer examination:
It’s possible that we are rearing a generation of children who are the very first to be put on psychotropics so early and so long.
So the full array of effects of psychotropics in real time are unknown prior to market. We are raising these children and investing our trust and placing the health of our children in the hands of multi-billion dollar publicly traded corporate conglomerates. I don’t want that trust to be blind just because the man/woman who prescribes the psychotropics wears a white coat and gives your kid a lollipop.
Eric Harris, one of the Columbine shooters was prescribed psychotropics. James Holmes was seeing a psychiatrist but information has not been released about whether he had ever been prescribed psychotropics or lived most of his childhood on psychotropics.
Peculiarly, Adam Lanza and the Columbine killers and James Holmes share common traits that describe a digitalized, overmedicated generation. All of them come from affluent communities and mostly stable family units with access to prescription drug coverage. All of them are described as genius by at least one person in their circles, exhibiting normal cognitive function according to public education standards. And in the case of Lanza and the Columbine kids, they were avid gamers, quiet, shy and socially inward.
I’m not drawing any conclusions here I just want us to ask more questions.
I recalled this Fox News report from 2002 – the Kos post also notes it:
In 2002, Fox National News reported Douglas Kennedy exposed the link between psychiatric drugs and school shootings.
In September 2005, following confirmation that Red Lake Indian Reservation school shooter, Jeff Weise, was under the influence of the antidepressant Prozac, the National Foundation of Women Legislators, together with American Indian tribal leaders, called for a Congressional investigation into the correlation between psychiatric drug use and school massacres.
Congress has yet to investigate the role of psychiatric drugs relating to school shootings despite international drug regulators warning these drugs can cause mania, psychosis, hallucinations, suicide and homicidal ideation.
At least eight of the recent school shooters were under the influence of such drugs, and according to media reports, investigators working on the Virginia Tech school shootings, Cho Seung-Hui may also have been taking drugs for “depression.”
As I posted yesterday, I grew up during a period of time when school shootings didn’t happen and mass casualties outside of a theater of war were exceedingly rare:
As an example of this internal governance, I offer as evidence a situation from my youth. When I was growing up in rural north Mississippi, it was quite common for kids my age to have guns in their cars, I actually had a gun rack in the back window of my dad’s pickup where I openly kept a .22 rifle and a .410 shotgun. A box of .22 cartridges was in the glove box and a box of shotgun shells was behind the truck seat. Most times the truck was not even locked. I also remember when I brought my grandfather’s old Stevens falling block .22 through the school hallway to shop class because my project was to sand and refinish the stock and forearm and there was also the time when I portrayed Ali Hakim in our senior play –Oklahoma! (yes, I have actually been known by a Persian name anddanced and sang in a Broadway musical). The main characters all wore holsters filled with real revolvers – mine was a Colt Dragoon replica that I built from a kit.
Nobody gave it a second thought…because the society in which we lived was internally governed by morality and a conscience that prevented behaviors that could have resulted in a negative outcome. These were 18 and 19 year old testosterone fueled strapping lads but there was never was a mishandled weapon and we all knew that each other had checked, double and triple checked that the weapons were unloaded and safe. There never was a thought that anyone would use a weapon to harm another student. There were no laws, no rules to prohibit possession of sidearms at school because they simply were not needed. What we did have was internal governance – supported by morality and a conscience…that is why it worked.
Why is it so easy to wring our hands about gun control and yet ignore that medication may have a role – either for the changes it causes in the adolescent brain or the fact that the mentally ill often “go off their meds” for personal or financial reasons? Should we not register people who are deemed to require medication to function in an a free society and require them to submit to government supervision and review to assure compliance?
If your first response to that statement is that we can’t because it is a violation of civil liberties – you need to examine your rhetoric – if you are calling for gun control or elimination of guns, you are doing the same thing. Criminal use of a gun is a symptom, not the disease. Diseases are not cured by simply easing the pain of a symptom.
Maybe we don’t have the answers because we haven’t asked all the questions yet.
One of the best descriptions of failures in complex systems that I have ever run across is this from Dr. Richard Cook of the Cognitive Technology Laboratory at the University of Chicago. Of many points, it also contains these:
Catastrophe requires multiple failures – single point failures are not enough. The array of defenses works. System operations are generally successful. Overt catastrophic failure occurs when small, apparently innocuous failures join to create opportunity for a systemic accident. Each of these small failures is necessary to cause
catastrophe but only the combination is sufficient to permit failure. Put another way, there are many more failure opportunities than overt system accidents. Most initial failure trajectories are blocked by designed system safety components. Trajectories that reach the operational level are mostly blocked, usually by practitioners.
Complex systems contain changing mixtures of failures latent within them.The complexity of these systems makes it impossible for them to run without multiple flaws being present. Because these are individually insufficient to cause failure they are regarded as minor factors during operations. Eradication of all latent failures is limited primarily by economic cost but also because it is difficult before the fact to see how such failures might contribute to an accident. The failures change constantly because of changing technology, work organization, and efforts to eradicate failures.
Complex systems run in degraded mode.A corollary to the preceding point is that complex systems run as broken systems. The system continues to function because it contains so many redundancies and because people can make it function, despite the presence of many flaws. After accident reviews nearly always note that the system has a history of prior ‘proto-accidents’ that nearly generated catastrophe. Arguments that these degraded conditions should have been recognized before the overt accident are usually predicated on naïve notions of system performance. System operations are dynamic, with components (organizational, human, technical) failing and being replaced continuously.
Society is by definition, a complex system and to simply point to “guns!” as the single point of failure is wrong.
I do accept the possibility that I may be all wrong about society – if we are going to blame the tools of evil, in this case it is guns, we also have to consider the possibility that we are creating these monsters ourselves.