It should be clear to anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention to the resurgent gun control agenda, ostensibly resulting from the recent Sandy Hook school shooting, that some form of largely impractical and unethical restrictive action is likely on the part of the federal government in the relatively near term. Though such an approach is an inherently preemptive punishment for law-abiding individuals who have not violated another’s security or received the constitutionally required application of due process, such an eventuality may nonetheless be imminent due to a widespread misunderstanding amongst the American populace of the nature of individual freedom and the just purpose that legitimizes any existence of government.
But my question is if, as a society, we are collectively contented to purposefully dismiss individual responsibility – as appears to be the case where virtually everything related to crime, economics, education, healthcare, and the like is concerned nowadays – in the dubious pursuit of laying blame for all of life’s misfortunes, evils, or undesirable outcomes at the feet of inanimate objects, cultures, and environmental factors of circumstance, why do firearms get the unilateral vilification in this case? Why do other potential factors get a free pass in the collectivist blame game? (Rhetorical question.)
David Kupelian recently put together this piece regarding a not insignificant hole in the objectivity and thoroughness of the mainstream media’s coverage of the Newtown tragedy. He identifies another key commonality among virtually all firearms-related mass murders that have occurred relevantly recently in the United States: medications, particularly of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) variety. Why then, one may ask, are the statists not highlighting meds as a legitimate target for restriction as well?
Eric Harris, Patrick Purdy, Kip Kinkel, Laurie Dann, Michael Carneal, Jeff Weise, Joseph Wesbecker, Kurt Danysch, and John Hinckley: all notorious for carrying out firearms-related attacks that resulted in multiple victims and all on various forms of psychoactive medications including (but not limited to) Luvox, Prozac, Thorazine, Amitriptyline, Ritalin, Anafranil, Lithium, Valium, Effexor, and Paxil. All of these drugs deal specifically with mental faculties which necessarily affect rationality, logic, decision making, emotional control, and a number of various other psychological aspects of the human body that inherently influence behavior. Most of these individuals were relatively young as well, which if we are to be honest about trend evaluation might also be a relevant factor for consideration as it relates to causation, either independently or in combination with others.
According to friends of the alleged Newtown shooter’s family, “[Adam Lanza] was on medication and everything…,” but of course neither law enforcement nor the media have yet to identify which medication(s) or its possible psychological effect(s). Virginia Tech mass murderer Cho Seung-hui had “prescription medications related to the treatment of psychological problems… among [his] effects” according to the New York Times and his own roommate, though follow-up reporting/investigations have failed to significantly illuminate this relationship further.
On that note, however, we should consider the reported effects of the some of the aforementioned psychoactive meds. Luvox’s manufacturer reports that about 1 in 25 young persons taking the medication “developed mania” (emphasis Kupelian’s). Thorazine can apparently cause “psychotic symptoms” and “excitability.” Seemingly universal chemical disciplinarian Ritalin can reportedly cause “hallucination, mania, and aggressive behavior.” Prozac manufacturer Eli Lilly settled a lawsuit relating to the Wesbecker shooting presumably because the drug’s side effects include “hypomania, mania, delusions, agitation, and depersonalization.” Effexor’s manufacturer has added “homicidal ideation” (emphasis added) to its list of “rare adverse events.” (The Food and Drug Administration’s definition of “rare” could plausibly result in upwards of 19,000 people fitting this description, based on the drug’s prescription statistics.) Paxil’s adverse effects include in part “mania, agitation, psychosis, hostility, delirium, hallucinations, abnormal thinking, depersonalization, and lack of emotion.” “Both clinical trial and pharmacovigilance data point to possible links between [SSRI antidepressant] drugs and violent behaviours [sic].” All this, of course, says nothing about the psychological side effects that become possible when these drugs are used in some combination with themselves or others.
As Kupelian alluded to, we now know far more about the specificity of the type(s) and quantity of guns and ammunition reportedly used by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook than we do about the type(s) and quantity of prescription – and thus, presumably legal – drugs that he was using during the relevant timeframe.
It is unjustifiably unethical for any government to pursue or enact legal restrictions to individual liberties based on subjective assessments of “risky” people or things but if this is the approach that society indeed wants in order to feel safe, then guns cannot credibly be the end-all, be-all to that perspective. If an anti-individual responsibility approach is the fashionably populist solution, then there is surely a plethora of blame to go around – including Hollywood, video games, and a general trend away from the Golden Rule – so why not expand such subjective assignments of blame to include apparent parenting through pharmaceuticals?
The question that will appropriately follow once we get what we want will be, however, will we want what we get?