Saturday, 22 December 2012

Control Guns AND Mental Illness

The 26 killings on December 14th at an elementary school in Connecticut is a long overdue wake up call for the USA to drastically change their attitudes about guns, violence and mental health.

As I listen to Americans debate what to do, I am proud my ancestors chose what I believe to be the right path. 117 years ago in Russia, Spirit Wrestlers / Doukhobors burned their guns. Their rationale was that guns kill, and they changed their culture regarding violence and militarism. Since then, extensive research by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center supports our historic Doukhobor position — no guns = non-killing peace.

Upon arriving in Canada the Doukhobors learned to tolerate mental illness, as breakaway zealots staged nude protests for much of the next century. Though the Sons of Freedom burdened the Doukhobors with a false image, they never used guns or deliberately killed people or animals while protesting broken government promises.

The 1895 Doukhobor gun-burning example is probably too drastic for Americans, but our direction is correct. Reducing all violence in movies, video games, sports, etc. leads toward an ideal non-killing society.


Since school shootings became big news in the US, the number of guns processed per year from 2005 through 2008 increased 7 times, and continued to increase to more than a million per year in 2012.

Among all countries in the world, the USA has the highest number of guns (310 million in 2009) and the highest per capita ownership (89/100 people) concentrated among less than half of the people. Almost half of American gun owners have four or more guns, far more than countries at war.

Opposite to the US is the nonkilling culture in Japan with the least number of guns, enforced with high control, resulting in very few gun-related deaths. To get a gun one must pass extensive testing, and the police do annual inspections. (A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths, The Atlantic, July 23, 2012.)

While the powerful gun lobby in the USA argues: Guns don't kill people, People kill people, yesterday, the National Rifle Association announced their solution to school shooting is not gun control, reduction or restriction, but more armed guards at schools:The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Many schools responded that they wanted armed guards, but do not have the estimated $80,000 per year needed.

Since 1993, one organization has been trying to collect and distribute reliable information, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.


It was reported by classmates that Adam Lanza, who did the killings in Conneticut, played violent video games. At school he played with digtal guns similar to those he used to kill kids and teachers. At home he had plenty of access to computers and games. Authorities are holding back on revelaing more information until they issue an official report in several months.

Despite 50 years of research correlating media violence with aggressive and violent behavior, in 2005 the USA Supreme Court ruled that video games are protected speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Mental Health

The American debates about mental health care neglect revolve around funding. The Yanks refuse to copy Canada's universal health plan because lobbyists argue it is socialism, one step closer to God-less communism. The fact is that more than half of their sick citizens do not get services, and jails are their default mental hospitals. The USA has the largest number of total people in jails and prisons of any country, more than 23% of all people incarcerated in the world.

Scholars report that the lack of mental health support in the USA plus an abundance of guns creates a deadly environment. See: After Newtown: PBS Special addressing gun laws, mental illness, science of violence, community reaction (PBS TV, 56 min., Dec. 21, 2012). Beginning at minute 16, three scientists list risk factors significantly correlated with committing a violent act (youth, male gender, substance abuse, paranoid view of the world, hostility, difficulty controlling anger, pre-occupation with weapons). For rampage killers, add a desire for fame and notoriety. Though tens of thousands meet the criteria, few will actually kill people. So screening for these factors is not a quick solution.

What To Do?

There is no easy remedy except to educate yourself and take action in your family, neighborhood, then expand to community, etc. A first step recommended, but opposed by many USA gun owners, is to remove personal weapons of mass destruction (automatic guns, dangerous bullets).

The politically insurmountable problems in the USA are too many guns among too many untreated mentally ill, in a country with abundant computers, mostly controlled by independent big business, including a "military industrial complex" and health care sector, with 26 lobbyists per congressman.
In this holiday season when Christians around the world send greetings of "Peace and Goodwill," I wish for them to mean it. Please, invest in people not war, health care not soldiers.

Society would be much safer if we converted weapons to nonkilling education. Francisco Gomes de Matos, a peace linguist and human rights educator from Brazil, posted this poem: Nonkilling Lessons from the Connecticut Killings.

Along with the Right to Peace and to Nonviolence, the Right not to be killed should be globally known
and in all languages and, cultures, principles and applications of the Nonkilling Approach be sown

From the Connecticut killings other lessons may be taught
but now, life-protecting-supporting actions should be sought

To know about Nonkilling, the Center for Global Nonkilling site please access
and ways to overcome violence and killing you will creatively be able to profess
While I wrote from the perspective of a Doukhobor, Andrei Conovaloff edited from his perspective as a mental health advocate. I would tend to agree that killings, wars and terrorism could be looked at as largely a mental health problem requiring a whole shift in thinking from the culture of war and militarism to that of the Culture of Peace. Getting rid of most guns would be a good start.


  1. Thank you for this great article, Koozma.
    I believe that the emphasis given to mental illness as a cause for the degree of violence in American society is highly exaggerated, and provided cover for the pro gun lobby. There is to my knowledge no scientific evidence of higher prevalence of schizophrenia, depression, psychopathy in the USA than in the "West". What there is for sure, is the widening wealth and achievement gap, and the entrenched belief that we need to do whatever it takes - even if by illegal acts - to achieve wealth and fame; and that if we do not, it is our own fault. Needless to say, gun control and education should help in reducing violence, but there needs to be a radical change in this mindless quest for wealth and fame, which when frustrated can lead to savagery.

  2. Total rational, which the ARA does not seem to posses in their argument for more guns. Two important factors sometimes overlooked, the lobby is driven by commercial interests presented as ideology, it is a huge industry reaping profits for the manufacturers of weapons [who in turn spend millions in electing pro gun politicians]. The other important factor not often noted is the fact that all of the miscreant shooters were on various medications when they committed their crimes. The over medication thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign of feel good drug therapy plays a huge role in the mental unbalance of these criminals.

  3. Hello Koozma,

    Indeed the killing of children is disturbing. What is more disturbing is that it will happen again not just in the USA, but in Canada and likely elsewhere.

    [In Newtown, Conneticutt,] a killer and a pacifist Doctor graduated from the same classroom. This proves that peaceful or non-violent education starts at home. The Doukhobors Amish, Quakers and other like-minded people, non-violent people, teach non-violence at home.

    The other adults enjoy and defend their so called freedom of choice to own guns at the expense of children and other innocents. These insane rights are enshrined in the constitutions. The academics writers and all those non-violent minds need to start the begining of change here.

    Critical thinking minds from many faiths recognize the simple to understand Christ's teachings from the sermon on the mount. They subscribe to these teachings irrespective of their faith. The major organized churches discarded Christs sermon on the mount doctrine and wrote their own doctrine. These man-made doctrines are diametrically opposed to Christ's doctrine.

    These organizations hijacked the Christian name and preach the opposite to Christ's teaching. This is well described in Sieť viery pravé (The Net of True Faith, 1443) by Petr Chelčický (Пётр Хельчицкий).

    It is not possible to believe and practice both doctrines therefore one must choose one or the other. Many have subscribed to Christ's doctrine but are disorganized unlike the war mongers, thus wield little and ineffective power.

    Kindest peaceful regards,
    Bill Kanigan