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Elliot Rodger’s murderous rampage resulted in seven deaths including his own and the killer left at least seven others injured in the wake of his violence. From the California Isla Vista community to the nation as a whole, the predominant question is “Why?” and speculation on whether the violence could have been prevented is running rampant. At the top of the speculation list is the issue of gun control and advocates for stricter gun laws have made Rodger their new poster boy.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) was interviewed on CBS’s Face The Nation about the Rodger massacre. Blumenthal stated that stricter gun control legislation that had been rejected by Congress after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut could have prevented this weekend’s shootings in California. At the same time he acknowledged that not “every kind of gun violence” can be prevented by gun control laws.
Blumenthal wants to revise the rejected gun laws to a focus on the “mental condition” of gun purchasers. He believes that by doing so, states will have more resources to “make the country healthier” and to prevent “mad occurrences” that he describes as insane and horrific. In response to the Rodger killings, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Dan Gross stated that “real solutions” are already in place that would prevent the majority of the “90 gun deaths” that he claims happened in America every day. Gross further states that stricter gun laws are supported by an “overwhelming majority” of American citizens. Considering the debate over gun control that is raging across the country, “overwhelming” may be an over statement.
Proponents of the Second Amendment and members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) claim that limiting gun sales and restricting the types of firearms Americans are allowed to purchase does not solve the issue of radical violence that ends in loss of life – often on a grand scale. In fact, in the recent killing spree Rodger stabbed three men to death in an apartment with sharp objects before he went on to shoot his other victims. He also used his BMW as a weapon and ran over two people on bicycles who flipped violently up and over his windshield.
Rodger, who apparently shot himself in the head rather than be taken into custody, was eventually pulled from his vehicle after crashing into a tree. In the car were at least 400 rounds of ammunition and three semi-automatic weapons but it is clear by the early murders that he did not need those guns to kill. His intent was to kill, his method included firearms but it can be postulated that even without access to those guns, Rodger was sufficiently mentally disturbed that he would have found another way to achieve the “slaughter” he desired.
Rodger’s chilling manifesto of violence, his disturbing video and the clear indications of a bleak and dark mental illness have inspired debate over why his mental state was not monitored more closely, despite his being in therapy. This is the true crux of the issue and although the father of one of Rodger’s victims made a statement that the fault lies with “irresponsible politicians” who have not done enough about gun control, Senator Blumenthal may have more insight into the real cause of the recent killings in California. As Blumenthal states, the failed 2012 gun control legislation would have provided more mental health resource funding and in that capacity, the legislation might indeed serve to help prevent another massacre – no matter the weapon of choice. However, the mental health issue does not need to be married to gun control by politicians.
A comment on a Washington Post article detailing the Rodger killings was quite illuminating. The comment was, “We are advised not to judge all Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics, but we are encouraged to judge all gun owners by the actions of a few lunatics.” This comment, fully supports the common notion that guns do not kill people, people kill people and whether the legislation is in California or Connecticut, this statement about gun control rings true.
Despite the fact that gun control advocates and politicians are using Elliot Rodger as the new poster boy for their cause, mental illness has been the underlying motivator for all of the recent massacres and this is where legislation needs to be focused. Those, like Elliot Rodger who are plagued by internal demons that incite them to violence will always find a way to enact their revenge and they do not need firearms to do so. Further, enacting stricter gun laws will not perform an exorcism of those demons nor guarantee that fewer lives will be lost to madness. However, comprehensive mental health awareness funding and extended treatment options could serve to prevent future tragedies for not only the victims of violence but for the mentally ill and their families.
Opinion by Alana Marie Burke