On January 8, 2011, Jared Lee Loughner killed six people and injured 13 others when he opened fire on a “Congress on Your Corner” meeting held by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz.
18 months after the Tucson incident, James Holmes walked into a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo. and began shooting into the audience with multiple firearms, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others.
Two weeks ago, Aaron Alexis entered the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command inside the Washington Navy Yard in Southeast Washington, D.C., killing 12.
Shooting sprees such as these will continue until laws are enacted that prevent delusional individuals from buying guns; an unlikely proposition considering we live in a gun-obsessed country where mental illness is largely overlooked.
According to Dr. E Fuller Torrey, people with a severe mental illness—mainly schizophrenia, are doing 50 percent of mass killings.
Schizophrenia is a disease of the brain, not of the mind, that affects perception and judgment. People see things that are not there and hear things that are not real. They usually hear multiple voices talking to them in the third person as if they are not there.
Schizophrenia alters brain functioning and morphs the nature of rational behavior. Therefore, an individual with schizophrenia who goes on a shooting rampage believes he has very good reason to do what he is doing. Schizophrenics are simply behaving according to the conclusions of their logic and delusions.
The 1967 documentary, Titicut Follies, shed unprecedented light onto the nameless faces of mental illness. The film captures the inhumane treatment inside insane asylums. After the footage was released, most institutions were shut down and patients were either sent to underfunded shelter care homes or the streets.
Today, jails and prisons are the main housing facilities for mentally ill people. Cook County jail has roughly 2800 inmates with a mental illness; some have been incarcerated up to 400 times. According to Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, “The jails and prisons are our new insane asylums.”
After his arrest, Loughner was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. Prior to the shooting in Aurora, Holmes had been seen by at least three mental health professionals and was considered dangerous by the campus police of the university he previously attended. Five weeks before the Navy Yard shooting, Alexis told police he was hearing voices and “being bombarded” with radio waves from a microwave. All three men had legal access to the guns they used.
We have a broken system and it’s fueling the deranged thoughts of broken souls. As Americans, we have an obligation to take care of our fellow man and to that, we are failing. Right now, our government is officially shut down because a small group from one party of Congress is holding the well-being of the entire country hostage.
If Washington cannot bring us the change we need; it is time to organize and bring the change to Washington ourselves… Lest we not forget the plights of Alice Paul, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gloria Steinem who led mighty crusades that gave a voice to the voiceless.
Because, in a few weeks or months when another “madman” goes on a “murderous rampage” killing dozens, the media will be reporting on nothing else but a tragedy that could have been prevented if partisan bickering and blaming had been substituted with governing and diplomacy. Our leaders are blind to the fact that pompous bullying is a weak man’s imitation of power. It’s time to put an end to this madness.