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Truthout: The Killer in Me Is the Killer in You


January 16, 2011- As much as we'd like to believe otherwise, Jared Loughner's shooting of US District Judge John Roll, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 of Giffords' constituents on January 8, 2011, was not an aberration. Instead, it was merely the latest and most highly publicized of three recent gun-related incidents that have, however fleetingly, captured public attention.

There was the incident involving Clay Duke, whose December 14, 2010 takeover of a Florida school board meeting ended when he fatally shot himself. Samuel Hengel met a similar fate after holding two dozen people hostage at a Wisconsin high school on November 10, 2010. Loughner was, by all accounts, a deeply troubled man whose skewed view of the world led him to do the unthinkable.

When the final reports are written about these cases, authorities will note that Loughner, Duke and Hengel each acted alone - but the truth of the matter is that they had plenty of help from the rest of us.

We would, of course, prefer to absolve ourselves of any responsibility for their actions. but the fact remains that we've created a society in which millions of children and adults suffering from severe emotional pain not only go untreated, but also have access to the most efficient manner ever invented to harm themselves or others. Our roles in tolerating this kind of society indicate that we've moved beyond the realm of collective negligence to the ranks of full-fledged accomplices.

We've reached this point, in part, by genuflecting for decades to the health insurance lobby and to the most outspoken supporters of gun ownership. As a result, it is often easier for someone to get his or her hands on one of the nearly 300 million firearms in this country than to successfully obtain comprehensive psychological or psychiatric support.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, fewer than 20 percent of Americans needing treatment receive even minimally adequate services - a much lower rate than in any other developed country. And, judging from the lack of public outcry, few of us seem willing to challenge the status quo.

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