Millions of people have mental health issues/guns and don't kill anyone."
In one form or another, this argument is rolled out every time a mass shooting happens. While both true, both sides are merely arguing over symptoms of a larger issue.
"Why does this keep happening?" "Why does this happen here so often, and almost nowhere else?"
Plenty of theories have been floated, and while all of them have part of the answer, I don't think any of them get to the root of the underlying issue.
What is causing all of this hate and unnecessary death and suffering is a lack of hope. People, for perhaps the first time in a few generations, are realizing that their prospects are not looking better than they did for their parents, and their children will most certainly have it worse. They don't understand why it is happening, when all of the reports say the country is doing incredibly well, and everyone is telling them to blame someone else. Eventually, someone makes what, to them, sounds like a compelling case as to who to blame, and in their despair, they lash out. Think about it, have you ever been so frustrated, felt so powerless, that you ended up doing something obviously not well thought out because doing something felt better than doing nothing? You wanted to regain some semblance of control over your situation, and I think, at base level, that is what these people are doing.
Oh, guns are certainly a more efficient way to kill than other methods like knives and poison, but the act of killing is the choice of the killer. Sure, mental illness lowers the threshold for action in some of these cases, but there are both plenty of people that own guns and suffer from mental illness who never even think to take a life.
Try to put yourself in their shoes. Once you've reached a point where you feel like you have to do something, and someone in power, someone you respect, tells you that your problems are because of a certain group or an individual, it's like telling someone where to aim a loaded pistol. There are an enormous number of disenfranchised, frustrated, and angry people in this country right now. Many of these people are quickly nearing the point where they feel they have no other option but to act, if only to move the needle, and be part of a "solution" asked for from someone that they trust. The margin of error for these people is razor thin, and many are standing so close to the edge that a stiff breeze could push them off.
When people condemn hateful rhetoric, it's this fact that they are acknowledging. They are not saying that average people of sound mind are being pushed to commit horrible acts, they are saying that the already angry and marginalized hear this talk about hating certain people, and after a while, it starts to make a certain amount of sense. That's why you hear people saying that they, "feel like he/she was telling me to do this". These people are not in their right mind, either through disease, trauma, or from an immense amount of stress and depression brought on by circumstance that they lose hope that things will ever get better.
If you look around, it's not hard to see the reasons people are losing hope. Lifelong careers are almost extinct. People used to be able to work their asses off, and trust that there would be a job for them until retirement. Now, people are seen as simply a means to an end, and people are beginning to realize that the world is growing less and less fair, less and less certain by the day, and they think to themselves, "why bother planning for 30 years from now, when I don't feel overly confident about what the world will look like next month?" People do not feel that the people in power have their best interests at heart any more. 30-40 years ago, there was a sense of shared destiny in this country, from both our politicians and also our business owners. While the politicians and rich certainly felt above the plebs, they also realized that without them all in their places, believing that the American Dream could be found over 40 years at the end of an assembly line, the world would keep ticking over as it had for a while. Now, there are nearly non-stop election cycles, and monthly and quarterly earnings reports that need to be met. Numbers are more valued than people, and if you have the audacity to point out the shifting levels of inequality, you're called a socialist or a lazy freeloader.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor."
What did he mean? Well, look at the Wall St. and banking bailouts. Anyone reading this get bailed out in the past if you made poor money choices? Me neither. Working class people have to settle their own debts, whereas the rich can always free up another revenue stream or take out another loan to cover their losses. And if that doesn't work, all they have to do is make a big enough mess to where the government has to step in to help them out with...gasp...taxpayer money.
They leverage the pride of the working person in order to keep them in their lane. The "rugged individualism" refers to the pride a working person has in doing their job well, fearing nothing more than to be called "lazy" or for someone to insinuate that they are not doing their job, not pulling their weight. The people in power ration out wages, always ensuring that their own economic comfort is untouchable, while many workers struggle to pay bills. That this is happening everywhere, and that the economy for average people is so poor (the figures we are often shown are skewed by a rapidly consolidating top 1%), we dare not speak up or demand better, even forgoing vacations or sick time, leaving those benefits on the table because we don't dare give our employers even the slightest reason to replace us with someone else. All the while, we turn on each other, and punch down to the poor people, because like a child being shown bad behavior from a parent, we are being led by example.
People will bitch up and down about how poor people on food stamps or EBT cards spend their money, but that amount is fractions of a penny on a dollar when compared against the amount of money that rich people get "subsidized" every year. Those numbers or so absurdly huge that the average person can't even wrap their heads around it, and perhaps that's the problem. It doesn't seem real to them, but the single mom in front of them in the line at the gas station, buying their kid a candy bar to shut them up with the only money they have on their EBT card, THAT, they can wrap their heads around, when that money barely registers on their annual tax bill.
How do we solve this issue, you might ask? To solve what is wrong with this country requires us to begin the long, hard work of restoring that sense of fairness, that sense of hard work being rewarded, of the ability to earn your own way, of trusting that if you work hard and make reasonable sound choices in life, that you will be able to be comfortable and retire comfortably. I am not the sort of far left liberal that thinks that people should not contribute to their own success, and to the success of the country. I do, however, believe that there are now better ways to do things, more efficient, even accounting for a realistic expectation of government bureaucracy. I'll outline two things that immediately come to mind below.
I think a single payer system, paid for out of income taxes and modest copays, is the best way forward for us. It will not be "free", but not having to pay weekly healthcare premiums will offset much of the cost, while the copays ensure that the system is not abused. Like how the economy can cause lack of job freedom and an unwillingness to take off time from work, lack of healthcare security is also a huge drag on our nations health. People skip expensive but needed medications all the time now. They stay in jobs they might not otherwise because they are afraid of losing their healthcare if they can't find a job first, and can't afford gaps in coverage. It's not a perfect system, but I think it solves more problems than it causes right now, and provides some much needed stability in the lives of Americans.
-Solving income inequality
Do I think that the minimum wage should be arbitrarily raised to $15/hour? I used to. I still think that people making under $75,000/year probably all deserve a raise, that money circulating up through the economy in a much more useful way than "trickle down economics", which has been proven over the past 30ish years to not work. How would I go about this, if I no longer believe that raising the minimum wage is a good idea? I would rescind he Trump tax cuts, reinstating them with qualifiers tied to average non-executive pay. Not an hourly wage, and with universal healthcare hopefully implemented, not hidden behind "new" healthcare expenditures. CEO's and Executive VP's already do well, so I think raising the average workers pay in order to get tax breaks is a good idea, since many of these workers will then no longer qualify for assistance programs, and will also spend that money locally, reinvigorating small businesses and replacing the tax revenue that the corporations would then justly be able to write off. I think the understanding that they are then invested in the profitability of the company, if only tangentially, will go a long way towards improving quality of life for workers.
I think if we can solve those two issues, we'll start to correct the largest problems facing our country. Everything else will begin to correct over the following decades as people begin to care again.
As it stands, average Americans are understandably pissed off, and are no longer planning for a future that they can't trust. Look at the consumer confidence reports. Once we level the playing field, and for long enough for people to trust that it isn't just going to be swept out from under them after the next election cycle, or in pursuit of the next quarterly earnings target, maybe they will start to hope again. This is not a solution that we will reap the benefits of in a single elected term, so it will require leaders to implement it that care more about seeing it done than getting the credit. I do, however see it as the only way to stop this country from tearing itself apart. Vote accordingly.
The power players in Washington and board rooms across the country are nearly impossible to touch, impossible to be heard by, and so out of their frustration, people take it out on Innocents because they are told that they are the ones responsible for your suffering. The average person just takes it, and goes back to work while bitching to their co-workers that, "something needs to change". What worries me the most? The knowledge that these problems are NOT getting fixed, and are in fact getting worse while the people that could be fixing them line their pockets with money from groups profiting off of the suffering. Then I'm reminded that everyone has their breaking point, and that the shootings we've seen are simply the outliers who are more prone to acting out in response to despair and violence. If things don't improve, this will happen more and more. People, pushed to their limits, will rationalize more and more horrible things, horrible acts that make no sense from the outside, but from their perspective, might feel like an act of (false) desperate heroism. And as the despair grows, I fear it will drag more and more people into it, in some misguided attempt to see the needle move in a direction their delusions say it should, no matter the cost to innocent people. And trust me, this cost will always be paid by innocents. The people causing the suffering are nearly untouchable, both through violence or through societal or economic pressure.
And in the end, that is why nothing changes. Nothing changes because they don't want it to change, and they hold all the cards. Nothing changes because, despite how much you sing their praises, how many hats, yard signs or bumper stickers you buy and display in the hope of something getting better, THEY DON'T CARE ABOUT YOU. Slowly, more and more people are waking up to that fact, and, either unable to comprehend it or unable to voice their concerns to those in power in a way that feels cathartic, they lash out at innocent people because they are easier to act on, easier to use as a vector to bring attention to their voice. That is why most of these people write "manifestos". They have a view, and in an attempt to put their suffering, twisted into hate by lack of hope, into perspective, they put their thoughts out into the world, then hurt Innocents. They do this because they know the media will be desperate to "get inside the head" of the terrorist/s, and they know that their voice will rise above the everyday static of society and get it's 15 minutes of fame.
So, sure, make background checks better. Improve mental health funding and treatment, but if we're not also starting to tackle the underlying causes of all of the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) in this country, we're just kicking the proverbial "can" back and forth, accomplishing very little.