“On Sandy Hook, Guns, and the Dangers of Politicians” by Nicholas J. Gonzalez, M.D.

I have been affected deeply, as have all of us, by the horrific events in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, occurring, as they did, to make the tragedy more pointed, just two weeks before Christmas.  My family has been touched perhaps more than most, since my lovely niece, herself a former and very dedicated elementary school teacher in the New York City school system, now lives in Sandy Hook with her husband and their two beautiful daughters, aged four and two.  The eldest girl has been attending pre-kindergarten in an annex separate from the main school building where the massacre took place, but both girls were destined to attend that very same elementary school just down the road from their home.  In fact, one of the great attractions of the Newtown area to my niece, when her husband’s job took him to that part of Western Connecticut, was its superb school system.

I know the area myself quite well, having been given access to a friend’s home – he was traveling – for a couple of summers in Bethel, a town adjacent to Newtown, during my years as a journalist decades ago.  At the time, the place still was rural in character, with some old farms in operation, though the relentless spread of civilization and subdivisions was already apparent even then.  But even today, the gently rolling hills and remaining fields give a picture of a bucolic Connecticut.

To give full disclosure, I have never been a gun owner, though my brother, a hunter, has several.  I have also never been a member of the National Rifle Association until the past week, when I joined.

Understandably, when a tragedy such as this strikes, calls ring loud and clear for action, “to do something” as if doing something would unquestionably be better than doing nothing.  And not surprisingly, the forceful proponents of gun control see in Sandy Hook a politically useful event to rouse the masses to support their aims, that at times in some quarters seem to be the wide scale disarming of America.

As a physician who spends his life trying to keep people with terrible illness from dying, I have thought long and hard about what happened in Connecticut, and in the Colorado movie theater, in Arizona when Representative Giffords was shot, at Virginia Tech, and always, back to Columbine, the site of the first of these recent murderous, apparently random sprees.

Only the crassest of us would not be dismayed, pained, and deeply troubled by the mass murder by troubled young men seeking to fulfill some bizarre destiny or take revenge, though the motives never seem all that clear or well defined.  But I also see great danger in the rush to “do something” whatever that “something“ turns out to be.  With our current crop of politicians unable to do anything useful about massive debt and unbridled entitlements that are bankrupting America and turning us into a nation of government dependents, I fear most the danger of politicians reacting emotionally to the call to “do something.”

When our Founding Fathers proposed the Second Amendment of the Constitution allowing for gun possession, they pondered about the implications of this edict.  While some of us may look back at these men as antiquated as best, these were a most unusual group of very intelligent people, far more intelligent, in my mind, to any batch of American leaders since.  None of them as far as I have been able to determine were professional politicians, and all of them had lives outside of government.  In fact most of them perceived a professional ruling class of elites a danger to the liberty and economic security of a free nation’s citizens.

Ben Franklin began as a publisher and editor, creating a lively and informative newspaper.  He was a scientist and inventor of considerable talent, with discoveries about electricity to his credit.  He designed the first lightning rod, a variation of which we still use today, as well as bifocals, the first odometer for carriages, and the Franklin stove.  In his spare time he founded one of the first charity hospitals in the country in Philadelphia, supported by donations of wealthy colonists, and helped create what would become the University of Pennsylvania, one of the most highly esteemed institutions in the world.  A diplomat of the first order, he was pivotal in winning friends and influencing enemies in Europe, during a critical time in our nation’s history.  Though personably charitable, he was a great proponent of individual responsibility, extolling the rewards of hard work.

Thomas Jefferson, criticized and maligned by some modern revisionist critics, was an erudite scholar, linguist, scientist, inventor, botanist, and farmer, who helped found the University of Virginia. Yes, true, he was also a slave owner.  George Washington was the ultimate self-made man in what would be the tradition of American self-made heroes and leaders, a general of great ability who outsmarted the greatest, most powerful army of the time, leaving the English General Cornwallis begging for peace after the extraordinary battle of Yorktown.  John Adams, as portrayed in a recent HBO series, was a man of great brilliance and accomplishment, whose family would produce two Presidents including himself and any number of great thinkers.  His late 19th century descendent and cultural scholar Henry Adams wrote a wonderful intellectual autobiography, an attempt to sort out the effect of modern science and technology on our lives.  I remember reading with great appreciation The Education of Henry Adams many many years ago.

Even Founding Fathers not widely appreciated, like the physician Benjamin Rush – who believed healthy eating habits necessary for good health – were men of great learning, great leadership, and great ideas, whose suggestions should be taken very seriously even today.  Rush taught science and medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, was an early and strong opponent of slavery, and founded Dickinson College in Carlyle, Pennsylvania.

These Founders didn’t include the Second Amendment because of fear of the English –  the English, after all had already been soundly beaten, or fear of the French, who had become our friend, or fear of Indian tribes rising up.  Nor did it stem from some 18th century frontier mentality – by and large, these were East Coast intellectuals living, once the British had been beaten, in relative safety.  Rather, these men, as diverse in some ways as they might have been, had one common aim in the writing of the American Constitution – to create a government, unlike any other, whose guiding principles would protect the people’s liberty from the intrusion and overreach of government.  As optimistic as our Founders may have been at the time, these were scholars who knew from history, going back to Greece and later Rome, that inevitably sound and good and stable governments turn bad, that political systems with the best of intentions grow out of control and intrude, to become invariably and inevitably oppressive, repressive, ultimately to collapse from inward decay rather than from outward conquest.  John Adams sometimes doubted if the American ideal of individual liberty, reward for accomplishment, and freedom from government intrusion would last twenty years.  As a last redoubt against the inevitable corruption of a grand idea, our American Founders insisted we Americans have the right to bear arms.

These men also knew much from their own personal experience.  Had not the American colonists been armed as they were, they could never have begun their revolution, could never have fought the highly trained and heavily armed British regiments stationed throughout the Colonies.  Without armed citizens, there would have been no Battle of Lexington, no American Revolution, no Constitution, no grand “experiment” in liberty, freedom, or the prosperity that freedom and liberty bring.  The noble design would have ended before it had begun.  So our Founders, Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Rush – knew the value of an armed populace.

In my mind these Founding Fathers were cut of a far different cloth than the professional politicians we see in Washington today, many of whom have spent their entire life as politicians, living in an insulated bubble, immune to the consequences of the laws they pass so recklessly.  Remember, Congress passed “Obamacare” for all of us, but exempted themselves, since they already had the best health care plan on the planet, paid for with money taken from hard-working American taxpayers.

The Clintons serve as a wonderful example of the perks of full time, life-long government service.  Neither to my knowledge ever worked in the business world, though Mrs. Clinton, during her husband’s stint as Governor of Arkansas, did serve time in an Arkansas law firm.  These two have risen to high levels of power, fame, adulation, and yes, financial rewards, both having earned millions from their fame-related activities, all courtesy of a life in government.  Both have written best-selling books about the wonder of government and life in the government.

Our current President is no different, enjoying the perks and benefits, including financial reward reaching millionaire status, of a professional political life. He like the Clintons has written best-selling books about himself. But many on the Republican side are no different – Paul Ryan for example started working in politics at age 24, and has never ventured into the real world outside of Washington.  There are some, like Ron and Rand Paul, both successful physicians before entering politics, who did have a career and a life outside the government, for which they both deserve some respect.  But for the most part, these men and women who run our lives love the power, the authority, the fame, and yes, the concrete benefits, that a political life brings.  But I do not find these men great, in the sense that Franklin, or Jefferson, or Washington, or Adams, or even Rush, were great.  And I seriously doubt such people ever understand the implications of the laws they pass.

After the liberal lion George McGovern – among the most liberal of Democrats in the history of Washington – retired from the Senate, he decided it might be nice to open up a Connecticut bed and breakfast country inn.  To his astonishment, he found the onerous government regulations at all levels for such a simple venture so impossible to meet and so constantly daunting he eventually gave up the idea.  To his credit he has spoken publicly about his dismay that during his many years in the Senate, he never appreciated the consequences of so many of the laws he helped pass, including those for the regulations of hotels and inns, that made business development almost at times impossible.  I appreciate that McGovern, after venturing into the real world in which most of us still live, willingly acknowledged the dangers of an over reaching government determined to make our lives a perfect Utopia, and in so doing create something damaging and destructive.  My point is no different than that of Ben Franklin two hundred plus years ago, when he warned always be wary of any politician who wants to make our lives safer and better,

In our times there has been much discussion in the current debate over the attitude of dictatorships toward gun control.  Gun control proponents sometimes refer to Nazi Germany as an example of a totalitarian state with lax gun laws, but the truth is certainly more complex.  When the Armistice ending World War I enacted severe restrictions on Germany’s military armed forces, the pre-Hitler German government passed a series of very onerous gun control laws for its citizens.  The first in 1919, Regulations on Weapons Ownership, required the immediate surrender of firearms of all types, and provided for long prison terms as well as fines for any civilian found in possession of a gun. Some nine years later, in 1929, the German government revoked the earlier law, loosening up firearm possession with the enactment of the Law on Firearms and Ammunition.  German citizens could now own both rifles and handguns but only after a rigorous approval process. With Hitler in power, initially this law remained in effect but in 1938 the German Weapons Act severely modified the previous regulations, permitting guns only for those “whose trustworthiness is not in question and who show a need for a permit” – as of course determined by the Nazi bureaucracy.

This edict initially forbade Jews from any role in the manufacture or sale of guns, and shortly after, an amendment prohibited Jews from owning guns.  So while gun ownership was not technically illegal in Hitler’s regimen, it was severely restricted even for the average non-Jewish citizen, and forbidden to those whom Hitler and his cronies perceived as the cultural and economic enemies of the German people.  These restrictions of course applied to the masses of people conquered during the early years of World War II.  Few of the six million Jews, whether German citizens or not, marched off to annihilation armed.  When as a teenager I became aware of the Holocaust, I was perplexed why so many Jews went to their death passively, most often without much resistance.  I now suspect they didn’t fight back because they didn’t have weapons to fight back with, against a well trained, well armed, violent Gestapo and SS.

After the advent of Communism in Russia in 1919, initially citizens could possess firearms, but this freedom was eventually revoked when Soviet leaders under Stalin enacted strict gun control laws in 1929.  In China, from the inception of Communism in 1947, its leadership severely restricted gun ownership to the police and the military.

However troubling a slaughter such as occurred at Sandy Hook might be, the greatest slaughters always occur at the organized hand of governments, not individuals run amok.  Nazi war mongering ultimately left perhaps up to 50 million dead including many soldiers of many nations, but more often civilians with no guns.  The Stalinist and subsequent Soviet purges beginning in 1929 after the citizenry was disarmed cost the lives of some 20 million Russians. Though exact numbers are difficult to come by, the Cultural Revolution in China beginning in 1966 under Mao led to millions of deaths, perhaps as high as 20-25 million, including much of China’s educated classes, among them many leading physicians and scientists who went to their deaths unarmed.  Communist leaders conducted such mass murder for the “greater good” but it took China decades and a generation to recover from that nightmare.

On and on it goes, throughout world history, government sanctioned, government supported, government incited mass slaughter.  In that sense, our Founding Fathers were correct, the greatest fear we should all have is not an armed citizenry but governments gone wild.

With these thoughts in mind, I found it quite extraordinary to read recently that after the Sandy Hook incident, Chinese officials took to the propaganda airwaves, denouncing gun violence in America and calling for strict new regulations for gun control, as if our business were any of their business.  It was most odd to me that the Chinese leadership would so vocally condemn us for 26 deaths, as horrific as they may have been, when possibly 25 million of their own unarmed civilians died at the hands of a previous fanatical Chinese leadership.  Recently, the UN has gotten into the act, promoting world-wide restrictions on the ownership of firearms, though the UN itself has been completely unable to defend unarmed citizens from gun toting governments, as in Rwanda and elsewhere in Africa.  Not surprisingly, in typical and predictable fashion, the more tyrannical members of the UN seem most happy with such plans to keep the citizens of the world unarmed and defenseless.

In response to the need “to do something,” I find it helpful to put the recent mass shootings in some sort of perspective.  In 2010, the last year I could find reliable statistics, 33,000 Americans died directly as a result of car accidents.  It is estimated some 1,200 of these fatalities for that year alone were children, who in most cases were passive victims to some adult’s recklessness.

It’s morbid, I know, to compare one cause of violent childhood death to another, but I doubt anyone would argue death by auto accident is a pleasant way to go, and I suspect hardly less terrifying than by gunshot. I shudder even to consider a child’s last thoughts and final terrors, in either situation.

Yet I hear no politician calling for some new grand restriction of car ownership, or confiscation of all automobiles, these relentless horrific killing machines.  Why not, if preventing childhood death is the concern?  Why not confiscate all automobiles, which I suppose in the Utopian mind world then be owned and driven only by approved government employees, “for the good of us all.” Since far more children die in a single year in automobile accidents than have died in all mass shootings in our recent history combined, it would seem logical – using the logic of gun control proponents – to begin by getting cars off the road.

It is also believed that a full 30%, or ten thousand of these total deaths on the road including 211 children were directly attributable to someone driving under the influence of alcohol.  That’s a lot of total unnecessary, horrifically violent deaths due at least in part to alcohol, many involving children, and again far more in total than all the school massacres combined.  When I was younger, I myself lost some friends to auto accidents, including the son of our next door neighbor in Queens, who at age 17 when I was a freshman in college died in a car accident in Connecticut.  Alcohol was thought to be involved.

As an alternative to “automobile control,” since 10,000 Americans die each year in alcohol related car accidents, including those 211 innocent children, and since just about everybody alive except those living in caves knows that alcohol in even small amounts impairs driving reaction time and judgment, perhaps we need to rethink alcohol restriction, or eliminate alcohol completely from our lives. Of course that foolish scenario was already tried as Prohibition beginning in 1920, when the political elite of the day outlawed alcohol in the US.  It is to me extraordinary to read that at the time, Prohibition advocates were convinced, and convinced our Congress, that alcohol was the root cause of virtually all crime and immorality, and that its restriction would usher in a new idyllic crime-free era in America.

Of course the results were cataclysmic, failing on every level. First of all, the laws hardly eliminated alcohol from American life as planned, but instead directly encouraged the rise of a powerful organized mobster underground determined to provide the stuff to whoever wanted it.  These highly financed and profitable organizations proved quite successful in doing so, effectively moving in to fill the void created by government meddling, and controlling every aspect of alcohol production and sale from the still to the speakeasy bars.  As an example of government failure in its mission, it is estimated at the height of Prohibition more than 30,000 speakeasies were active and thriving in New York City alone.  And as another unintended consequence contrary to its intent, rather than ushering in a new era of universal lawfulness, Prohibition fostered a mass disrespect for the law and for lawmakers, particularly among previously law-abiding citizens.

Bootleg criminal enterprises were quite lucrative, with the added benefit that all these illegal earnings were beyond the reach of the tax collector.  It is estimated that Al Capone garnered $80,000,000 during his time as a bootleg king, a substantial amount in the 1920s – and a substantial amount even by today’s standards.

As result of Prohibition and the wars between competing drug gangs, violence across the US didn’t decline, but significantly escalated.  It has been estimated that during Prohibition, more than 800 Chicago residents involved with bootlegging were murdered in alcohol related violence.

Prohibition agents, however idealized they might be on television and in the movies, were often corrupt and violent themselves, destroying the property, homes, and even lives of non-criminal citizens.  Often agents were bought off, and a US Congressman himself owned an illegal still.  So as our Founding Fathers would have predicted with government meddling where it shouldn’t meddle, Prohibition in its every aspect produced exactly the opposite of its intended result – epidemic crime, epidemic profitable and violent crime, disrespect for the law by the citizenry at large and corruption at every level of government, from the local Treasury agent to members of Congress. After many lives were ruined, after many lives were lost, after tens of millions of taxpayer money wasted on its implementation, Prohibition was such a total dismal failure that our brilliant political class had to repeal it.  What amazes me is that this stupidity lasted as long as it did, until 1933, when with its repeal our then President Franklin Roosevelt encouraged everyone to go have a drink.

Prior to 1937 and the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act, despite the hysteria over alcohol consumption, oddly enough the recreational drug marijuana was legal and available.  At the time even heroin and cocaine could be obtained under medical supervision. However, during the 1930s, drug restriction proponents argued that marijuana caused insanity, criminal behavior, and death.  Sound familiar?  One would have thought our esteemed leaders would have learned from the Prohibition fiasco, but apparently they did not, and successive generations of legislators have passed increasingly more restrictive laws with severe penalties involving jail time for even possession of small amounts of marijuana. Just recently the tide has begun to shift slightly, with several states easing up restrictions in violation of Federal law.  California now allows medical marijuana, and Oregon and Washington State recently passed legislation permitting its recreational use.  But over the past 70 years, restrictive drug laws have brought about the same set of unintended consequences – though on a much more complex and violent scale – as did Prohibition of alcohol.

As a start, despite the strong Federal and State restrictions and penalties over many decades, does anyone out there believe the drug laws and the so called “War Against Drugs” has been anything but another politician inspired abysmal, complete and total failure, that has wasted tens of billions of government funds, incarcerated hundreds of thousands of Americans, and has totally failed to limit availability of these drugs?  In 2010, the Federal government invested not less than 15 billion dollars in fighting the endless war on drugs, yet marijuana can be purchased  anywhere in this country, from the smallest town to the biggest urban center, and any high school student can access the stuff.  Our former Presidents Clinton and Bush 43 admitted to drug use, and our current President seems to have been quite proud of his cocaine indulgences while a high school student.  So much for our government effectively restricting the availability of anything that a good percentage of the population wants.  And I say this as someone who leads a life diametrically opposed to the drug culture – for more than 30 years I have eaten organically, taken large doses of nutritional supplements, and avoided all illegal drugs and even prescription pharmaceuticals.

Not only have the efforts aimed at eliminating these so called recreational drugs failed, but the consequences have been enormously destructive.  We have all witnessed the rise of drug cartels based in Mexico, who reap billions of dollars in tax free sales as our government wastes billions of dollars unsuccessfully trying to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the US.  Violence has been escalating, up to 50,000 Mexicans have died in drug related killings, drug gang violence is epidemic here in the US, even in small towns previously unaffected.  Not that native borne Americans haven’t jumped on the profit-driven illegal drug bandwagon.  I have been amazed to read repeatedly of DEA swat teams raiding meth labs in isolated rural areas in Kentucky and Tennessee.  But for each lab closed another ten rise up, to cash in on the American demand for their product.  Whether one believes that these drugs should be legal or not, in fact they are widely available to anyone, including children, just about anywhere in the US.  So they may not be legal in the strict sense of the law, but of course they are as available as if they were.  So much for the intentions of politicians to save us from ourselves, and to “do something” and even worse “to do good.”

I think, reviewing the history of our war against alcohol and our more recent war against drugs, why would the outcome of restrictive gun control regulation be any different?  Should  such regulations be put in place as many in the aftermath of Sandy Hook demand, I suspect the drug cartels will be quite happy to move in to fill the void, quite willing to provide guns of all sizes and shapes for those – many if not most of them criminals – who want them.

Mexico has very strict laws about illegal immigration, which in that country is a felony with long jail time attached, yet complains bitterly over our most mild attempts to regulate and restrict illegal immigration into the US.  Mexico also traditionally had very tough, very strict gun control regulations, requiring special permits and approvals (usually in traditional Mexico tradition involving bribes to officials) for owning even the most simple of hunting rifles.  In early January 2013, the Mexican government passed even more restrictive legislation, essentially prohibiting gun ownership by law-abiding citizens.  Even before the new laws came into being, we all saw what happened recently when a young ex-US Marine tried to carry, legally, an antique hunting rifle into Mexico.  He was promptly arrested, and his family contacted, in the great tradition of Mexican jurisprudence, for the usual extortion payoffs to guarantee his safety.

Repeatedly we see on television the Mexican police – masked to protect their identity – standing over tables overflowing with all manner of military hardware, even machine guns, confiscated from criminal hideouts, weapons of mass destruction which cartel soldiers evidently obtain easily enough without the required permits. So in Mexico most law-abiding citizens remain and will remain unarmed, easy victims to the heavily armed criminals.  Why would this scenario not happen here in the US?  I imagine right now, cartel leaders who might have enjoyed some down time over Christmas break in Puerto Vallarta or Acapulco, chomping at the bit, hoping the US Congress stupidly tries to pass strict gun control regulation, hence opening up a wonderful new and unlimited market for illegal guns.

After Sandy Hook, our President, as per the usual technocrat response, said he will call for a commission to look into the gun situation in the US, as if any commission called for any reason in our history has ever done anything of value except keep “experts” endlessly busy at taxpayer expense.  I doubt that any commission however well intentioned could ever prevent a single psychotic individual from doing harm to another.  It can’t, and won’t, or course.  We all need to be very wary of politicians in general, commissions in particular, and leaders who react without thinking to a crisis.  It never leads to a good outcome.

One can analyze the Sandy Hook tragedy on several levels. First, let’s dispense with the mistaken notion that “guns kill people.”  Though gun proponents have responded to this argument for decades by correctly pointing out the guns do nothing without a human hand involved, I am quite surprised, frankly, to read and hear – even today as I write this – that many gun control advocates including politicians are repeating the phrase in one form or another, that the problems really is the gun, and if we had fewer guns we would have fewer murders, and certainly fewer mass murders  But guns are inanimate objects,, incapable of doing anything to anyone without human intervention.  Such a situation is in contrast to other inanimate objects or occurrences that quite of their own accord can cause havoc and death, such as a tidal wave or a volcano.  But a gun has no such power of independent action, any more than a car does.  A gun, and a car, both need the human touch.

And humans can kill quite effectively without guns.  In the first murder I know of, as recorded in Genesis 4:8, Cain slew his brother Abel out of jealousy, because the Lord accepted Abel’s offering to Him of sheep but rejected Cain’s offerings of the “fruit of the ground,”  that is, plant food. Presumably guns were not involved in this Biblical crime.

The Bible records many such murders through its history, some more tragic than others, such as King David’s arrangement of his loyal soldier Uriah’s death in order to take the officer’s wife Bathsheba for his own – with disastrous consequences.

In more recent times, mass murderers and serial killers such as Ted Bundy – responsible for at least 32 murders of unarmed women – worked with deadly efficiency and without a gun.  In April 1995 Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City with a primitive but very effective car bomb put together with commonly available materials.

Between 1978 and 1995, the notorious Unibomber Ted Kaczynski murdered three and injured another 23 with crudely designed bombs sent through the US mail from the comfort of his rural Montana shack lacking both electricity and running water.  Kaczynski’s spree could have continued, had not his brother recognized the bizarre manifesto published in the New York Times as mostly likely the work of Ted.

Recently in my home town of New York City, in two separate incidents innocent victims were pushed to their deaths on the subway tracks, by people neither victim personally knew.

Those intent on murder, even mass murder, can achieve their goal without guns, without even physical proximity to the intended victim or victims (as in the case of Kaczynski or McVeigh).  Should guns become unavailable, I suspect, in fact I would guarantee that those sociopaths who roam among us will be quite capable of finding ways to bring on their desired havoc.

But, one might ask, don’t guns make mass murder easier?  True, Kaczynski earned an undergraduate degree in math from Harvard and a Ph.D. in the subject from the University of Michigan, and at age 25 he was a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, so perhaps he was smarter than most of us.  But his bombs, from what I have read, were not that complicated, and certainly McVeigh hardly seemed particularly educated or intelligent.  But anyone intent on murder, even mass murder, can find a way without guns.

As proof that gun availability in and of itself does not lead to violent crime, one need only look at the New York City murder rates, which have been recorded on a yearly basis since 1963.  In that year, 548 New Yorkers were murdered, the majority by hand guns.  By 1970, the murder rate had climbed to 1117, and by 1980 it was up to 1814.  During the tenure of liberal Democratic majors Koch and Dinkins, the murder rate continued to climb, reaching an astronomic high of 2245 in 1990.

Having lived through the ever-worsening epidemic of murders during the 1970s and 1980s, I remember full well the attitude of our liberal leaders toward crime and criminals which I believe contributed to rising murder rates.  Criminals we were told, were really victims, essentially decent enough folk who simply didn’t have the same opportunities the rest of us enjoyed in our lives.  They didn’t get enough love or Christmas presents as children, they didn’t have nice parents, or nice enough teachers, or nice enough next door neighbors.  They were cheated from a good education, denied a good job, hence it was understandable that they would turn to crime.  I also remember during that time an increasing indifference to the targets of violent crime, who often were innocent victims of criminal greed and the criminal’s lack of conscience.  During the 1970s and 1980s a number of our liberal entertainers mobilized to protest the punishment of criminals, including murderers, who were they believed the real innocent victims.  I remember so well a fund raiser for a convicted black murderer as I recall from the Philadelphia area, hosted by none other than Joan Baez, seeking “justice” for the man who seemed obviously the perpetrator of the crime.  A local news team, as I remember, had actually taken the initiative to find one of the victims of this man’s personal crime spree, a store owner who had been permanently disabled by a bullet to the spine.  He was just another citizen trying to make a decent and honorable living, whose life, health, and livelihood had been permanently ruined.  Neither Joan Baez nor any other social justice celebrity held fund raisers to aid this decent and suffering true victim.

In my own mind, this destructive romanticizing of criminals reached a peak when a convicted murderer in New York was given a mere six years in prison. By the time the more conservative and traditional Rudy Guiliani became mayor in 1994, a good number of New Yorkers had gotten fed up with the lamenting over these alleged  criminals, who seemed quite happy to take advantage of liberal angst over their terrible crimes.  Guiliani took a completely different and surprising approach, criminals were evil people that needed to be treated as such, hunted, prosecuted, and hidden away from civilized society.  Under his direction, he greatly increased the police force and the police presence, while adopting strict new punishments for illegal gun possession.  By the end of his tenure as mayor, the murder rate had fallen in 2002 to 587, nearly a quarter of what it had been a mere 12 years earlier, though guns were as available to us as before.

Under our current Mayor Bloomberg, the murder rate has continued to fall.  Ironically, as the gun control advocates try and whip up hysteria for their cause, in late December 2012, just some two weeks after the Sandy Hook tragedy, the Major’s office released the latest crime statistics, revealing a murder rate of 414, the lowest since 1963 when such records were first kept.  Of these, 237 were murders by firearms.

The point is, gun restriction on law abiding citizens didn’t cause a drop in the murder rate in New York City over the last four decades, an increase in police action with strong consequences for illegal behavior did.  Yet in the same country at the same time with essentially the same Federal gun laws, Chicago’s murder rate – under ongoing Democratic liberal leadership – continues to soar.  With less than one third the population of New York City, Chicago is on the way to record more than 500 murders for 2012, nearly four times the rate as in New York, though final statistics are not yet available at the time of this writing. Most of these Chicago killings seem gang and drug related (congratulations to drug control advocates), with 80% of the victims African American.

New York’s declining murder rate seems more indicative of national trends.  Recently released FBI statistics show that the overall murder rate in the US has declined by half since the 1990s, a rather remarkable decrease. This drop has occurred while gun possession has actually increased substantially.

The lessons of New York and Chicago show that strict enforcement of laws against criminal behavior – as opposed to enactment of laws against law abiding citizens – protects us all to a great, though never perfect, extent.  Furthermore, some who have studied the statistics and the issues report that far from contributing to violence, guns, in the hands of law abiding citizens, actually prevent crime.

Stephen Halbrook, writing in the December 18, 2012 online Von Mises Institute site, updated an earlier article from 1970 on misguided thinking, the dangers of gun control, and the benefits of gun possession.

The masses are taught to believe the lie that such laws will reduce crime. Nothing could be further from the truth, because gun ownership by the general population simply does not cause crime. In 1966, twice as many guns per home were owned in Canada as compared with the U. S., yet the gun homicide rate of the former was only one-fifth that of the latter (American Rifleman, Aug., 1968, p. 46). And surely, if one wants to kill another, the absence of a gun will act as no safeguard; in Japan, where civilian guns are outlawed, the murder rate without guns is almost twice as high as the U. S. rate without guns (American Rifleman, Nov., 1968, p. 17).

On the contrary, gun ownership by the immense majority serves to prevent crime. Criminals have second thoughts regarding killing and plundering peaceful individuals who may be armed. But they have no hesitations when they are confident that their victims are helpless. Since criminals will always have guns (no criminals would register their guns, and besides, zip guns are easy to make), it is necessary that potential victims be able to arm themselves to prevent crime. Each month the American Rifleman, under the column “The Armed Citizen”, cites numerous instances in which private guns have prevented crimes.

As an aside, Connecticut, the site of the Sandy Hook massacre, actually has very strict gun laws on the books and forbids possession of the type of rifle used by Adam Lanza.  Such regulations didn’t seem to make much difference, to a determined, deranged murderer.

In another article appearing December 17, 2012 in response to Sandy Hook on the same Von Mises site, author Ninos Malek discusses the history of good intentions gone bad. The passage of the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990 forbade possession of a gun by anyone on school grounds, other than by a police officer on duty, called in for whatever reason. But off duty officers or a school teacher who might be a reserve police officer, could not bring their legally owned guns to school.  This highly publicized and highly touted legislation came with its own unintended consequences, creating in effect a “safety zone” for armed criminals who knew in advance no one on school grounds would be armed.  Such thinking essentially invited criminals intent on school mayhem to enter without fear of immediate reprisal.

Though parts of the 1990 act were deemed unconstitutional in 1995, the law still holds that no one can carry a gun within 1000 yards of a school.  Connecticut, interestingly enough, has on its books restrictions far more limiting than the national regulations regarding guns within the vicinity of a school.  Sandy Hook was in fact, a gun-free “safe school” though as it unfortunately turned out, it wasn’t “gun free” for Adam Lanza.

John Fund writing in the online National Review, December 16, 2012, wrote regarding the issue of gun free zones (http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/335739/facts-about-mass-shootings-john-fund#):

Economists John Lott and William Landes conducted a groundbreaking study in 1999, and found that a common theme of mass shootings is that they occur in places where guns are banned and killers know everyone will be unarmed, such as shopping malls and schools.

Mr. Fund reports, as have many others who have studied the issue, that citizens legally carrying guns have stopped many crimes across the nation. John Holmes, the Colorado movie theater murderer, specifically selected a theater which forbade entry to those carrying legally owned concealed weapons, while deliberately avoiding more convenient theaters nearer his home that allowed movie goers to bring their weapons.

The same government report announcing that national murder rates have dropped to one half the levels of the early 1990s also indicated instances of mass murder, defined as more than four deaths in a single episode, had remained constant for three decades, averaging about 32 a year.  During the first decade of this century, it appears the rate has actually decreased, to some 26 instances yearly.  So again, even as gun possession has increased significantly, the incidence of such horrific multiple homicides have actually decreased.

In terms of school murders specifically, the annual numbers have dropped dramatically since 1993.  That year 42 homicides of students were reported nationwide, along with 13 additional “serious violent crimes” per 1000 students in elementary and secondary schools (reported by Scott Neuman writing on the NPR site March 16, 2012).  For 2012, according to Mr, Neuman the last year statistics have been available, the rates were significantly down to “two homicides and four violent crimes per 1,000 students.”

These statistics include mostly episodes of single homicides.  With regard to mass murders of students, defined as two or more deaths per incident, the situation does seem to have worsened in recent years.  Prior to 1989, I could find references to only four mass shootings beginning with the 1966 slaughter at the University of Texas. Others include the 1974 Olean High School shooting, the 1976 California State University, Fullerton shooting, and a shooting in 1979 at a Cleveland elementary school.

On the other hand, since 1989, 40 mass shootings of students have been documented, so while US murder rates, and overall student homicides, have declined, the incidence for this specific crime have increased over the past 23 years.

Why would this be, why, as the overall murder rates, including student homicides, are on the decline, would the frequency of this particular type of brutal crime have increased so dramatically in such a short period of time?  I suspect because there has been a real increase in certain forms of psychopathology among adolescents that leads to such inexplicable violent behavior.

Certainly, these perpetrators of mass murder on school grounds, and murderers in general, hardly seem psychologically sound.   Many if not most are psychopathic, at worst sociopathic.  The terms are frequently thrown about, often without understanding of their specific meaning.  Psychopath is the more general term, referring to those exhibiting a mental disorder often characterized by anti-social behavior.  The latter term signifies a type of psychopath, often a criminal, who is not only anti-social, but someone who has no conscience, no concern for the effect of his or her action, no regret, no remorse, and who never takes responsibility for his or her action.

As has been frequently said, most mentally ill people are not violent.  True enough, but most violent people committing murder, particularly mass murder, are indeed mentally ill.  A Mother Jones Magazine investigation of this issue found that 38 of 61 instigators of recent mass murder had obvious signs of serious diagnosable mental illness and I suspect on closer examination, most of the others would fall into this category as well.

As we have learned more of the Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Colorado theater and Sandy Hook criminals, it is evident they all exhibited severe psychiatric problems. In the Columbine shooting of April 20, 1999, one teacher and 12 students at Columbine High School were murdered by two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Kiebold.  Harris before the incident demonstrated severe mental disability, and had been under the care of a psychiatrist who had prescribed anti-depressant medication, first Zoloft, then Luvox.  At the time of the tragedy, Harris had therapeutic levels of Luvox in his blood.

The Virginia Tech massacre of April 16, 2007, at the hands of student Seung-Hui Cho, left 32 dead, before the perpetrator himself committed suicide.  For years Cho had been under psychiatric and counseling care for his mental illness, and had been prescribed Prozac shortly before his rampage.  Even though one of his professors was concerned about Cho’s potentially violent tendencies, the school did nothing.

On January 8, 2011, Jared Loughner murdered six people, including a Judge, and wounded Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, at a political rally in Tucson.  Loughner’s parents first recognized behavior disturbances in their son as early as 2006, and he was subsequently suspended from his college for disruptive behavior.  I haven’t seen any evidence to date that he was on anti-depressant or other prescribed medication at the time of the massacre, but subsequent psychiatric evaluations after the crime led to a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

On July 20, 2012, James Holmes, the former University of Colorado graduate student in neuroscience, murdered 12 and wounded another 58 at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater.  Holmes, as has been widely reported, like the other mass murderers before him previously showed signs of significant mental illness, had been under the care of a psychiatrist at the time of the shooting, and apparently had been prescribed anti-depressant medication.

In the Sandy Hook massacre, the evidence to date paints a picture of a very troubled young man with signs of autism spectrum disorder, who apparently began his murderous spree with the killing of his mother when he suspected she was trying to have him institutionalized.  According to several media reports, Adam Lanza may have been on anti-depressant medication at the time of the time of the shooting but I await final confirmation of this issue.

In parallel with the rise in mass student shootings since 1989, rates of adolescent mental illness, particularly in terms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and depression, have, it appears, actually increased.

When I was in medical school at Cornell in the early 1980s, terms such as ADHD and “Autism” were rarely used, even in our Pediatrics and Psychiatry rotations during third year.  In fact, I remember no discussion whatsoever in our various Psychiatry courses, and only brief mention of these two syndromes and childhood depression during our Pediatrics rotation, maybe totaling five minutes.  We were told that ADHD and Autism were both very rare, and that most of us would not see a true case of autism in our practice over a lifetime.  On the other hand during my Pediatrics rotation we spent many days learning about childhood infections and congenital abnormalities. So just 30 years ago, behavioral and psychiatric problems among children and adolescents were considered so rare as to not require anything more than an offhand mention in medical school classes.

Personal recollections aside, today, some 30 years later the situation does appear to be quite different, with official academic agencies reporting significant increases in ADHD, Autism, as well as childhood depression in recent decades, particularly since the 1990s.  The American Psychiatric Association reports that currently, 3-7% of school-aged children have evidence of ADHD.  However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), our esteemed governmental epidemiology agency, describes a much worse situation, with up to 9.5% of all those aged 4-17 years old, or fully 5.4 million children, exhibiting  symptoms consistent with diagnosable ADHD.  And the incidence has been increasing rapidly.  The CDC reports that between 1997 and 2006, the incidence of ADHD increased 3% annually.  Between 2003 and 2007, each year the rate went up 5% yearly.

In like fashion, rates for autism have been on the rise in recent years.  During the 1960s and 1970s, autism affected approximately 0.5 per 1000 children, making it very rare, as we were taught in medical school.  According to the CDC site, by 2000 the rate was up to 1 in 150, and by 2008 it has soared to 1 in 88 children – a dramatic and rapid change.

For a time, “experts” tried, for reasons known only to them, to downplay the obvious increase in ADHD and Autism incidence, harping that the disease existed just as frequently 30 years ago but we doctors weren’t as smart in diagnosing the problem.  I found this hard to believe, since neither syndrome is particularly subtle nor a difficult diagnosis to make.  In more recent years, scientists have finally acknowledged that there has been a “mysterious” increase in the problem, to the point of near epidemic proportions that has nothing to do with diagnostic acumen.

The CDC also reports that by 2006, 1 in 6 children in the US had a diagnosable “developmental disability,” a general term including children with “speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism.” (http://www.cdc.gov/NCBDDD/autism/data.html)

The number of adolescents diagnosed with depression seems staggering. It has been estimated that approximately 10% of children and adolescents have been diagnosed at some time with clinical depression.

It seems clear that the number of our young with diagnosable forms of mental disability has increased in recent years, particularly within the last 10-15 years.  But why would this be the case?  Currently, by and large the medical research community sees the answer to all disease, including ADHD, autism, and depression, in genetics.  That’s where the research funding is, that’s where the glamour lies, that’s where the media goes, that’s where Nobel Prizes are being won.  Even for a disease like autism, many eminent scientists still cling to the belief that it too is a “genetic disease” with the solution hidden in molecular biology.  But such thinking, as erudite as it might sound and whatever prizes it may win, hardly rings true.  In medicine, such rapid changes in incidence of a disease over a short period of time, as seen with ADHD, autism, and childhood depression cry out for a new environmental factor of some sort – and not some dramatic and rapid genetic shift in the population at large.  Genetic changes just don’t affect human populations so quickly.

So what kind of “environmental” changes are at work?  Here, I would like to offer some suggestions, beginning with diet.  When I first began investigating the role of diet in mental illness back in my journalism days in the 1970s, I learned that as far as the conventional medical-psychiatric community was concerned, diet and nutrition had nothing whatsoever to do with mental illness.  Nonetheless, there were serious researchers convinced that mental illness of various forms, at least in part, had a dietary-nutritional component that could be corrected with precise intervention.  During that time, I met and interviewed Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD, a conventionally trained Canadian physician, biochemist, and researcher, who first noted the similarities between schizophrenia and pellagra, a well-characterized deficiency in the B vitamin niacin.  As one of the documented effects of such deficiency, patients could lapse into the disordered thinking and mentation, even auditory hallucinations, common among those diagnosed as “schizophrenic.”

In 1952 Dr. Hoffer reported his first cases of schizophrenia successfully treated with high dose niacin and other vitamins and minerals.  While during his lifetime and today Dr. Hoffer’s work has remained largely ignored by mainstream academic psychiatry, I knew him well and studied his papers, and found him to be a serious clinician with some remarkable results.

Dr. Curtis Dohan, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, first noted a link between gluten sensitivity and schizophrenia back in the 1960s.  Though a conventional investigator, his work, however wonderfully documented it might have been, was for too long ignored by mainstream psychiatry, which has, not surprisingly, long focused its affections on the “genetic cause” of the disease.  Nonetheless, in recent years there has been a shift of sorts, with the medical community beginning to recognize the devastating effects, including on the brain, of gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity.

In 1971, Dr. Emanuel Abrahamson published the first edition of his book Body, Mind, and Sugar, in which he proposed that much criminal behavior is directly related to the extraordinary increase in sugar intake in the US during the latter part of the 20th century.  I remember reading this thesis – which again the mainstream medical world met with ridicule and contempt – with some interest.  Certainly, I felt some of Abrahamson’s arguments made sense.

As a start, the brain weights a mere 2-2.5 pounds, yet it is an extraordinarily active organ metabolically, consuming fully 25% of all the body’s energy output.  It requires a steady supply of not only proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to function efficiently, but also all the vitamins, minerals, and trace elements.

The brain prefers the sugar glucose as its primary energy source, so for its optimal functioning we need to maintain normal blood levels of this substrate.  Even modest decreases from the blood sugar norm can immediately affect brain efficiency, as any diabetic on insulin knows.  Too much insulin can lower the blood sugar too much and too fast, leading to a myriad of symptoms ranging from fatigue, spaciness, cloudy thinking all the way to sudden fainting and in the extreme, grand mal seizures.

Abrahamson pointed out, as had others in the 1970s such as the English researcher John Yudkin, that in Westernized nations, our per capita intake of white sugar (sucrose) had increased dramatically over the past 100 years.  During the mid 1800s, the average American consumed about three pounds of sugar a year, a trifling amount.  By the 1970s, the intake had increased to the range of 120 pounds per person a year, a dramatic and physiologically significant shift.  Recently, I read the average intake per American was up to 164 pounds a year!

For years, mainstream academic researchers claimed the change in sugar intake in recent history made no difference to our health, and some, like the famed late Dr. Frederick Stare of the Harvard School of Public Health – who received millions in funding from the sugar industry – insisted sugar was an ideal “energy food.” We need, the eminent Harvard Professor claimed, not less sugar, but more, up to 25% of our total caloric intake.

But Abrahamson argued otherwise.  As a start, in the small intestine digestive enzymes break down sucrose into the simpler and rapidly absorbed sugars glucose and fructose.  Dr. Abrahamson pointed out that with our Western diet the extraordinary daily flood of glucose into the blood stream during digestion caused an over-reaction of the beta cells of the pancreas, responsible for releasing insulin into circulation.  This hormone serves to drive glucose into the cells, where it can be used for energy, but over time, this hyperactivity of the pancreas could lead to chronic and significant hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, in turn starving the brain. Abrahamson argued that chronic hypoglycemia could provoke any sort of bizarre behavior including in its extreme criminal behavior.

Though Abrahamson was not taken seriously, in recent years conventional researchers such as Gerald Reaven at Stanford have come to accept that the contemporary junk food, high sugar American diet is hardly health promoting, and does lead to all manner of serious metabolic derangements.  Perhaps Abrahamson was on to something.  Certainly the excessive intake of sugar, particularly among our children and adolescents can hardly be a good thing. I read that teenagers in general obtain up to 30% of their total calories from sugary foods like soda pop.  Such a junk food, processed food diet not only squeezes out more healthy choices and consequently reduces the intake of essential nutrients found in whole foods, it may indeed lead to chronic brain starvation – and perhaps ADHD and depression.

Of course some argue – often parents of autistic children – that the wide scale over-vaccination of children plays a causative role in autism.  Once again, the mainstream medical community refuses to budge on the issue, insisting vaccinations are completely safe, lifesaving, and necessary.

I don’t know about all that.  Growing up, I received three vaccinations, tetanus, smallpox, and the initial batch of the Salk vaccine – which I now understand may have been contaminated with the cancer promoting SV 40 monkey virus.  I had no other vaccinations, did experience the usual childhood illness of the day – mumps, measles, chicken pox – and survived without a problem.  I suspect those mild childhood illnesses, these infectious challenges, helped tone up my immune system, taught it how to work.  Today, I treat many people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s with devastating chronic fatigue, whose immune systems seem unable to ward off any challenge, even a simple viral infection like Epstein Barr or the Lyme spirochete.  I sometimes wonder if the over-vaccination of this age group in childhood has kept their immune system in an immature, incompetent state.

To complicate the picture, many bacterial and viral antigens cross react with proteins on nerve cells, so I wonder if all this over stimulation of immunity by processed vaccination antigens might not cause neurological damage, as our immune protectors attack our own neurons, mistaking them for foreign invaders.

The manufacturers of vaccinations traditionally incorporated the toxic heavy metals mercury and aluminum into their products, as preservatives and as “adjuvants” in the case of aluminum to “enhance” their effectiveness.  Despite protests, many widely used vaccines still contain both metals, so stubborn are giants of the pharmaceutical industry – and the academic establishment – to change.  I for one have no intention of having someone inject me with mercury and/or aluminum, both of which have been linked to neurological damage.

As the anti-vaccine proponents argue, something in the environment of our children, and not genetics, has changed radically, to explain the rapid increase in autism rates.  One factor that indeed has changed is the vaccination schedule, with children now receiving in excess of 40 different vaccinations repeated on a regular basis.  It’s certainly something to consider.

Of course the spiritual landscape of our country has altered dramatically since I was an elementary school student in the 1950s.  In those days we began each school day with a prayer in the generic Judeo-Christian tradition, and we actually had school time devoted to Judeo-Christian moral teachings, such terrible things as kindness to others, respect for authority, and good manners.  We were actually taught in school that crime doesn’t pay, and that evil will be punished, on this earth and by God later. Of course, all that is long gone, since our erudite Supreme Court in 1962, in the landmark case Engel vs. Vitale, determined that school prayer to be unconstitutional, perhaps the true enemy of civilized life in America.

I for one am so thankful I had a firm moral foundation growing up, a firm footing, not only at home but at school.  I feel so badly for children maturing today, with no such guidance from their teachers who occupy so much of their waking young lifetimes.  Certainly, the lack of religious, spiritual teaching in our schools hasn’t led to a decrease in mass murders over the past 23 years.

Of course these are personal thoughts, and I present them as such. On a more practical level, after the second recent New York City subway murder by an obviously deranged woman, Mayor Michael Bloomberg blamed not the subways for the death but significant changes in mental health law beginning in the 1960s that has made it increasingly difficult to confine the seriously mentally ill.  As a personal aside, I remember growing up in New York how rare homelessness seemed to be, except in certain notorious areas such as the Bowery (which ironically is currently undergoing a gentrifying, hip transformation).  By the 1980s, the homeless, many mentally ill and “liberated” from institutions, roamed the streets of New York, even in the most elegant and high end areas of the Upper East Side.

Not only are the severely deranged now living among us, Mr. Fund writes that ACLU promoted legislation in recent years has made it very difficult even to report potentially dangerous mentally ill persons to appropriate authorities, with the serious risk of liability.

In response to recent events, I have read in several places on the Internet and seen the parade of serious-appearing “experts” on cable television pontificating that Sandy Hook and other similar episodes prove we need more mental health services, more psychiatric treatment for our troubled population – though no one seems to be lobbying for commitment. I find these calls for more outpatient mental health services for the seriously deranged somewhat perplexing. The Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Colorado movie theater, and Sandy Hook murderers discussed above were known to be mentally ill.  At least three and perhaps four were on psychotropic medication at the time of the shootings or shortly before their crime, so these were in the mental health “system” and were being treated. I have been unable to determine conclusively if Loughner, whose parents had long recognized the seriousness of their son’s problem, was undergoing treatment at the time of the Tucson shootings. But certainly for the three – and possibly four on medication – expert psychiatric treatment did nothing that I can see.

These specific murders show unfortunately, the impotence of so much mental health treatment.  Pundits and experts may call for more access, but the real question remains whether any form of psychiatric treatment is really effective for those with sociopathic tendencies.  As a general point, much recent evidence has called into question the glorification of anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medication, with evidence the much lauded positive clinical studies may have grossly exaggerated the effectiveness of such drugs.

Then, a number of writers on the Internet, including Mike Adams of NaturalNews.com, have appropriately raised the possibility that the drugs themselves may have provoked at least three of these murderers into their violent actions.  Evidence for suicidal and violent behavior among those prescribed the popular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors has become so compelling that in 2007 the FDA required the manufacturer of Prozac to carry a warning about drug-induced behavioral changes in those prescribed the medication.  It might more sense to blame the drugs, more so than the guns in these cases.

The official website of the National Institute of Mental Health based in Bethesda reported at some length on the FDA findings linking behavioral changes to anti-depressant medication.  The site summarizes the FDA position:

The warning also notes that children and adolescents taking SSRI medications should be closely monitored for any worsening in depression, emergence of suicidal thinking or behavior, or unusual changes in behavior, such as sleeplessness, agitation, or withdrawal from normal social situations. Close monitoring is especially important during the first four weeks of treatment. SSRI medications usually have few side effects in children and adolescents, but for unknown reasons, they may trigger agitation and abnormal behavior in certain individuals.

When I attended elementary school in the 1950s, I not only didn’t hear the phrase “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” “Autism,” or “depression,” I was unaware, even through high school, of anyone on medication for any psychiatric disorder.  Perhaps, it was indeed a simpler, maybe more naïve, but certainly, less drugged time. True, diagnostic categories such as “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder” didn’t exist in the psychiatric jargon of the day, and most anti-depressants and mood altering drugs had not yet been invented.  But for the most part, we seemed to get along just fine without the diagnoses and prescription frenzy our current generation of teens must endure.

A Gallop poll from 2005 reported that 10% of all adolescents were receiving or had received medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), 4% of all adolescents had been prescribed some form of anti-depressant medication, and 3% had at some point taken medication for anxiety.  To me as a physician, such numbers of medicated teens are extraordinary, and perhaps we are witness to the first fruits of the medicated generation, those young adults for whom even traditionally normal behavior now bears a psychiatric label requiring “we do something.”  I think the psychiatric professional needs to reevaluate the knee jerk prescription of these powerful antidepressants and stimulants for the slightest behavior a teacher may think troubling, such as two young male students arguing over who had the better peanut butter sandwich.  And perhaps one of the unintended consequences of over medicating may be more unpredictable, more violent mass murders in malls, theaters, and schools.  While I argue that the seriously deranged do require hospitalization and not “mainstreaming” for their and our protection, on the other hand as a more general rule for the adolescent and teen population at large perhaps what we need is not more but less pharmacology.

We’ve always had guns in this country, young men in rural areas particularly were brought up with guns but we never had such mass murder of children before the advent of these psychiatric medications, and the widespread prescription doping of our children.

I remember some years ago, an essay written by a man who grew up in the rural Midwest during the 1920s in response to a chorus of gun control advocates spurred into action by some horrendous murder, the specifics of which I do not recall.  But I do remember the salient point of the author, who described how he and his young classmates often brought their guns to school, either for show and tell, or for after school target practice and varmint hunting.  He and his classmates would leave their guns outside the schoolhouse during class, for later use.  Despite their youth, all understood and respected the power of guns, knew how to handle them safely and with great care.  Never, the author wrote, would he or any of his classmates even think of turning the guns on another human – except in the most desperate acts of self defense. And he knew of no mass murders, no random slaughters at any school at the time.  Guns were available then, apparently even among adolescents, but clearly something has changed.

When I attended elementary school in Queens, New York in the mid and late 1950s, none of us carried guns for show and tell of course, but I have no recollection of any mass shootings at the time, and no one at any school I ever attended talked about random acts of violent revenge against groups of people.  Such an event was so far outside the realm of the consciousness of the time, it was just beyond inconceivable that something like Columbine could happen.

We face enormous, even cataclysmic problems in this country because of the recklessness of politicians with little experience in the world who seem intellectually unable to understand the concept of unintended consequences.  This applies not only to inns in Connecticut, but also to gun control.  I believe the hysteria rising now to do something about guns  will if implemented into legal restriction, lead to no good, empower the already powerful criminal element in this country, deprive law abiding citizens of a protection no police force can offer, and lead to another misguided Prohibition.  I assume our Founding fathers were smarter than I am and with good reason legislated into our Constitution the right to carry firearms.  I only wish our current political leaders would come to the same conclusion, for the benefit of us all.