In light of the recent shooting at Seattle Pacific University, and the
predictable media reporting focused on the shooter’s mental health, as well
as renewed calls for gun control, there is a need for careful analysis of the
discussion. In the extremely liberal state of Washington, the death and
injuries of the SPU victims are already being used in a campaign to further
disarm and monitor the general population. One way this is immediately
occurring is with Initiative 594 and SB-5478.
I-594  requires background checks on firearms sold or transferred at gun
shows or amongst individuals. Those checks must go through a federally
licensed dealer, enabling the federal government to collect information on
anybody in Washington applying for gun ownership. SB-5478  amends existing
laws on mental health courts to strip anybody currently going through mental
health court (this can include people being prosecuted for nonviolent
misdemeanor drug offenses) of their ability to legally own a firearm.
This tendency of public shootings being used to monitor gun owners and to
restrict would-be gun owners can most notably be seen in the Northeast –
one month after the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, a bill
was pushed through the New York legislature prohibiting individuals found to
be “mentally unstable” from owning firearms . Bills like this have
passed in multiple states, including Connecticut, Colorado, and Maryland. One
major concern is the language surrounding mental fitness. New York’s gun
control bill classifies anxiety as a mental health issue upon which firearm
sales can be denied, and gun owners may have their weapons seized.
In nearly every mass public shooting in America – from Isla Vista to Tucson
to Sandy Hook to Seattle – the conversation rarely broaches questioning the
general alienation, isolation, and social sickness inherent in Western
society. Rather, the individual shooter is pathologized and labeled mentally
ill, a diagnosis which decontextualizes the shooters’ actions and pushes
the discourse around power structures and social violence to the curb. We
cannot view these shooters as existing in a vacuum exclusive from a society
which bullies authority-questioning youth into obedience, and only brings
mental health to public attention when it is convenient in further
marginalizing the most exploited and disenfranchised of the population.
Surrounding the gun violence debate, it is common to hear an appeal to
authorities to use the powers of state to intervene in the issue, somehow
ending the mass shooting phenomenon . While the popular dialogue, from the
left and the right, revolves around different measures proposed to prevent
violent individuals from using weapons to harm others, why does this
conversation not extend to challenge the legitimacy of cops’ possession of
weapons and advanced military equipment? In the USA, mass shootings are not
on the rise , but police aggression is . Anarchists must intervene in
One quarter of the US adult population experiences mental illness in any
given year . As many as 25% of Americans took a psychiatric drug in 2010
, justification in the new New York State bill to disarm that quarter of
the population on grounds of “mental instability.” In a white
supremacist, patriarchal, rugged individualist society, it is no suprise that
the quarter of the population who could be legally disarmed would be
disproportionately brown, female, and poor. How many of us, after painfully
being unable to conform, were pathologized and prescribed anti-depressants?
Not only is New York’s bill a surefire way to disarm those who may need to
be armed the most, it in turn targets dissenters.
Let not the tragedy of the SPU victims, nor the violent & extreme alienation
of the shooter, be used for anything besides grief; grief for those killed
and injured, and for the shooter who was so alienated from himself & his own
desires in a culture that doesn’t give a fuck. As we hear the politicians,
parent groups, and liberals revving up to further control those who struggle
to cope with the difficulties of life under capitalism, we must anticipate &
resist their sentimental & power-hungry calls for our disarmament.