WASHINGTON WATCH: Confronting Gun Violence And Gun Culture In America (VIDEO) | Roland Martin Reports

WASHINGTON WATCH: Confronting Gun Violence And Gun Culture In America (VIDEO)

The funerals this week of the children gunned down at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, still have the nation focused on the tragic consequences of our culture of gun violence. The horrible massacre of 20 six- and seven-year-old children in a suburban Connecticut school has jump-started a long-overdue debate on gun violence and gun culture in America.

But the Sandy Hook tragedy obscures a deadly epidemic that the black community has been dealing with for decades: too many guns, not enough mental health services, and too little power to tackle those problems in a meaningful way. While shocking, the 26 women and children killed in Newtown is less than the 80 African-American boys between the ages of 15 and 19 who were killed per month by gun violence in 2008 and 2009. Again, per month.

To be clear, the 20 Sandy Hook children are innocents who didn’t deserve to die in a senseless tragedy, but a large number of black homicide victims aren’t gang members or drug dealers, but children who died doing nothing wrong. 182 black children between the ages on one and nine were killed in 2010. That’s according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. That’s a Newtown-size tragedy – 20 innocent children – killed every 40 days in the black community.

President Obama, calling for action, said mental health must be considered along with gun control to help stop mass shootings.

 

MR. MARTIN:  Hello, and welcome to “Washington Watch.”

The funerals this week of the children gunned down at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, still have the nation focused on the tragic consequences of our culture of gun violence.  The horrible massacre of 20 six- and seven-year-old children in a suburban Connecticut school has jump-started a long-overdue debate on gun violence and gun culture in America.  President Obama promised quick action.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]

PRES. BARACK OBAMA:  That’s why I’ve asked the Vice President to lead an effort that includes members of my cabinet and outside organizations to come up with a set of concrete proposals no later than January – proposals that I then intend to push without delay.

[END OF VIDEO CLIP.]

MR. MARTIN:  But the Sandy Hook tragedy obscures a deadly epidemic [that] the black community has been dealing with for decades:  too many guns, not enough mental health services, and too little power to tackle those problems in a meaningful way.  While shocking, the 26 women and children killed in Newtown is less than the 80 African-American boys between the ages of 15 and 19 who were killed per month by gun violence in 2008 and 2009.  Again, per month.

To be clear, the 20 Sandy Hook children are innocents who didn’t deserve to die in a senseless tragedy, but a large number of black homicide victims aren’t gang members or drug dealers, but children who died doing nothing wrong.  182 black children between the ages on one and nine were killed in 2010.  That’s according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.  That’s a Newtown-size tragedy – 20 innocent children – killed every 40 days in the black community.

President Obama, calling for action, said mental health must be considered along with gun control to help stop mass shootings.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]

PRES. OBAMA:  We’re going to need to work on making access to mental healthcare at least as easy as access to a gun.  We’re going to need to look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence.  And any actions we must take must begin inside the home and inside our hearts.

[END VIDEO CLIP.]

MR. MARTIN:  But like other forms of healthcare, that is harder to come by in America, and especially in the black community.  According to the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, African-Americans have less access to, and availability of, mental health services and are less likely to use mental health services.  And when they do, they tend to receive lower-quality services than whites.

Joining us to discuss gun violence and mental health in America:  psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere in New York; and here in Washington, D.C., Dr. Rahn Bailey, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, and president of the National Medical Association; and Dr. Chuck Williams, adolescent psychotherapist and a professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Gentlemen, welcome to the show.

OFF CAMERA:  Thank you.

OFF CAMERA:  Thank you for having me.

MR. MARTIN:  Looking –

OFF CAMERA:  Thank you.

MR. MARTIN:  — at these cases, what’s interesting is that you don’t see African-Americans participating in such mass violence.  What’s the difference there in terms of how African-Americans are involved in crimes involving gun violence?  Then you have these mass shootings where, typically, they are white males?

DR. RAHN BAILEY:  Well, my experience has been is that, very often with African-Americans, the issues are individual.  There may be an individual conflict or difficulty between them, I think, or the individuals they’re having problems with; and – and access to weapons of destructions – guns and the like – can be used in those type[s] [of] settings.

Clearly, when we speak about mental illness and concerns regarding larger groups, such as what we saw in Connecticut, we have seen that more regularly, I think, in other settings or in other groups when the use of those weapons … are used across a wider scale.  It doesn’t mean that … African-Americans don’t have some of the same concerns or thoughts; but we haven’t regularly seen them used, I think, in this large-scale type manner.

DR. CHARLES WILLIAMS:  I think that also a part of it is the issue of the types of violence that we see in our community, as the doctor already mentioned.  It’s usually interpersonal, based upon arguments:  “You stepped on my sneaks.”  “You talked to my girl.”  “You disrespected me.”  And that tends to be one-one-one or a small group.

When you have these mass shootings, it’s usually a person who’s trying to make a statement.  You know, mental health issues notwithstanding, they’re looking to get a lot of attention, so they go to a place – like a movie theater, or a school – and they get that attention, which is sort of the downside to discussing this; but we should still talk about it.

MR. MARTIN:  Jeff?

DR. JEFFREY GARDERE:  I would also say that when we’re looking at African-Americans, we’re looking more at the inner cities, more density; and, therefore, the issues they have – again, as one of the doctors said – it’s usually a one-on-one; but they’re also coming to the attention of other people – school counselors, neighbors and so on.  In some of those isolated areas that we’ve seen – the rural areas – a lot of those young people are left to their own devices, perhaps come from a little bit more wealth, are not recognized by the mental health system, and spend an awful lot of time alone, giving that independence.  And, therefore, when they do release a lot of that rage, because of psychosis or personality disorder, it’s on a much larger scale.

MR. MARTIN:  It’s been very interesting as I’ve listened to people break down these issues over the past week, and you have folks who say, “No, the most important issue has to do with gun control.”  And others say it’s mental illness.  Then you have folks who begin to say, “No, we must take a look at videogames.”

And the argument that I keep making is that, in order for us to address this issue, it has to be holistic.  You have to factor all those things in, because as Jeff said –

OFF CAMERA:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — Adam Lanza spent a whole lot of time by himself; playing videogames, surrounded by posters and things along those lines of killing, if you will.  And so you can’t confront this – and that’s why I keep saying there’s a gun-violent culture in America, and a culture means more than just one issue.

OFF CAMERA:  Right.

DR. BAILEY:  Absolutely, and it’s … really just a[n] issue of risk management, and risk management basically takes just a holistic, or a multi-tiered, perspective.  If you’re going to commit someone, it’s not solely because of any one comment they’ve made.  It’s [because] of the comments they’ve made, their past history, or medicines they may … have been on, and what – probably even the acts they’ve been engaged in.

This is a risk management issue.  We should clearly address mental illness concerns, better funding for mental health.  States have all lost about $4 billion, as I understand, of course, in the last decade; and that’s playing out.  And persons are having a harder time receiving care and receiving longer-term, inpatient-type care.

But equally important is a holistic concern that, if you are going to have difficulty – because we can’t manage and prevent concerns regarding everyone – then you also want to decrease the access to these weapons – these assault weapons.  So, if you do have an adverse action, it won’t affect 20 kids … compared to one, or a smaller number.

Finally, I think you also have to address concerns regarding education.  We live in a culture now where the education is very negative.  Whether it’s media; whether it’s print; whether it’s television, or radio, or whatever, our average kids now can be exposed to 100,000 or more episodes of – of violence over the course of their lifetime.  And although, I think, the First Amendment allows it to occur, and we can’t – can’t block it, we can’t also expect that it’s not going to have some adverse impact on those particular individuals who’ll be most psychologically vulnerable, based on brain impairment, to act out in a negative way.

MR. MARTIN:  Jeff?

DR. GARDERE:  Yeah, I also agree that we do have to look at those who are much less [sic] vulnerable.  Look.  I mean a lot of kids play violent videogames.  They don’t go out and shoot up a bunch of people.  We have to look at those kids who have mental health issues; perhaps, where there is some psychosis; again, these personality disorders.  We can’t keep guns in those particular kinds of homes, for one.

And, for two, we have to look at the mental health system that is not able to work with young men, especially, who are at the advent of mental illness.  They don’t want to take the medications.  So, parents have to look within themselves and try to figure out how to get them the best help and certainly how to keep them away from living a life as being gamers in videogames and being exposed to violence.

MR. MARTIN:  Chuck, in this particular case, we saw this young man shoot his mother in the head.  She dies.  She was buried this week in a private burial.  To the point that Ron made, you know you have a son with mental issues, and one of the ways – according to the reporting – that she sought to bond with him was to go to a gun range.

DR. WILLIAMS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  Then we find out that prior to this shooting, she leaves the home for a couple of days.

DR. WILLIAMS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  So, you have a mentally unstable son who spends a lot of time by himself, and now you leave the home, and he’s spending two or three days by himself. And he has ready access to those weapons.  To me, that’s a perfect storm for exactly what took place.

DR. WILLIAMS:  I agree with you, Roland.  You talked about using a holistic approach, and I think the President gets that, and I think that he’s going to be attempting to do that along with other folks, like the National Medical Association.  I’m a member of the APA.

Look, I have a joint faculty appointment in psychology and education.  Let me pull it together for you.  The reality is a lot of parents don’t want to talk about the issues that their kids face.  They’re in denial.  When I did school-based behavioral health for seven years, it was one of the greatest challenges I’d face.  I’d say, you know, “This kid got into a fight.  He smacked the teacher.  He’s hitting kids.  He’s not focusing.  He’s not sitting still.  He’s very anxious.  Your kid has a problem!

“Aw, you know, maybe he just needs,” you know, “a little rest, or needs some more time with his father.  Or, I’ll take the videogames out.”

I’m saying, “No.”

As my colleagues will attest to, these are serious mental health issues.  He needs to be treated.  That could include medication, as well as what we call the “talking cure” therapy.

But the other issue is this culture, again, that celebrates violence; and we don’t want to talk about that ’cause we all – I got a[n] Xbox.  I was playing it the other day, and I got some violent videogames.  Although I’ve talked about Quentin Tarantino’s movie with Jamie Foxx, I’ll probably see it.

MR. MARTIN:  “Django Unchained”?

DR. WILLIAMS:  Right.  So, all of these things that we enjoy – and the other, the gun enthusiasts – I don’t know if you are – you know, there’s a consequence that we have to pay for having this proliferation of these assault rifles.  I believe everybody has a right to hunt and to own a gun.  I believe the Second Amendment is sacrosanct –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

DR. WILLIAMS:  — in a lot of ways.  However, we don’t need people having assault weapons to go hunting.  It just doesn’t make any sense.

MR. MARTIN:  Jeff, I want to come to you on this one because – to piggyback on what Chuck just said – and I think this is what is missing in all of these shows I’ve watched week, all of this conversation.  I’m hearing all of these networks say, “We need a conversation,” but folks don’t want to have that conversation to say, “Okay, parents,” “Okay, brothers and sisters,” “Okay, aunts and uncles, here’s your role.”  It seems that we’re already trying to shift this thing to what kind of bill can be passed in Washington, D.C., how can we stop guns from coming in – when, at the heart of it, you, as an adult, play a role in terms of the gun coming into the home.

DR. GARDERE:  Absolutely.  So, let’s humanize this a little bit.  Everyone is right-on on this that, as parents, we have to take much more responsibility.  This mother who was killed by her son – I don’t want to victimize the victim, but certainly a very poor choice in trying to bond with her child with mental health issues with guns.  This is where we are in denial as to what is going on with our children.

But we also have to look at the reality.  Part of that denial is we don’t want to think there’s anything wrong with our children.  It’s the hardest thing that we can face as a parent.

And then we have to look at the other major issue, and my colleagues can attest to this.  When you have an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old young male who is now starting to develop schizophrenia – he doesn’t want to get treatment.  He doesn’t want to take the medications because of the side-effects.  And when he becomes uncontrollable to the parents because he’s getting older and getting much more rageful and breaking with reality, you try to get him into an emergency room – unless he is at that time a specific danger to himself or others, he will not be accepted into the hospital.  And if he is accepted, he’s there for two or three days because there’s not enough bed space.  He’s released.  He starts decompensating again, and the parents are tearing their hair out because they just don’t know what to do.  That’s a major issue –

[CROSSTALK.]

DR. GARDERE:  — we all will have to address as mental health experts and ramp up our game to address that issue.

MR. MARTIN:  Final comment, real quick.

DR. WILLIAMS:  Okay.  I was going to say this is about education, too.  We don’t know how to embrace kids who are different.  We treat them as outcasts.  They’re by themselves.  They take up all these violent thoughts, and then we have these massacres.  We have to be able to include.  Inclusive education is an answer, too.

MR. MARTIN:  Well, I’ll tell you.  We will certainly continue the conversation.  And, again, I want people to understand – you’re right – we’re not trying – you know, the mother … was shot and killed, and she’s a victim.  But I also say that when people say, “Well, the person who does it – they’re going to find a way to do it anyway,” and I’m saying, “You probably are right, but don’t make it easy.”

DR. WILLIAMS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  At some point, you can’t say – “I can’t have those weapons in the house if I know I have a[n] unstable child.”

DR. WILLIAMS:  Right.  [Crosstalk.]

Ron, Chuck, Jeff –

DR. WILLIAMS:  Thank you.

MR. MARTIN:  — we certainly appreciate it.  Thanks a bunch.