Montana Politics

Justice Nelson: It’s Not a Mental Health Problem

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Written by James C. Nelson

James C. Nelson is retired Montana Supreme Court Justice who served from 1993-2012.

I am sick and tired of politicians’ knee-jerk, go-to excuse for mass murders—i.e. that the perpetrator is “mentally ill” or “mentally disturbed.”

The people who commit the redundant massacres in America’s schools, work-places, and entertainment venues have, time and time again, proven to be, fundamentally, gun-nut narcissists, often, evidencing white-supremacist beliefs. While most would conclude that any person who would commit such a crime must be crazy, these murderers have shown themselves to be cold, calculating, architects of violence and mayhem. They plan their crime; they buy their guns; they execute their plan–and their intended victims; and they do it for the thrill of the kill, the publicity and the glory.  Blaming this conduct on mental health issues is a cowardly, sanctimonious, and hypocritical way out.

If our elected officials—from the President on down—sincerely believe that mental health problems are at the root of this epidemic of bloodshed, then they would surely devote whatever resources and money are necessary to excise this societal cancer.  But they don’t.  Rather, actual mental health problems are kicked to the curb and down the road along with homelessness, hunger, poverty, and inadequate health care—as just so much social detritus.

Indeed, if this country’s elected and appointed public officers and jurists truly want to do something positive and effective to stanch the recurrent slaughter of innocent children and other citizens, they would name the problem, they would own it, and they would act, instead of pontificate.

To begin with they would agree that the Second Amendment was never intended to be absolute. And, they would recognize that the First Amendment was not written to guarantee an absolute right of free political free speech grounded in the fallacy that money and speech are one and the same. They would accept that the President and the Congress are in the pockets of the 1/10th of 1% super-wealthy. They would attest to the fact that not a single one of them has the guts to stand up to the NRA. They would acknowledge that they are ovine, partisan sycophants, who talk the talk, but refuse to walk the walk.

And, then these politicians and jurists would approve and adopt effective laws and procedures to keep weapons of mass destruction and military-grade weapons designed only to kill people out the market. They would quit groveling before the altar of the NRA and big money. They would spend what is necessary to make our society and its institutions secure and safe from the glory-seeking gun nuts that kill for the fun of it. And, they would spend what is required to adequately fund mental health programs and start to cure the multitude of other real ills of our society.  If our “leaders” were truly serious about this carnage, they would start acting, instead of just blabbering self-righteous drivel.

And, if they don’t (and they won’t), then we the voters must act and kick them to the curb.

Jim Nelson

Montana Supreme Court Justice (Ret.)

Helena, MT 59601

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