If the Uvalde school shooting would have happened in ancient times they would have said the shooter was possessed by a demon. They probably would have said, after Uvalde and Buffalo and Sandy Hook and going all the way back to Columbine, that anyone resisting serious gun control measures and especially on the public sales of automatic weapons, was possessed by a legion of demons. But demons have gone out of style.
I know some people still believe in demons but not like they used to. In the first century, give or take a few hundred years, they believed that demons inhabited people, places, and things. Demons were everywhere. Folks didn’t exactly know what demons were but they knew they were dangerous, cruel, and up to no good. Nowadays people are more inclined to look at abhorrent behavior as the symptom of a mental health issue. Even so, some forms of social deviance and violent behavior can seem more plausibly pinned on demons just because they defy any other explanation.
In ancient Greek, the word for demon didn’t connote something bad or evil. It was more like a spirit or a muse, and could even be an inspiration from an intermediary between the gods and humans. But two centuries before Alexander the Great, the Persians introduced to Judaism the notion of supernatural evil. Demons came via the influence of Zoroastrianism and ended up in the later parts of the Hebrew Bible. All of which then influenced Christianity and Islam. But demons have at least one major down side.
If the shooter in Uvalde, or any other killing rampage, did it because they were possessed by a demon, then they aren’t responsible for it. Likewise, all the evil that comes from having lax gun laws and a culture that glorifies guns cannot be tagged to those who stand in the way of changing the laws if the devil makes them do it. Frankly, the notion that American gun violence can be fixed by spending billions more on mental health services strikes me as hoping for an exorcisms to cure the problem.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favor of pouring as many resources back into public mental health programs as possible. We ripped the guts out of it in the 1980s and are living with the consequences. Plus, the social plagues that instigate and exacerbate mental health problems are legion now compared with the relatively innocent days of Michael Jackson and Captain and Tennille. But lately the advocates of openly accessible AR-15 assault weapons and other demonic gun rights, have created a red herring out of mental health. The problem of gun violence, they say, is not enough mental health treatment options. More, we need more, so the crazies don’t shoot people.
Like I said, yes to more resources for mental health. Maybe it will even stop a few folks that otherwise might leak their own struggles out the barrel of a gun. But what about white nationalist militants? What about homophobic warriors or misogynistic haters? Are those mental health cases or demons? They are creatures of the social swamp, and whether or not we can do anything to heal their broken minds, denying them guns is the first and last answer to the problem.