The epidemic of gun violence in the United States has happened once again and shifted an atmosphere of happiness to one of hatred. On Nov. 7, “college country night” at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California turned into a crime scene after a Marine veteran opened fire, killing 12 people before turning the gun on himself. It was the 307th mass shooting in the U.S. this year, according to Gun Violence Archive.
The massacre might have seemed more likely to happen in a state with lenient gun laws. This time, however, it happened in California, a state with gun regulations.
Authorities identified the gunman as Ian David Long, a 28-year old Marine veteran who had a history of mental illness. He was cleared by a mental health specialist after an encounter with police earlier this year. The mass shooting changed the lives of all involved.
Telemachus Orfanos was a survivor of the deadly mass shooting that took place in Las Vegas just 13 months earlier. He was present at the Thousand Oaks shooting too. This time, he did not survive.
In an interview with CNN, his mother, Susan Oranos said prayers are the last thing she needs.
“I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts. I want gun control and I hope to God nobody else sends me any more prayers. I want gun control. No more guns,” she said.
In recent years, many mass shootings in the U.S. have been blamed on mental health issues. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been a common diagnosis.
PTSD is a mental health condition that people can develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-altering event like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident or sexual assault, according to the National Center for PTSD.
Sgt. Richard H. Miller is a Vietnam war veteran who suffers from PTSD. Miller admits that not everyone with the condition is able to maintain mental stability. He believes the experience of combat is directly related to the condition, but emphasizes that it is never an excuse for mass murder.
“Anyone who has been in combat has PTSD. No question about it,” Miller said. “During the Vietnam war, they just shipped you back home and that was it. A lot of guys have PTSD, including me. I have 60 percent and I have seen four psychiatrists.”
Miller said assisting with the transition from combat to civilian life should be made a priority, the same as preparation for combat.
“We see a lot, but the government says we didn’t see anything,” Miller said. “Programs are necessary. The transition, it was never addressed. Off you go. You get your papers. You’re honorably discharged and that was it.”
Louis Whatley, a Richland college Counselor said moral injury may also be a psychological factor that haunts former serviceman and women.
“Let’s say you’re against shootings and killings but you go over and you’re trained to shoot and kill, and then you come back and you’re injured from that stand point,” Whatley said. “Your moral [position] is that you don’t kill and then you come back and you’re considered a killer and they struggle with that.”
Whatley acknowledged that he is against making excuses for the actions of those who would commit mass murder.
“A lot of people blame an instrument and I am totally against that because it takes a thought or action or something through your brain to go and pick up something and do something with [it].”
Whatley said that the educational training for future mental health professionals should be centered not only around civilians, but include those who have seen the unimaginable during combat.
“I think that people that go into psychology and counseling need to be very much trained about our men and women that come back from combat,” Whatley said. “We need to be ready. I think that the graduate schools that are pumping out a lot of these psychologists, these social workers, these psychiatrists, need to be ready for the men and women in combat and they have not been.”
The Richland College Counseling Center is staffed with licensed professional counselors available on a walk-in basis in the Lakeside Resource Center, El Paso Hall, E082. It is open Mon-Wed 8 a.m.-7 p.m. and Thurs-Fri 8 a.m.-5 a.m. Phone: 972-238-3771.