Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Killer, Hero... Dead

I learned of his death recently in the Time piece "Killer ~ Healer ~ Victim", where Mark Thompson glorifies Chris Kyle for his heroic actions on and off the battlefield. I would say somewhat rightly so, but it would depend on what you feel should be considered heroic.

It is tragic and sad that Kyle's life was cut short by Eddie Ray Routh, the man who gunned him down; the man that Kyle was trying to help. However, frankly spoken, I think we should be talking more about his recklessness for bringing a mentally unstable man to target practice. Even a retired Army colonel piped in that it seemed crazy to bring a troubled young man to a firing range.

My intent isn't to malign Kyle in this forum, but rather to question his decision-making processes and hopefully learn from this tragedy. I've not stepped into this topic very deeply or discussed it at length previously besides posting a few images on Facebook that reflect my sentiments, but this piece struck a chord for me. This story highlights the crux of the gun violence debate, specifically the ones that are the most devastating.

Routh was unstable. He had a history of steadily deteriorating mental health, battled with drinking problems and his inability to maintain steady work only compounded his situation. It was very evident that he had problems coping after his four-year stint with the Marines, one incident clearly demonstrating this was the attempt he made to kill his parents in September 2012.

As much as Kyle has been glorified for his past actions, privately and work-related, wasn't using some common sense in this situation in order? It would seem that he was a smart man, what with his history and all. Did he possibly just misjudge this situation or are we to believe that he just thinks that guns are appropriate in any and every situation? Either scenario tells me that there was something lacking in Kyle's critical thinking skills when he made the decision to bring Routh to the firing range.

We've all heard the suggestion that guns don't kill people, people kill people; at least the NRA and many of the loud gun owners proclaim this to justify holding onto their guns. Why did this exact line of thinking not cross Kyle's mind in this situation? How does bringing Routh to the shooting range for treatment, this potential killer with training and someone Kyle knew was mentally unstable, even become a viable option? How does Kyle not stop to think of the possible deadly outcome considering what he was aware of with Routh? It seems a little common sense was in order.

Guns do kill people, especially when we put them in situations that give them license to do so, and in this situation, it was obviously to Kyle's detriment. I understand that no one really knows what set Routh off and why he chose to act out the way that he did, but how did Kyle not stop to think that putting a gun in the hands of someone disturbed wouldn't make it all better??? Again, no common sense.

"Kyle was a killer who became a healer. How could he so suddenly be transformed again, into a victim?" He died because he felt that "shooting was a key part of the process of treating troubled soldiers. He felt this helped them be "treated like they men they are: equals, heroes and people who still have tremendous value for society." His heart may have been in the right place, but his head really needed to be there as well.

Yes, guns don't actually make the choice to kill someone; it takes someone to pull the trigger. But can we at least all agree that keeping guns out of the hands of mentally unstable people is appropriate and in the best interest of those around them. The disturbed might not be the best people to hand guns over to when we don't really know what they feel themselves capable of doing.

Can we use some common sense? Please?

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