A Homicide Hotline

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With the high number of violent deaths in our country, Joan, 32, decides to interview some folks to get their opinions. She is troubled that whatever prevention is being done is not having noticeable effect.
Microphone and recorder in hand, she approaches a man standing at a corner in downtown Chicago, as he waits for the light to change.
Joan – Good afternoon, I’m doing research and would like your opinion…
Man – Sure.
Joan – Yesterday, across the nation, according to gunviolencearchive.org, 26 people were killed in the United States, have you thought of what we could do to lower that number?
Man – That is a lot of people. You googled the figures?
Joan – Yes, this morning. It may be higher by now.
Man – The first thing that comes to mind is, start with the family… teach the children to have good manners, to learn to listen to others… to not insult anyone… to bear your pain. I think that’s very important, to learn to bear our pain, because everyone has pain, but your pain is your pain, you can talk about it with another person, just don’t give it to them or anyone else.
Joan – What do you do for a living?
Man – I’m a bus driver, it’s my day off.
Joan – Thank you for your time.
Man – You’re welcome.
Joan – Do you use that thinking in your work?
Man – Oh, yes. Some people come in the bus in a mood, cursing, disrespectful… not all the time but I get my share. I think to myself, they’re having a bad day… who knows what just happened to them. So I’m patient, but sometimes it’s too much and I have to step in, because of the other riders, you know. So I address them politely but firmly. If they blow me off or carry on, I call the police.
Joan – How long have you been a bus driver?
Man – Fifteen years.
Joan – You like it?
Man (smiling) – I love my work. Getting people to where they need to be.
Joan – Do you think that having a homicide hotline would be helpful… an 800 number people could call if they felt like killing someone.
Man – Hmm. That’s a thought… the challenge would be to get people to trust… I mean, with technology today, the caller may be hesitant because they’d be afraid of being tracked.
Joan – Good point. I don’t have an answer for it. My theory is that, for many people, these feelings start small and because they’re not addressed, then they grow stronger over time before they get ready to pull the trigger. That’s the population a hotline would be targeting.
Man – There might be a technical solution so they’re not afraid of being tracked… but getting to homicidal impulses when they’re hatching, that makes sense to me.
Joan – Good.
Man – Still, if the caller has to give personal information to talk to someone, that will inhibit them.
Joan – An ideal homicide hotline should not require any personal information or the identity of the intended target. The caller would be connected to someone who listens to them and gets right to the heart of the matter. ‘Why do you want to kill this person? How long have you been thinking about it? You must be very angry, I can help you with that. Anger can be managed. You’re doing the right thing to talk about it because there are ways to deal with it… and spare your life as well as the other person’s.’
Man – Cool. Are you working for a foundation or something?
Joan – No, I’m studying anthropology and thought of doing something to stop Americans from killing each other.
Man – Would you propose it to the government, to get funded?’
Joan – I’d like to first reach out to the private sector… like the National Rifle Association.
Man (laughs) – It might work.
Joan – I’m looking to do a pilot program, staff it with volunteers…
Man – Really… I’d be interested… like on weekends… you’d have some training, right?
Joan – Of course. And I’d be glad to consider you for the job.
Man – It’s not the same but I deal with a lot of people on the edge, so I think I could help.
Joan – I’m sure you could.

Smiling pause.

Joan – Well, thank you for being so generous with your time. I’ve held you long enough. Please write down your name and number so I may contact you in the future when I get this off the ground.
Man – Homicide hotline, here we come!
Joan – Get right to it.
Man – Anthropology… I remember reading about an anthropologist, a woman, Margaret Mead.
Joan – Yes, she had a distinguished career.

He writes down his name and number in a piece of paper and hands it to her.

Joan – Thank you.

They shake hands.

Man – Tom Oliver. Pleasure meeting you.
Joan – Joan Mead. Pleasure meeting you as well.
Man – Mead… any relation to Margaret?
Joan – Spiritual.


Guns and Mental Health

Is mental health a determining factor in shootings? Of course. But how are we going to go about addressing it?

We can’t force anyone to seek the benefits from mental health treatment. No, you have to persuade, you have to entice, you have to educate about the great healing possibilities that it offers.

Let us imagine an advertisement attempting to reach a possible shooter. “Dear sir, if you have a lot of guns and are piling up on ammunition and knives, you may be very angry about something that went wrong in your life. There is no point in giving your pain to others that have nothing to do with your own. Why hurt them? Why hurt the innocent? They have their pain to deal with, like every human being has. So please come to your neighborhood mental health center and ask to speak to a therapist. We will do what we can to help you find peace in your heart and not ruin your life. Please come see us.”

Will the person seeing or hearing such advertisement pick up the phone right away and make an appointment or go straight to the address listed?


The person will take their time thinking about it, if he does at all, or will likely say, “It’s probably a ruse, a trick to take away my guns. Anyway, I can’t imagine anyone being able to help me with all this misery that I’ve been going through all of my life.”

But mental health treatment can help the person heal if they show up. If he shows up and stays in his seat, stays in the room and interacts with the person sitting across. And it will take time. Time. Which is what we don’t have.

To get us the precious time we need to reach these troubled souls we must put limits on gun purchases.

To get us the time we need to treat our fellow Americans seething with murderous rage we need restrictions on access to guns.

We need limits and restrictions on gun purchases until we find ways to educate our citizenry, ways to instill in them that no one should give their pain to others, that each person has to learn to process their own distress, and until we do so, having free access to guns is a prescription for endless suffering.

Yes, mental health is an issue. But are you willing to consent to every prospective gun owner getting a mental health screening?

I don’t think so.

So we need time. 

To all gun lovers in the land, please give us that precious time, and you will be acting responsibly to prevent the cowardly slaughter of our fellow citizens.