By coincidence, the attack in Chattanooga took place on the same day James Eagan Holmes was
convicted of first-degree murder
in the 2012 massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, which left 12 people dead and many more wounded. While jurors rejected Holmes' defense that he was legally insane at the time of the shooting, there is little question he suffered from some kind of mental illness -- just like the killers at
and so many other places.
Why we focus on racism and jihad more than guns in some shootings, but guns more than mental illness in others, is something of a mystery. Severe mental illnesses like the ones involved in those shootings are difficult to address, no doubt. But their existence is no more intractable (and arguably less so) than the scourges of racism or jihad, or the prevalence of guns. If we reluctantly accept that terrorists or white supremacists will find some means of killing the objects of their hatred, it is hard to believe schizophrenics would be held in check without access to an arbitrary list of certain firearms. It's a kind of national schizophrenia on our part that we recognize it's the motive, not the means, in some cases but not others.