Solutions To Gun Violence

by Ross Bishop

This may not go down easily, but let’s accept one thing, whether for protection or as a threat, the purpose of a gun is to be able to kill another human being. It has no other purpose.* Guns have become the focal point of a perfect storm in society. No other technology in human history has received the resources and attention as the gun. It is an incredibly sophisticated technology, attracting collectors, serious adherents and also those who would do harm to themselves or others. The gun is also the ultimate macho (power trip). And although guns do not kill people, a gun makes killing so easy as to make the distinction academic.

Another factor contributing to the storm over guns is our refusal to provide meaningful help to the many angry, depressed and otherwise troubled people who live amongst us. They range from depressed housewives, troubled students and business executives to ghetto kids who feel they have no future. Easy access to guns make the 33,636 lost lives each year (21,175 suicides and 11,208 homicides), a truly tragic loss.

The only way to ultimately solve the problem is to ban guns, as every other civilized nation has done. The facts are incontestable – homicides and suicides drop dramatically wherever guns are banned. It isn’t that suicidal people, for example, just find other ways, those suicides just don’t happen. Same with homicides. Guns simply make the taking of a life, your own or someone else’s, too easy.

Given the present tenor of the (dominantly) male gun population, an outright ban on guns is unlikely. But, short of that, there are several things that could be done to mitigate the lethality of the situation. Gun control itself is not an expensive or overly complicated proposition.

Attempting to identify and help prospective suicides, murderers and mass shooters is more problematic, from several perspectives. It would mean going to the person and saying in effect, “We think there is a high probability you might hurt yourself or others. Therefore we must . . . “ Although not unheard of in law, that approach is contrary to our basic approach to civil liberties, but given the increasing lethality of assault weapons and the tremendous number of gun suicides, we may have little choice but to change. It can be argued that we should be providing help to these people anyway, especially considering the $230 billion economic loss to society each year caused by depression alone, plus the $50 billion loss due to guns. Unfortunately, those costs don’t show up on any budget.

Probably the most significant change is that gun ownership needs to become a privilege rather than a right. Gun ownership needs to become more like having a car where the owner must be trained and qualified for skill and safety and the vehicle insured to compensate for accidents. But because of the special lethality of the gun, the mental stability of the gun owner will also have to be a consideration.

Although representing a small fraction (5%) of gun owners, the radical stranglehold on the legislative process held by the NRA (the mouthpiece for gun manufacturers, a $6 billion industry and the 131,806 gun dealers (4 times more than grocery stores) must be challenged. “Under (Wayne) LaPierre’s leadership, the NRA has not only dramatically expanded its ties to the gun manufacturers, but has also linked the NRA to the far right, including the Tea Party. LaPierre is a regular presence at gatherings of extreme right-wing groups, whose paranoid warnings about the threat of tyranny and Obama’s secret plan to confiscate all guns are meant to scare Americans into buying more guns and joining the NRA.


A 2013 Pew Research Center poll found that 85 percent of Americans support background checks for private gun sales, 80 percent support preventing people with mental illness from purchasing guns, 67 percent support the creation of a federal database to track gun sales, 58% percent supported a ban on semi-automatic weapons, and 54 percent support a ban on the sale of assault-style weapons. Pew also found that even 74 percent of households with NRA members supported stiffer background checks for private gun sales.

In addition, to the paranoid and irrational NRA, the limitations forced upon society by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the name of personal civil rights, severely restricts the ability of the psychological community and teachers, ministers, the police and other public officials from identifying troubled individuals for treatment and care. The ACLU’s zealotry concerning the involuntary confinement of the mentally ill, has simply gone overboard, and as a result, puts many of these people and society at risk. Today the only reason a person can be legally detained is if they pose an imminent threat to themselves or to others. The other “ticking time bombs” cannot be touched.

In order to address the problem of gun violence we must address three problems. They must be dealt with individually because they are not related – suicides, homicides and mass shootings. There is a fourth issue, the paranoia of gun owners, which ends up affecting the entire discussion.

Having easy access to guns in the home is a recipe for suicides, domestic violence, conflict with neighbors, accidents involving children, etc. Allowing guns on the street is simply asking for trouble from street gangs, criminals and self styled vigilantes. In order to deal with these problems, long standing myths about guns and gun ownership will have to be changed.

The first myth is that a gun provides protection. This is the psychological benefit that gun owners claim, but it is not born out by the facts. Although most research has been effectively blocked by the NRA, what research we do have, tells us conclusively that having a gun in the home does not provide protection against burglars or other intruders and it creates an incredibly unsafe environment for wives, children, neighbors and other family members.

Then there is the myth of concealed carry  - that civilians – even trained ones – will be competent to fire weapons in a crisis situation. This is simply not borne out by the facts. Witness the recent grandmother vigilante who shot up a Home Depot parking lot trying to apprehend a couple of shoplifters. Even the police, who are trained to deal with these situations, are not particularly effective when it comes to really doing it. Gun range practice doesn’t provide the training for the stress of a live shooter situation.

Mass murders present a unique set of dilemmas. It is literally impossible to single out even the prospective shooters, from the millions of angry and frustrated people who fit the profile perfectly but who will never pick up a gun. One must keep in mind that we are trying to pick out twenty guys from several million prospects.

If we are to do anything in this regard, and this will be hotly contested, we will have to sweep through society with a fairly wide dustpan looking for troubled people. Along with the merely depressed and angry we would identify prospective suicides, homicides and shooters. From one point of view this would be a good thing, because you could then provide help to many troubled and hurting individuals, but as I said earlier, it raises a host of civil rights issues. Actually, more importantly, it raises questions about our social infrastructure, which we have been unwilling to address.

Given these considerations, I wish to propose a set of compromises. These will not present a significant inconvenience to law abiding gun owners and will reduce (not eliminate) gun violence. Otherwise gun owners risk facing the prospect of an outright weapons ban. The compromise is that owners get to keep their guns but must accept some restrictions on their use and sale. Gun ownership will not be a  right per. se., but rather a  privilege, which will be regulated.

There is no right or privilege that is absolute. We have freedom of speech, but you still cannot yell “Fire,” in a crowded theater. We set restrictions on who can drive a car, regulate drinking, cell phone use, speeding, reckless driving. We set manufacturing safety standards and require the use of seat belts. Drivers must pass competency tests, have good eyesight and know the rules of the road.

A few vocal gun owners are going to howl. These are the paranoids. The problem really isn’t about guns but on any restriction to, “their freedoms.” These people live in “a never-never land” of no restrictions, and given the increasing lethality of guns, society can simply no longer tolerate their unrestricted access and use.


1. Guns Will NOT Be Licensed.

Licensing will not prevent gun problems and is an unwelcome intrusion into the lives of 99% of gun owners who are otherwise responsible people.

2. Gun Owners Will Be Licensed.

In order to have a gun, just like driving a car, the owner can either demonstrate proficiency or take a gun safety class. In addition, all gun owners will be required to pass an examination for mental stability (see below). Fees for this license will be used to offset any costs of the program. There will be fingerprint verification.

3. No Civilian Guns Will Be Allowed On The Street.

(Hunting, target practice areas and gun stores to be excepted.)
 This an attempt to reduce homicides. All civilian guns are to be kept at home, not in cars. There will no longer be concealed or open carry. Guns may only be transported under secure lock and key (not just a carry case). There will be extremely harsh punishment for any person found in violation of this regulation.

3. Guns Kept At Home Will Be Unloaded and Stored In A Gun Safe.

This is to reduce suicides and accidents. If you are going to have a gun, you buy a safe to keep it in. Proof of safe could be made a requirement of a gun sale. The present designs of trigger locks are inadequate and can actually be dangerous if a gun is loaded. More effective locks, (perhaps built in at manufacture), need to be developed.

4. Gun Owners Will Be Required To Have Liability Insurance.

This is to provide compensation to victims of accidents and homicides. It is also wise for gun owner’s in order to reduce their liability.

5. All Gun Sales Are To Be Registered And Reported Through A Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL).

We must control the flow of guns to both potential felons and  the mentally troubled. That is done in part through the regulation of all sales. The logical place to do this would through FFL (gun stores), but that industry will have to be cleaned up first. There are some stores who make a huge profit selling guns illegally. Undercover investigators in NY reported that 62% of gun stores would have made illegal sales to unqualified buyers under even the present regulations, which are insipid, to say the least. There would be HUGE penalties (felony) for unlicensed sales and for “straw man” third party sales.

The role of the FFL would be to verify the conditions at the time of sale or transfer. This could easily be done at gun shows and gun shops for individual sales. The FFL would be responsible to verify the weapon’s authenticity, and certify that the buyer has liability insurance, safety training and background verification as well as administer the mental proficiency test (see below). Some states  already do this with car registrations and sales. A transfer fee could be charged to offset any costs.

6. All Gun Buyers (Or Recipients) Would Be Required To Pass A Background Check.

Background checks would be comprehensive. The present NICS system (managed by the FBI) would be enhanced. States and municipalities would be required to report convictions for violent crime, domestic violence, drug and alcohol violations, animal cruelty, gang conviction, DUI, property crime and other felony convictions. The results of mental stability tests (below) would also be recorded.

In addition, therapists, psychiatrists, ministers, teachers, police officers social workers and other public officials would be required to report individuals that could potentially represent a danger to themselves or to others, cases of serious depression, anti-social behavior, violence and gang activity.

7. Anti-Depressants and Guns Will Not Be Allowed To Coexist.

Proscribers of any anti-depressant would be required to report the prescription to the F.B.I. and to inquire as to the availability of guns in the home. Proscribers will withhold prescription until all weapons were surrendered to the police or to a secure facility outside the home.

8. Test For Mental Stability.

 All owners of guns would be required to pass a test of mental stability, under the auspices of the NICS and administered by the FFL. The instrument, available over the internet would be designed to identify high risk people (homicide, suicide, shooters) to disqualify them from gun ownership. Cost would be covered by a nominal transfer fee. This would not be 100% effective, but would serve as a partial solution.

This is going to raise significant civil rights issues because many people who would be disqualified would never resort to violence, but under the circumstances, given the increasing lethality of guns, would seem a reasonable precaution. Whether or not this information should be funneled into the mental health system is another matter for debate. There would be an appeals process.

7.  All Gun Thefts Must Be Reported.

8. Institute For Gun Safety

A national organization, under the authority of the NICS would be created to conduct gun safety classes and to promote gun safety generally. A research institute would also be created to study and disseminate technological enhancements to gun manufacturers and recommend gun safety legislation in order to make guns safer. This group would be responsible for the development of the mental stability test.

*For the purposes of this proposal I am separating guns from rifles Especially rifles that are designed for hunting. Because assault weapons are intended for killing people, I am arbitrarily categorizing them as guns. I will leave it to someone else to develop a better definition.

copyright © Blue Lotus Press 2015

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Mental Illness

by Ross Bishop

When they pick through the ashes of Western Civilization, along with its its many accomplishments, historians will note four major failures: First will be it’s greed driven ethical corruption; second it’s failure to protect the environment; third the treatment of criminals and the fourth will be it’s disregard of the mentally troubled.

The ethical and moral corruption in this society is so pervasive that it will probably bring the society to it’s knees. And there are many people involved in the environmental fight, so they don’t need my voice, (although they have been steadily losing ground for the last 20 years). Dealing with crime is an important issue that I will address in a future article. But today, I want to address a topic that receives little attention and is in desperate need of it – our treatment of the mentally troubled.

The truth is, we don’t know what to do with either the mentally ill or criminals and we have not been willing to provide meaningful help to either group. We wash our hands of both by turning them over to “experts” who give the mentally troubled ones drugs and shut the violent ones away, leaving the rest to get by in city tenements or freeway underpasses.

There is nothing new in this, we have been locking up the mentally ill along with other social deviants like criminals and debtors since before Dickens’ time. And if we were to seriously address the “problem” of the mentally ill, it would require a fairly significant shift in our cultural priorities – like maybe forgoing a couple of extra jet fighters, but a society’s values and practices can be extremely difficult to change.

We used to have mental hospitals, but they were expensive and ineffective dinosaurs that provided little more than warehousing for the mentally ill. And they had little political clout, making them easy targets for legislative budget cutters.

The thing is, in the shamanic world, what you call “mental illness” we view as a spiritual crises involving the birth of a healer. From the shaman’s point of view, the person involved in the crisis has been chosen as a medium for a message from the spirit realm but has been caught in the incompatibility between that world and this one.

There has been a long history of people having mystical experiences, and then becoming “Weller than well” as Dr. John Weir Perry puts it. Many of those people have gone on to use their visionary insights, newly found drive and focus to create great social reform for the benefit of all. Dr. Joseph Polimeni notes that,“In most traditional societies those persons who were overcome by hallucinations in young adulthood were more often than not destined to become shamans.”

In cultures around the world before western civilization, the idea of schizophrenia as a disease was, quite simply, non-existent. The assumption was that a person experiencing the challenges known in modern times as a psychosis was in fact experiencing things that were real, but could only be perceived by those who were similarly gifted. Consider what Joseph Campbell said, “The schizophrenic is drowning in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight.”

In the shamanic view, what the person needs is not drugs or hospitalization, but help and support from the community to help resolve their inner conflict. In tribal society if someone presented with symptoms we would call psychosis, the people would send them for training with someone who had learned a level of mastery over the sensitivity that once overwhelmed them.

Phil Borges notes that “Then they have a mentor; they have somebody who has been through this process that can take and hold their hand and say, ‘Listen, I know what this is all about and this is how you manage it.”

What happens in this society is that people get caught up in the conflict between the message form the spirit world and the values of this culture – what they have been taught, the social rejection they receive, ideas about what’s real, what’s right, scientific beliefs about spirits, cultural morays, rationality and the “right” way to live. Then of course, there are their own fears and anxieties. And so it’s no wonder that what comes out is a mess!

We take pity on these confused and lost souls and give them Thorazine, Semap, Fluanxol or Risperdal to suppress their “symptoms.” Then we try and talk them out of their visions with “counseling therapy.” In Western culture, psychic abilities are generally denigrated and treated as a side-show curiosity, anyway. And yet, some of these people, even in the midst of their conflict, can produce remarkable works of art.

When allowed, with guidance, these people passed through their crisis and went on to lead lives without relapse into psychosis. Instead, they lived a more fulfilled existence than if they had never gone though their temporary break with conscious reality. The key here is that in these instances the person was allowed to complete a process that Western medicine labels as a sickness which must be medicated.

A Rwandan elder commented to writer Andrew Solomon:

“We had a lot of trouble with western mental health workers who came here immediately after the genocide and we had to ask some of them to leave. They came and their practice did not involve being outside in the sun where you begin to feel better. There was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again. There was no sense that everyone had taken the day off so that the entire community could come together to try to lift you up and bring you back to joy. There was no acknowledgement of the depression as something invasive and external that could actually be cast out again. Instead they would take people one at a time into these dingy little rooms and have them sit around for an hour or so and talk about bad things that had happened to them. We had to ask them to leave.”

First off, consider what do we do in this culture with people who do get the message, who do get it straight. We marginalize or ignore them. We often treat them as if they were crazy! Consider the messages these people carry when it does come through with clarity. Maybe, “Don’t kill each other,” or “Love one another,” “Don’t pollute the earth,” “Love yourself,” “Don’t kill the animals,” “Don’t lie,” or maybe even, “Treat each other with kindness and respect.”

Joseph Campbell and John Weir Perry point to the emerging myth motif that appears repeatedly in modern people’s “madness” as being centered on a compelling concern for the earth, our sacred home that has been likened to Gaia, a living organism that births all life that we are in the process of destroying. Is that really so crazy?

Consider that virtually every scientist and every scientific organization on the planet has been screaming for years about the dangers of global warming – about the threat to millions and millions of people, about the extinction of wildlife and the death of the oceans – and we have done and continue to do – nothing. As Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

What do we do with these messages and the messengers? We ignore them. You can ignore the guy on the soapbox in Lincoln Park, but consider what we do with the messages from Babaji, Lao Tsu, The Pope, Moses or even Christ! We don’t want to hear what they have to say! We are not ready to love each other, forgive other’s transgressions, feed the starving or heal the afflicted. But we can’t exactly lock these teachers up, so we do the only thing we can, we ignore them!

It is both ironic and sad that in this society we give those who speak the truth, no power, and those who have power, get to keep that power only so long as they do not speak the truth. Consider the ways that Pope Francis, who is not crazy, is being marginalized because he proffers traditional, populist (Christian), non-capitalist, ideas.

Our culture is seen by those outside of it as being self-destructively mad and actively endangering the survival of the planet. And if you really think about it, who is really crazy? Pope Francis or the CEO of Monsanto? Moses or the Chairman of Lockheed? The Buddha or Dick Cheney? Christ or Wall Street Bankers?

The problem is that the message these teachers and so many others bring simply causes too much conflict with the values of capitalism. Doing what they suggest would require massive changes to our social order. (Changes, by the way, that things like global warming are going to bring anyway, but with much greater force and disruption!)

We say we don’t know how to help the mentally troubled, but that’s not true. People in tribal societies all around the planet successfully deal with these problems all the time. They have done so for centuries. But you say, “How could those little dark skinned people who run around barefoot, live in huts and hunt with blowguns, know more than our university trained, Phd’d psychiatrists?” Well, they do. Thousands of years of dealing with these situations has given them considerable insight into how to manage them.

I’m going to simplify a rather complex process by just saying that when I visit a mental ward I “see/feel” the severe conflict between the external energies and the internal constraints that are driving the patients “crazy.” “Going crazy” is the only alternative these people have, given the impediments placed upon them by society. If they could be brought to understand the nature of their internal conflict and taught how to work with it, these otherwise valuable people could be returned to society!

Dr. Malidoma Somé is of the Dagara tribe of Africa who has been Western educated, straddles Western culture and his African heritage. Dr. Somé took a young man named Alex, an 18-year-old American, who had suffered a psychotic break when he was 14, had hallucinations, was suicidal and experienced cycles of dangerously severe depression,(create an image in your mind of what this poor guy must have been like), back to his Dagaran people for help.

After eight months of support and realignment with the Dagaran, Alex had become “quite normal.” He was even able to participate with the Dagaran healers in their healing rituals. . . . Alex eventually entered graduate school in psychology at Harvard. . . Alex opens a window to what could be possible if we would only get out from under our historically unsuccessful approaches to dealing with the “mentally ill.”

In the 1980’s there was a treatment center in California called Diabasis, founded by some leading experts in the alternative psychiatric movement. Diabasis showed real promise using traditional methods to help treat the mentally ill. The AMA, conventional psychiatrists and the drug industry went absolutely apoplectic over the concept, which is remarkable, considering the incredibly failure rate of the existing system.

Finland has adopted a similar concept to Diabasis, called the Open-Dialogue program. Schizophrenia diagnosis rates have plummeted in Finland, as cited in Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic.

Solutions? Contract with the tribes of Africa and South America to take in and treat our mentally ill. We could use the help and they would appreciate (I think) the money. And we’d return thousands of people to useful, progressive lives. The only problem then is that then we might have to actually listen to them.

Please see the Agnews study, the Soteria research, and other research on medication-free treatment. John Bola has written several articles summarizing this literature, and one of his articles a few years ago set off a firestorm of debate in the academic psychiatric community and in the pages of the New York Times because it challenged the practice of prescribing antipsychotics.

copyright © Blue Lotus Press 2015

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Gun Violence

by Ross Bishop

The facts are that wherever guns have been banned the number of homicides and suicides drop markedly. Where guns are legal, homicide and suicide rates are higher – a lot higher, supporting the premise that although guns do not kill people, they do make it a great deal easier.

In 1996, after a mass shooting in Australia, lawmakers tightened gun laws. From “The Journal of Public Health Policy”: “The firearm suicide rate dropped by half in Australia over the next seven years, and the firearm homicide rate was almost halved,” (from a column in the NY Times by Nicholas Kristof).

Although they receive publicity because they are sensationalistic, there are about 20 mass killings every year in this country, and that has been true for decades. Every year there are about 100 to 150 victims of mass murder. And that is not to take anything away from how terrible and tragic these events are, but those numbers pale in comparison to the 11,000 homicides and 21,000 gun suicides every year. And added to those totals should also be the 84,000 non-fatal injuries that occur from guns. That’s where the real gun problem is.

In his NY Times column, Nicholas Kristof went on to point out that, “More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on the battlefields of all the wars in American history.


Regarding homicides, the problem is that a gun is the great equalizer. A gun in the hands of a dwarf makes him a giant. It gives him great power. And, if that dwarf happens to be extremely angry, a little mentally imbalanced, holding a grudge or is a drug dealer fighting a turf war, people are likely to die. Last year, eleven thousand people to be exact. In countries that ban guns, that is a rare occurrence.

Regarding suicide, a gun just makes it too easy. Slitting your wrists is painful and messy, jumping off a bridge is too public and pills make you sick. With a gun, it’s pull the trigger and you’re dead – 21,000 times last year. Where there guns are banned it isn’t that people find other ways, it’s that those suicides simply don’t happen.

In defense of of gun owners, the vast majority – like 99% of them – aren’t going to do anything stupid. That’s why they resent calls for the abolition of firearms. The situation is analogous to Richard Reid trying board a plane with a bomb in his shoe. Because of that one guy, now everybody has to take their shoes off at the airport.

But, until it happens to their family, gun owners live in denial about the combination of depression, guns and the likelihood that anything will happen to them. They simply refuse to accept that they or a spouse or one of their children may be driven over the edge to commit suicide. But it happens, 21,000 times a year! What’s interesting as I said, is that where guns have been banned, suicide rates decline precipitously.

The profile of gun owners differs quite a bit from the general public. Although they comprise only 32% of the population, white males are 61% of gun owners. Roughly three-in-ten (31%) whites own a gun, which is much greater than the rates of gun ownership among blacks (15%) or Hispanics (11%).

Gun ownership is a Republican thing. Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to own guns. The third of Republicans who own guns compares with just 16% of Democrats. While 37% of all adults identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, that proportion jumps to 51% among gun owners. This would fit with the somewhat more paranoid profile of Republicans generally.

And this is a very important point, because half of gun owners say the reason they own a gun is for protection. Although research does not support this belief, in fact, having a gun in the home makes the household a far more dangerous place, the belief, no matter how irrational, must be recognized. It makes gun owners feel safer.

In addition to all this, there is a small, lunatic fringe of gun owners who wave guns around to emphasize political ends. Guns feed the machismo and feelings of powerlessness of para-military, white supremacist, Promise Keeping, Nazi, Ku KLux Klan, Tea Party types; some of whom are dangerous, but also fairly identifiable.

A member of the Oath Keepers walks with his personal weapon on the street during protests in Ferguson, Missouri on August 10, 2015. The Oath Keepers organization says its members all former military, police and first responders pledge to "defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic." The night ended with over 10 arrests for disorderly conduct. St. Louis County declared a state of emergency Monday following a night of unrest in Ferguson, after a teenager was charged with shooting at police officers. The order was issued as an 18-year-old was charged in connection with a shootout in Ferguson August 9th after a day of peaceful protests marking the first anniversary of the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. AFP PHOTO / MICHAEL B. THOMAS (Photo credit should read Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)

Then there are the mass shooters. There will be few in number – maybe 20 of them this year. But confounding researchers, it is maddeningly difficult to separate one person from the millions of other disaffected souls who fit the profile perfectly, but never go on to kill.

“There are certainly a lot of people who have a lot of things go wrong, and they’re not committing mass murders,” said Mary Muscari, a forensic nurse at Binghamton University in New York who has researched mass killers. But when it comes to most mass killings, psychosis is not an issue. “Even when you look at mental illness, most people with mental illness are not violent,” she went on to say.

Many mass shootings are motivated by revenge or envy. Most mass killers have suffered some kind of chronic depression and frustration. That’s why many take place at a school or a workplace where the shooter felt rejected.

They externalize responsibility, blaming everybody but themselves for their failings. There are cases of psychosis, especially schizophrenia where the victims are indiscriminately targeted because the killer believes that everyone is against him. The shooter seeks revenge against everybody.

There may be personality problems involved. But for the most part, the pathology is situational, something just horrendous happens; catastrophic, as viewed by the killer, and he decides to get even. However, very few mass killers, including school shooters, actually snap. They don’t go berserk. Most of them are methodical. They plan this event, sometimes for months. They’ll take time to gather the weapons and the ammunition. At Columbine, for example, the planning took 13 months. And that’s not unusual.

These killers often exhibit risk factors that are generally tied to criminal behavior rather than mental illness – a history of abuse or ineffective parenting, a tendency to set fires or hurt animals, a sadistic streak, and self-centeredness and a lack of compassion. In most cases the killer lacks any compassion or empathy for his victims, instead seeing them as symbols of something he wants to obliterate.

Overwhelmingly, mass shooters are men. Our culture and media through violent movies and video games and stories of Wall Street banksters, reinforces the notion that manhood is about attaining power, social and sexual status. Violence is glorified as a way to get that power. Kids, especially ghetto kids, feel very powerless to begin with. The one way they can feel like they’re somebody, that they’re a man, is to get a gun and make money selling drugs. We offer few alternative models that are as appealing.

Mass shootings also hold the potential to spawn copy-cat murders as other would-be shooters see stories about the crimes in the media, and want to emulate them.

What to do? We really are dealing with three problems: homicides, suicides and mass shootings.

The best first step would be to ban guns. In America that is not likely in my lifetime, but it needs to happen. We could help the situation (a bit) by banning the sale and manufacture of military style assault weapons, large ammunition clips and “cop killer” ammunition.

Since it is almost impossible to identify the shooters in most of these situations for a host of reasons, a wise approach would be to become proactive and cast a wide net to identify troubled people generally and offer them help. They could be provided assistance, counseling, group therapy – whatever was needed to help them reduce their level of anger, depression and frustration. Could we get everyone? No. But we could significantly reduce the boiling point of society, save some lives and probably deal with a host of related problems along the way.

Would it be expensive? Yes. It would require a re-ordering of social priorities, to the tune of about one new aircraft carrier. Would it be worth it? That depends on the value you place on 33,000 lost lives and the monumental first responder expense, cost of courts, prisons, etc. Another way to look at this is to consider how much these people – not just the fatalities and their families, but the millions of other troubled souls we could also help, cost the society every year already? Prevention is always cheaper.

Our educational system cold also do a great deal to help the situation. Instead of being stuck in a 17th century model of teaching math and science, schools could teach young people social skills like having a relationship, raising children, conflict resolution, dealing with depression, money management, non-violence, dealing with disappointment, anger management and self-esteem, to name just a few. But that’s not likely to happen either.

Regarding the overall cost of these efforts, there’s a false economy at work here. When you scrimp on inner city schools, cut back social services or medical care for the underprivileged, reduce outlays for food stamps, cut drug counseling, provide no job training or job opportunities, and send what few decent jobs there are overseas, you save in one budget but the cost simply gets transferred elsewhere – like to the police or prisons – where costs are much higher. But what may be even more important is that you take away any hope for the future or any pathway out of the personal darkness that the underpriveledged acutely feel. You imprison them in a maze with no hope of escape. Doing this virtually guarantees socially deviant behavior, a high crime rate and an illegal drug trade with all of their attendant costs to the larger society.

(See: Gun Ownership Trends and Demographics, Pew Research Center, 2013)

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2015

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Having Compassion

by Ross Bishop
In every moment life presents you with a choice – either move to compassion or close down from fear and anxiety. To take the opportunity and face your fears or remain imprisoned by them. The choice is yours.If for example, if you think you’re not worthy or inadequate, you won’t respond harmoniously to the situations that life presents. You won’t take risks. You’ll avoid healthy relationships or attach to other people in unhealthy ways.

You’ll shrink back, rationalize away and avoid opportunities – professionally or personally – where you might otherwise succeed.

You’ll be afraid to get hurt, you’ll hold back, you won’t step in. You’ll take refuge in your ego. You won’t go for the brass ring. You’ll settle for the plastic ring covered with tin foil.

We call that having a problem.

The Universe tries to make you aware of what you do so that you both won’t hurt others, but more importantly to make you aware of the unfinished areas of your consciousness. It does this by creating “friction” both inside yourself and between you and others when you do not move with grace.

Let me be clear, I am not talking about the substance of the issue. That can always be negotiated or dealt with. What I am referring to is the emotional charge you place on whatever is happening. The anger or fear you experience is not a part of the situation, you brought it in, and you can take it back.

The origin of your insecurity comes from from the belief that you are not worthy of God’s love. Many years ago you made an agreement with God to come to earth and work on your fears and vulnerabilities. Your loss of memory was built into the process because without that, your ego could not surface.

So you have forgotten, and because you have free will, God can not interfere. As a result, part of you feels like God abandoned you or maybe even kicked you out of heaven. And when you believe these things, you then have license to not step into the God Space – to not fully participate in life.

Beliefs are stand-ins for God’s truth, crutches for a wounded ego. And as I said, it’s what you have to do when you decide to live from your ego instead of the God Space.

Now, that’s not a failing on your part. The process we call life was designed to do exactly that – to surface your unresolved ego issues. After all, you’re not good enough! And those beliefs become so ingrained that you think they are who you really are!

Now, your response is whatever it is – there is no right or wrong here. But when you withhold or are unkind, you are going to get a reaction from others, and you’ll feel it inside, too. That energy is the energy that will eventually create change.

Your beliefs will cause you problems until you let them go and embrace the truth of who you really are. That’s the bargain we all make with life. And, until you’re ready to make that step, you will just have to accept a bumpy ride. And your beliefs will be your “baggage.”

There is an old Zen saying, “The obstacle is the path.”

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2015

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Your Shadow

by Ross Bishop

(Excerpted from “A Shaman’s Path To Inner Healing,” a fourteen part video series to help you with your own healing, to be released the fall of 2015:)

Let’s talk for a moment about pottery. A potter will tell you that there are small defects in every pot or cup. Tiny weak spots that over time and use will grow, eventually causing the pot or cup to chip or fracture when it is bumped or dropped. Now when this cup is cracked, it’s cracked.

Flaws in your behavior aren’t like that. They can be fixed. You can change! Those cracks, those places you see as flaws – where you do not move in harmony with life, are places for your growth. They are the places God is going to use to help you to become more whole.

Today you have beliefs that get in your way and prevent you from living in The God Space. But the thing is, You cannot be the things you believe – like being unworthy or unlovable.

You can feel that way, but that still doesn’t make those feelings true. It only means that you have them. But those cracks have become your reality, your truth. You view them, or at least treat them, as permanent.

And, it is those beliefs that get you in trouble, because they control what you do.

So you work very hard to compensate or cover over your “imperfections.” You see, we don’t heal our “imperfections,” we try to cover them over, compensate for them, or otherwise hide them so others won’t see them. Your “imperfections” are places where you don’t dance well with life. And they are what you have come to earth to work on.

If I were to drop you onstage into the middle of a performance of “Swan Lake,” you’d feel pretty foolish. 


It isn’t that anything’s wrong, you just don’t know the steps, you haven’t been trained and you haven’t practiced. You might never become a prima ballerina, but that’s a different matter.

It’s the same with life. When confronted with a certain kind of situation, you become frightened, you withdraw because you don’t feel like you can do the dance. That vulnerability makes you focus on the cracks in your cup for fear that someone will see your flaws and expose them.

Someone left you with the impression that you couldn’t dance. And that’s the problem. It isn’t that you can’t do it, it is that you have been convinced that you can’t.

It isn’t that you are unlovable or unworthy, either, it ‘s that you believe you are. Your version of the truth (the cracks in your cup), the belief that these are permanent flaws, keeps you from being open to other possibilities.

And so long as you believe that you are defective, you have to operate as though you were. You must protect yourself. And that leads to all sorts of complications, making it difficult to work on what you came here for – the transformation of your consciousness from the ego space to the God Space.

If you loved yourself you would know that your cup couldn’t be cracked. You would know that there wasn’t even a cup at all . . . You would be free of the burden of needing the acceptance or fearing the disapproval of other people.

Wether we are talking about family problems, a relationship beak-up, alcohol abuse, success at work, problems with your kids, or personal feelings of alienation and worthlessness – all of these issues spring from the belief that you are not worthy – believing that the cracks in your cup are not only permanent, but fatal.

The thing is, those fractures – those “failings,” are purposeful. They are intended. They are what God is going to use to help you to grow into something more than you are today.

God wants you to heal your misunderstandings not so that you can perfect your cup, but so that you can transcend it and become something more altogether.

In summary, you are not who you believe you are. Today your behavior does not reflect your true self. You make mistakes, we all do, but that’s not who you are either. It is just what you do when you feel scared and need to protect yourself.

Sooner or later you will come to understand that there never was a Boogie Man under your bed.

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2015

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Your Flaws

by Ross Bishop

(Excerpted from “A Shaman’s Path To Inner Healing,” a fourteen part video series to help you with your own healing, to be released in the fall of 2015:)

In spiritual circles ego gets kind of a bad rap. It’s true that it insulates you from your real feelings and inhibits real intimacy, but it’s doing these things for a reason – to protect you from situations you haves deemed to be too threatening.

The alternative to the ego is to be a place of compassion, what I call “The God Space.” Now that’s a great idea except that it means being totally open – vulnerable. And most people just aren’t ready to go there, yet.

But the thing is, you cannot be in the ego and hold The God Space at the same time. The two are incompatible.

So life is a learning arena for the transition from the ego space to the God Space. That’s why there is nothing permanent here except your learning. Life is a process to help you move from fear-based self centeredness to a safer place where you can move to a compassionate, more inclusive, “we” based perspective.

That transition means coming to terms with your beliefs, looking into where they came from and how they keep you from enjoying life. The applies especially the beliefs you hold about yourself.

When you leave the realm of compassion and replace it with the self-protective and non-loving feelings that originate in the ego, what we shaman call your shadow, you are hiding behind a mask.

Now the ego is tricky. I see some people, for example, who say they love their partners, and I am sure they do to the best other ability, but they are really trading – compromising what they need – in order to have what passes for a relationship. This is because they feel that they don’t deserve to be loved, fear what real intimacy would ask of them and because they fear rejection.

But it’s not the real thing. But because it’s all they have ever known and because they are unable to be as vulnerable and open as real love requires, they call this substitute, love. But it’s not. And they end up cheating themselves and their partners.

Let’s look at where that comes from.

The one who holds your emotions and therefore drives your needs, is your inner child. This is where your emotions reside, where your feelings and fears originate.

Now for those of you that are saying, “I’ve worked with a psychologist and I’ve done inner child work,” or think you know what that is, let me say that you don’t. Psychology doesn’t come anywhere near where we are going to go.

And emotions are very powerful forces, so the upshot is she controls virtually all of your power. And as we will see shortly, she does not live in the same world you do. You get to balance your checkbook and decide where you want to go for dinner, but when it comes to an emotionally charged situation, that’s her territory.

When you live in the world of ego – of not love, you feel vulnerable. You must build defenses to protect and hide the part of yourself that feels unworthy or unlovable.

As I said, you must live behind a mask.

We all do it, but doing it is sort of an exercise in futility. We think there is this defective and vulnerable place we must protect, but in truth, it isn’t there! It isn’t real! It doesn’t exist.

You cannot be unworthy or unlovable. But, you can believe you are. And that’s the great struggle of not just yourself, but of all humanity.

Every person on earth, every person you see struggles with these same issues. Perhaps not all in the same way, but they are all driven by the insecure feelings of unworthiness and unlovability that you struggle with.

By contrast, in the God Space you feel safe and secure. You have nothing to hide and nothing to hide from.

A magician’s illusion appears mysterious until you understand the deception. For most of us, life is like that. A mystery that is filled with emotional upheaval.

It is a mystery because, caught up in our fears, we are unable to see the bigger picture. As a result, we fail to understand what’s going on.

Now if I look at you, I am going to see what God sees – a beautiful, special being. One who has problems from time to time for sure, but a beautiful and special being, nonetheless.

But when you look at you, you are going to see something different. You will see flaws, cracks, imperfections.

You may see some good things, but there will also be the shame and guilt from the things you’ve done, the mistakes you’ve made, the too heavy thighs, wrinkles around your eyes, the emotional scars left from your divorce, your issues about your sexuality and your regret about some of your decisions.

You see these things as the result of flaws in your being, as defects of character. It isn’t that these don’t exist, they are real, but they aren’t permanent.

But most importantly, they are the product of what you have come to believe about yourself, not who you are. Beliefs are built from fear, who you are comes from the God Space.

And this is The Great Misunderstanding that plagues humankind.

God sees your beliefs as places where you have gone because you were scared, not because you were flawed or defective. She knows the perfection of your soul. And She also sees the beliefs that cause you to hide out in your ego space.

The difference is that God sees these places as opportunities for you to learn and grow.

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2015

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Your Beliefs

by Ross Bishop

(Excerpted from “A Shaman’s Path To Inner Healing,” a fourteen part video series be released in the fall of 2015)
Life is a process designed to help you make the transition from of the ego space to to the God Space.

The ego is a protective system designed to keep you out of situations you fear will embarrass or expose you. And as long as you believe you are defective or unworthy, you’ll need that protection.

The inner child is the seat of your emotions and your beliefs, especially as they relate to unlovability and unworthiness. Your beliefs protect your inner child’s vulnerability and therefore can be very difficult to give up.

You cannot possibly be the things you believe, but as long as you hold those beliefs you must act on them, and that’s the rub.

The reason this all is important is that your beliefs drive your behavior. As long as you have beliefs, there will be “flaws” in yourself that you must protect. Because after all, we act as we believe.

When you live from your beliefs, from your ego, life becomes about a lot of coping. Coping with pain, coping with failure, coping with your “inadequacies,” making compromises to have a career or be in a relationship.

I want to be clear about something: This business of life is not about becoming something different than you are. You don’t have to change anything, except what you believe – especially about yourself. Once you shed your beliefs then your natural self can shine through.

But, that means leaving the security your beliefs provide, and that can be very anxiety producing.

Your inner child’s fear is that if she lets go of her protection, she’ll just be trampled underfoot, that she’ll just be swallowed up. That’s how it has felt in the past, and this is where your presence becomes critical. She needs to know that you can and will be there to love and protect her.

There are places where you get scared and act out of fear, but that is not who you are, it is just how you sometimes act, but you are reluctant to challenge your beliefs because that would upset the careful balance you have created between your beliefs and whatever level of truth you have come to accept.

It’s sort of a tightrope walk, where your equilibrium can be upset at any moment. God is asking you to get off the tightrope and take wing and you’re saying “I’m afraid to let go. I am afraid to take the risk. What if I can’t fly?”

And so long as you believe that you can’t, you can’t. And you’ll need your ego protection.

Believe it or not, at the level of your soul, all this earthly commotion actually makes sense. It is not only purposeful, it is necessary. Your flaws, your problems, will motivate you to find a different way to do your life, leading you to the God Space, to greater compassion. So, learning to love is the outcome, the final product of this process.

Now, making a big life change is pretty scary. But, know what’s even scarier?


copyright © Blue Lotus Press 2015

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By Ross Bishop

Masks. What are yours? We all wear a few. You probably wear one for social occasions or dinner parties, one for meetings, another for friends, possibly one for your relationship. Or, maybe you just put on one and it never comes down . . . The question is – “Why do you need them?” Why can’t you just be yourself?

The answer is that you believe you have have something to hide. Who you are isn’t “good enough.” There is something you are reluctant for the world to see. Defects. Inadequacies. Holes in your being. . . You’re not lovable. Not deserving.

And so long as you believe that, you must try to conceal your “defects.” You become afraid of being found out and condemned so you retreat into your ego for protection. The truth doesn’t matter. Your behavior is driven by what you believe (especially about yourself). And thus the masks.

Your behavior is not perfect, but your behavior is driven by your beliefs. But that is not who you are. It’s what you do when you fear being exposed. If you knew who you really were, there wouldn’t be an issue. There would be nothing to expose!

Your behavior can be changed, once you resolve the beliefs that drive it. You came to earth to resolve the vulnerability that leads to your beliefs. And those vulnerabilities are exposed in childhood. That gives you the rest of your life to work on them.

That’s the way life works. This is not done to punish or to condemn, but to make you aware, to give you the opportunity to resolve – to heal – your vulnerable places.

You can’t be unlovable, you cannot be unworthy, but so long as you believe you could be, in addition to tearing yourself to pieces, you are capable of doing selfish and unkind things to others.

And there is no room for that in heaven.

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2015

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Standing On The Curb

by Ross Bishop

There you stand. Things haven’t gone as you had hoped, so you don’t want to turn back, because that just means more of the same. Yet taking that step into the street gives you pause. It means stepping into the traffic where you might get run over. Remaining on the sidewalk is unsatisfactory, but it’s familiar. The cars are very powerful and they don’t care who you are, they’ll run over anyone. You feel a bit lost and alone.

The street is different than the sidewalk, the rules are different, unfamiliar. If you mess up, the consequences could be severe. But there are mosquitos on this side of the road. And they harass and bite you. You could stay where you are, but it’s going to be uncomfortable.

You tried to cross the street when you were a child and were severely rebuffed. You were told that the street was a scary place, filled with cars and potholes and pain. Mom and dad made sure you realized the consequences of going there. They hadn’t crossed the street either. It was too scary for them.

Those memories are with you today. And so you retreat back into your safe and secure sandbox, comforted by its familiar boundaries and harmless play.

And yet, there is this force, this urging, pushing you out of your complacency. After all, the sandbox was fine for a child, but as an adult it is rather confining. And how long can you go on making sand castles, anyway? The voice urges you to leave the comfort of the sandbox and cross the street. How do you know this voice is real? How can you trust it? After all, you cannot “understand” it! You must learn to trust your heart. It knows.

Eventually after interminable delays and a couple of feeble attempts to cross on your own, you raise your gaze and realize that someone has already provided a way across the road. There exists a way, a crossing. All you have to do is push the button and the cars will stop.

But what if you don’t have permission? Other kids crossed with their parents, but you are alone. What if you screw it up? What if you are found to be unworthy?

When you look into it, you find that the signal button doesn’t care who pushes it. It works for everyone. Others use the intersection to cross, why not you? After all, you are as worthy as they are, and that signals a fundamental change in your belief. . .

You must be willing to push the button, but when you do, everything changes. The busy intersection changes into a zone of relative safety where the cars allow people to cross.

Even with the signal in your favor, it still takes courage to step into the street. But reinforced with the knowledge that others do it, still scared, you step boldly into the unknown.

When you get the other side you look back and realize that crossing the road, which seemed so challenging before, really wasn’t such big deal after all. Except that everything has changed . . . And then you realize, it wasn’t about getting across the street, it was the journey.

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2015

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Am I Worthy?

by Ross Bishop

As I travel I frequently hear things like, “I don’t feel lovable,” “I don’t feel good enough” and the classic, “I don’t feel worthy.”I would imagine you have had similar thoughts. It is part of the human condition.

Life can feel pretty unfair. There is pain and suffering, people get hurt. There are street gangs, political corruption, wars, religious intolerance, drug abuse and corporate crime. We try to live better, we really do, but life can be such a struggle!

I can understand why some people think there isn’t a God. After all, how can a loving God subject his children to so much pain and unhappiness? From the outside at appears that we are here on our own, struggling against life (and not making a lot of headway). . . . Unless, of course, all of this serves some higher purpose. . .

First, let’s straighten out a couple of assumptions: God doesn’t determine the events of your life. You do. Nor does He decide how you will respond to your dilemmas. You do that too. There is pain in life, but you determine your response to it.

God established the basic rules for life, and they are as follows: Live in the God Space (love, compassion) and be at peace. Live out of fear and self-doubt and be in pain. The choice is yours.

But you are driven by forces that overwhelm you, that take you over. It hardly seems like you have free will at all! That’s because your emotions (your fears) are driven by your frightened inner child. You are not in control of things. He or she is. And he or she a powerless and frightened 4 year old, struggling to survive in a scary world of more powerful adults.

The pain in life isn’t there to punish. It is to nudge you to move you out of complacency and in the direction of the God Space. It is so that you won’t settle for less than you deserve. And the more you resist surrendering, the more pain there will be!

Let’s talk about that higher purpose I mentioned. There is a place in you today that can be moved to fear and uncertainty (your inner child). That is because you do not appreciate nor understand the beautiful and special being that you are. She feels unworthy, unlovable and inadequate. Get pushed on and you wilt or move into rigid resistance.

God wants you to be more secure with yourself. He needs you to not retreat into ego and fear when challenged, but to stand in the truth of who you are. He needs you to be able to stand up to the winds of self-doubt and shame and say, “I know who I am, I cannot be unworthy or unlovable.”

Perhaps this is only done for your own good or it may be that you are to serve some higher purpose. Whichever it is, that is the reason you are here. That is why you have come to earth and why you share in this remarkable experience of life.

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2015

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