‘US police not trained to deal with shell-shocked veterans of foreign wars’

Armed police officers are shown during a standoff where three officers were shot by a suspect in Palm Springs, California, U.S. October 8, 2016 © Sam Mircovich
Mental health issues in the US are spreading due to declining economic prospects and because you have thousands of returning military veterans, says Gerald Horne, author and historian. These factors in a society awash in guns are dangerous, he added.

Two police officers were shot and killed in Palm Springs, California on October, 9 while responding to a domestic disturbance call. A third officer was reported injured by the gunman.

Police arrested the suspected killer after an hours-long manhunt. The suspect was identified as John Hernandez Felix. He will be charged with two counts of murder on a peace officer.

According to Palm Springs police chief, one of the officers killed was Jose Gil Vega, a father of eight, which was supposed to retire from service in December and the second one was a 27-year-old Leslie Zerebny, a mother of two, who recently returned to the police service and leaves a 4-month old baby.

RT: This happened in a quiet neighborhood in a prosperous resort town. Is that surprising?

Gerald Horne: Not at all. First of all, you need to realize that the US has a violent history. This country was found upon the enslavement of Africans and the dispossession of Native Americans and that required massive violence. Number two, the US is a society that’s awash in weapons. By any conservative estimate there are more hand guns in this country than there are people. That is to say more than 330 million. Number three, it is clear that the US police authorities are not sufficiently trained to handle people with mental health problems, which is a particular problem in light of the fact that mental health issues are spreading in this country not least because of the declining economic prospects for so many people in this country and not least because you have thousands of returning military veterans who are shell-shocked from the wars that they participated in in Iraq, in Afghanistan, etc. And therefore the police are now trained to deal with such individuals and that has an impact on the entire society. 

RT: This is allegedly a case of mentally unstable person with access to a firearm. Are we going to see the usual calls for tougher gun controls?

GH: In your dreams. The fact of the matter is is that one of the most powerful lobbies - not only in Washington DC, the federal capitol - but in state capitols from the Atlantic to the Pacific, is the lobby that prevents any kind of sensible gun control. We are not only talking about manufacturers of weapons. We are talking about the hunting lobby. We are also talking about ordinary citizens who are arming themselves because from their point of view they foresee the society deteriorating and they want to be prepared - as they put it - when that prospect arrives. So, I don’t think that any sensible gun control will be coming down the pike any time soon.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.