At the core of these atrocities lies an issue that we continue to overlook and underfund as a nation. Can the will of the American people finally assert itself following the death of innocent elementary school children at the hands of yet another mentally ill individual?
The issue open for debate in light of the recent mass shooting at Newtown, Conn. is how do we stop such senseless killings. The two schools of thought are stricter gun controls or its countervailing approach, more guns to prevent such people from carrying out such heinous acts. The second option in my opinion is ludicrous because it ignores the central problem I think we’re dealing with here and opens the real possibility of more people getting killed. The first option can address part of the problem by reducing the firepower these mass killers employ in their rampages but it also fails to fully incorporate what is behind these senseless killings – mental health issues.
Ira Chernus, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has rightfully noted that the part of these senseless killings we seem to ignore and are not hearing enough about is how to address the mental illness in a society that has cultural values tied to gun ownership and rights.
It’s too bad that we are so individualistic. We don’t have the cultural traditions that would let us see both gun ownership and mental/emotional disturbance as societal facts, as manifestations of what the community as a whole is doing.
So we go on letting individuals arm themselves to protect their individual rights and freedom, or so our national myth tells us. (Illinois just became the 50th state to allow citizens to carry concealed guns.) But we tragically underfund and ignore societal programs to help the mentally/emotionally disturbed, because we simply don’t see any relationship between them and the rest of us, or so our national myth tells us. SOURCE
Nearly two years before Prof. Chernus made his comments, Dr. Ken Duckworth, a Harvard professor, psychiatrist and medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) told the nation following the shooting of Congresswoman Gabbi Giffords and 19 others in Tucson, Arizona that “What you have is an obvious need for more capacity in the mental-health system.”
I think we can all agree that people who commit such crimes are suffering some sort of mental imbalance. Current law provides for a back ground check which includes a record of mental illness but these laws are too weak and allow many people to slip through the cracks. In nearly all of these tragic circumstances we learn too late that there were people close to or associated with the shooters who had a sense of what they were capable of if the right triggers were set off. But of course our resources are severely limited to help all people with mental health issues and there currently is no way of knowing what small percentage of them are on the threshold of killing innocent people.
The gun advocates always like to remind the rest of us that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. And though this is absolutely true it is equally true that mentally unstable people with guns kill more people easier. A perfect example of this was the recent incident in China that happened the day before the slaughter of innocent children and some adults in Newtown.
On the other side of the world and just hours before 20 children were gunned down in a massacre in Connecticut on Friday, 22 children were the victims of a vicious, similar-minded attack at a Chinese elementary school by a man wielding an 8-inch knife.
Just as brutal and as nonsensical as the murders at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, the incident in Henan Province, China had an outcome that victim’s families now mourning in Connecticut are only wishing they could share.
The sliver but potent aspect of good news? As of Saturday morning, none of those 22 children attacked in China had died from their injuries. SOURCE
It’s hard to argue with the reality of these two situations. Clearly had the individual in Henan Province had the same tool of destruction that Adam Lanza did in Connecticut, those 22 Chinese kids could have well suffered the same fatal end that those at Sandy Hook Elementary School did. Had an effective law been in place that would limit the types of weapons that individuals in this country can easily purchase, fewer people may have lost their lives. But how could this situation perhaps been avoided altogether? The answers lie in knowing when people like Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Jerod Lee Loughner and Seung-Hui Cho, to name a few, are likely to play out our worst fears.
There of course is no fool-proof way to establish this and in this latest horror it appears Adam Lanza used weapons that his mother owned rather than any he purchased himself, like shooters in other mass killings. It’s been reported that she had legally purchased five weapons. In a 60 Minutes report last night, some friends of the mother shared that Ms. Lanza was a target shooting entusiasts and had been raised with guns on the farm she grew up on. In this particular case at least it appears that deadly weapons in the home were not adequately secured, especially with someone who suffers emotionally. The fact still remains however that if we had a better way of preventing mentally unstable people from being eligible to purchase guns, they would not only hurt fewer people but may be stopped from hurting anyone at all, including themselves. How? Let’s go back to something I said earlier.
“In nearly all of these tragic circumstances we learn too late that there were people close to or associated with the shooters who had a sense of what they were capable of if the right triggers were set off. “
In this most recent case we have Adam’s brother Ryan telling authorities that his younger sibling had a history of mental problems. In that same 60 Minutes report, we learned from those friends of Adam Lanza’s mother that he had Asperger Syndrome. A condition not anymore prone to make mass murderers out of people but something that should play into a parent’s decision to own multiple deadly weapons and keeping them safely secured. In the Aurora, Colorado shooting we had discovered that there were three mental health professionals at the University of Colorado that James Holmes attended who were aware of his poor mental state. After being kicked out of Pima Community College, the parents of Jared Loughner were warned by campus police that his behavior was so disturbing that he would need a mental health evaluation before he was allowed back. This warning came about a month and half before Loughner purchased the 9mm Glock pistol used in the Tucson Arizona shooting.
How much sense does it make where a background check also requires that three individuals are willing to vouch for the mental health of any potential firearm purchaser – a parent or close relative, a close friend or work associate and either their family physician or a school counselor? I think it makes perfect sense. These references could furnish, through signed affidavits affirming and to the best of their knowledge, the purchaser‘s mental health qualifications. Failure to find three such sources would serve as a deterrent to selling individual’s deadly weapons, especially if the threat of serious fine or imprisonment to the seller accompanied this part of the back ground check.
As a back-up to this, all references would have to provide a valid phone number where they could be reached and understand that authorities would be calling to confirm their assessments of the purchaser. A trained professional could ask questions that are associated with a profile of such shooters provided them by psychiatric professionals who have researched such mental health problems. This practice could further assess through nuanced questioning if the reference provider had any qualms about their support for the purchaser.
In order to lawfully possess a firearm in Canada, it is necessary to have a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL), which allows for the possession and acquisition of a specified class or classes of firearms. PALs are issued by the RCMP CFP.
Two references must … be provided on a PAL application. It is not necessary that these references be from Canada. However, they must have known the applicant for three years or more, and must sign the form. A spouse cannot act as a reference.
Spouses or conjugal partners who have lived with the applicant in the previous two years must sign the application form (or proof provided that they were notified).
The fee for an initial PAL is $60 for non-restricted firearms. It must be renewed every five years. SOURCE
There of course would be the misguided outrage by staunch defenders of 2nd amendment rights aimed at such a requirement but as one observer noted following the shooting in Newtown, “The Second Amendment does NOT guarantee the right of any and all citizens to own any and all kinds of guns. It DEMANDS, in the name of national security, that we regulate it. … The slaughter of small children along with teachers, a principle and so many other innocents was the furthest thing from James Madison’s mind when he wrote the Bill of Rights.” It is in the face of such opposition that the public volition, needed to pass effective gun control legislation, must stand fast.
The arguments by deficit hawks in Congress and state legislatures that the cost to implement such standards are too high along with the small government zealots whose ominous warnings about “government overreach” must not cower those who claim outrage after every senseless mass shooting and then allow nothing to happen to stop them in the future. For all of the reasons some can find to do nothing, there are now 27 more reasons why we should.
The tragic event at the Sandy Hook elementary school was the 62nd mass shooting over the last 30 years. 31 have been school shootings since Columbine in 1999 and eight have occurred in 2012 alone.
This country will not change over night into countries like Japan, Great Britain and other western developed nations who have fractional gun killings compared to what we experience here in the U.S. They achieve this by serious laws that limit firearm ownership, especially assault weapons that one would expect large metropolitan city police or military units to have.
But we can take needed steps to insure that fewer people with serious mental health issues who currently slip through the cracks don’t wound up with deadly weapons and go on a rampage killing high numbers of innocent men, women and children. There is simply is no excuse to ignore this social disease any longer. We need to demand it for ourselves and our children, and a non-commitment from our political leaders should be unacceptable.