Tomorrow, December 21, will be one week since the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Seven days, 168 hours, 10,080 minutes, and 604,800 seconds would have passed and for me and the nation, it has remained in our minds for much of that time. They started to bury the victims this week, the children and the heroic teachers.
Many people ask why, but the answers are quite simple. It’s understanding them that are hard. A mentally disturbed 20 year old man was given full access to an arsenal of military style weapons by his mother, although law abiding in her gun-loving, was incredibly irresponsible in allowing such access and essentially training her son to be a killer. That is a toxic combination which leads to tragic results. Assault weapons are weapons of mass destruction. They’re not for hunting animals, they’re for hunting people.
How you get these WMDs out of mentally disturbed people’s hands is again quite easy, by simply banning their manufacture, sale and ownership. To get the guns out of circulation the government should offer no-questions asked buy back programs. There should also be a ban on high capacity magazines. Again, that’s for people hunting. The Second Amendment gives people the right to bear arms, it doesn’t give them the unfettered right to bear any time of weapons they want just like the First Amendment doesn’t give people the right to yell fire in a crowded theater, threaten to kill the president, or own child pornography.
Dealing with the mental health issue is a bit more complex. Many states have cut funding for services and facilities, and psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers are woefully underpaid and, thus, make it a more difficult career paths especially with the skyrocketing higher education costs. So what we have are services and psychiatric institutions that are underfunded and understaffed and the goal is to shepherd the mentally ill out of the programs as quickly as possible so more can come in. The general rule is that “throwing money at a problem” never works, but in this instance it might.
I’m speaking from experience here as someone who has personally experienced the tragic outcome of gun violence and whose wife works in the mental health field. Solutions are out there. Do we, as a nation, have the courage to find them?