A time to grieve, and a time to find common ground
December 19, 2012 12:24 AM | 1914 views | 4 4 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH US as a nation when 20 young children are massacred in their classroom — one in a long line of such travesties. It keeps happening, more often here than in any other supposedly civilized country in the world. And it has to stop.

What can anyone say? We could discuss the difficulty of dealing with mental illness when patients have been turned out of facilities or forego treatment because of budget cuts or a refusal of a family (or an individual) to admit that there is a problem. Perhaps we could expand on that subject, bemoaning the continued (and wrong-minded) stigma / shame / denial of mental illness — and why it is so hard for average people to get (and afford) help when it is needed for themselves or a family member.

We could talk about evil. Or hate. Or anger. Or fear. Or we could ask this: What can we do today that might offer at least a small note of solace?

We are not powerless, but finding answers and potential solutions will be difficult and drawn out. “Normal,” sane people do not commit mass murders. Restricting their access to firearms will do little or nothing to prevent future incidents like that we saw last week. As with most past gun-control efforts, such proposals punish the law-abiding without doing anything to protect them.

Rather, the common denominator in the wave of mass killings that afflicts us has been mental illness. We obviously need to update firearms laws as they pertain to those with mental illness, but even that is not as easily said as done.

For example, a mentally ill person can still legally obtain a gun in this country as long as he has never been formally committed to a mental institution or found by a court to be insane or incompetent. Yet on the other end of the spectrum, current laws prohibit those who have recovered from mild mental illness and are leading healthy lives from ever owning a gun. As the Wall Street Journal noted on Monday, “A single involuntary commitment for a severe eating disorder at age 20 will preclude a person from possessing a hunting rifle for the rest of his life.”

In addition, we cannot delay asking why mental illness so often goes untreated or “under-treated” and why these elements came together to so brutally attack an entire town’s hopes for the future.

It has been clear for years that the 1980s-era push to “mainstream” those with severe mental illness, rather than institutionalize and treat them (a push driven by both budgetary and misplaced humanitarian reasoning), was a mistake. As a result, our streets and jails are full of people who are dangers to themselves and those around them.

Another possibility is stronger laws requiring gun owners (especially those who have young children and/or mentally ill family members, i.e., Adam Lanza’s mother) to store their firearms securely when not in actual use.

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IN THE DEPTHS OF DESPAIR at what happened in a place similar to most parts of Cobb County — in which most people felt relatively safe — we must find a way to keep the conversation civil and ongoing.

For if we don’t do this now, inevitably we will have yet another tragedy to rage against, to report, to regret.

As the families of Newtown begin to bury their dead — the children and the adults who performed so bravely to protect them — we can be conscious of their sorrow, even in the midst of being lost in our own gratitude that our children are safe — at least for today.

In the coming days, as they continue the agonizing task of learning to cope with such loss, we can’t simply say it must never happen again. We must find common ground to work harder than we ever have before to make sure it doesn’t.

Comments
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East Cobb Res
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December 19, 2012
It is much harder to properly diagnose and treat a mental illness than it is to ban assault rifles.

As many other news outlets have reported Lanza was a seemingly normal kid - many of his friends/relatives never thought that he would do what he did.

Despite how hard the MDJ may try and push conversation towards "mental illness control" it is really about gun control.
CobbCoGuy
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December 19, 2012
@East Cobb Res

You are correct. It is much easier to pass gun control laws than deal with mental health issues and civil commitment laws.

But, we already know that gun control does not work.

Because, it didn't.
Kevin Foley
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December 19, 2012
Lanza's gun enthusiast mother had a mentally unbalanced adult son in her house along with these assault weapons: Glock, Sig Sauer, Bushmaster and high volume magazines. Where were the trigger locks? Where was the gun safe?

They have mentally ill people in every developed country. They also have sensible gun safety laws along with free access to healthcare, including mental health care. Thus, there are few if any incidents like the horror in Newtown. And Aurora. And Virginia Tech. And Tucson. And Columbine.
anonymous
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December 19, 2012
No, they just blow each other up with suicide bombers and blow their cities to pieces. Geesh, will you ever make sense?
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