Like most columnists the plan for me had been a happy Christmas column on this last publication date prior to Christmas Day.
That changed last week. When the news hit the airwaves about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., I was saddened beyond words. As the information revealed 20 kindergarten students had been shot by an apparently deranged 20- year-old male one of my first thoughts was, “There are mothers, fathers and grandparents who have bought and wrapped Christmas presents that are sitting under the Christmas tree which will now go unopened by those who were supposed to get them.”
How does a parent deal with that? Losing a child is bad enough. Losing one to an act of senseless violence is unthinkable. Losing a child in that way just days before what should be one of the happiest and festive times of the year is beyond imaginable.
Then there are the six adults who were also victims of the shooting. Their families have to face a joyous holiday with grief that I cannot fully grasp. A young man, who from all accounts was troubled, took guns from his mother, killed her and then went to a school where he killed 20 innocent children and six adults who were charged with educating and protecting those children. How could this happen?
Although there was immediate reaction from the gun-control crowd across the country, there were also professional people who were standing up and telling us that it wasn’t the guns which were responsible for the carnage, it was a young man who had mental problems who had gained access to legally purchased guns.
And these were guns that were bought legally in a state with some of the strictest gun laws in the United States.
Some national news media outlets actually focused their attention on the men-
tal health problems of the shooters in the these incidents of mass killings. CBS’ 60 minutes had a lengthy interview with two men who had conducted a study which investigated mass shootings and the people who perpetrated them.
Robert Fein and Bryan Vossekiul, both former members of the Secret Service, said a big part of the problem of preventing such tragedies as the one at Sandy
Hook Elementary is a lack of reporting the actions of the shooter prior to the incident.
According to what they have learned, there is a pattern that these shooters follow prior to them resorting to their violent acts. Going to a shooting range and practicing is one of the actions they learned shooters do. And that is exactly what the shooter in Newtown did. He was taken by
his mother, who knew he had mental problems.
A forensic psychologist interview on ABC Wednesday, as well as two other medical professionals on Fox News, said the problem lies in the mental health condition of the shooters in the incidents in Newtown, the theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado, the Arizona shooting where Congresswoman Gabby Gifford was wounded and other such incidents. These three men all agreed that until we as nation come to grips with the necessity to treat mental illness with the same
type of aggressive actions which we treat physical illness we are going to keep facing these types of crimes.
In this country a person who has cancer, heart problems, serious injuries or other life-threatening maladies receives the best care possible and usually in a timely manner concurrent with the degree of illness.
Those with mental health problems, however, often languish on the sidelines. Either they or their family are ashamed or unwilling to admit they might have mental problems. Or, as is often the case, medical insurance companies refuse, or severely limit, coverage for such problems.
We, as a nation, must demand that mental health issues be handled in the
same manner as any other disease and treated accordingly. We must recognize the symptoms associated with mental health problems and take appropriate action.
Only then can we hope to stop or at least curb these crimes. Adam Lanza’s mother knew her son had mental problems, but, apparently, she never sought help for him. Why that is we probably will never know. If she had, this nightmare might never have happened.
The knee jerk reaction and supposed quick fix is to pass a new law banning the
sale and/or possession of what some people refer to as assault rifles. That will not solve anything, other than to cause further division in this country.
As much as some people like to disagree, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is there to protect our citizens from being taken over by a tyrannical government. Our founding fathers were as concerned about that aspect of our new nation as they were about anything. It is not just about hunting or self protection. The framers of the Constitution never intended to limit the citizens’ right to bear arms to non-military weapons. It is an over-used and simplistic statement, but guns do not kill people… people kill people. And mentally ill people with access to guns have proven that point time and again.
Kerlin’s roots go back generations in south-
western Fayette County. He’s a regular colum-
nist for this newspaper.