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Opinion

Opinion

Editorial: Call to action

Curbing gun violence in American will require a multifaceted approach.

December 18, 2012

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The shooting deaths of two police officers in Topeka Sunday evening provided a tragic local connection to the 26 shooting deaths on Friday in a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

In both cases, the apparent killer also is dead. Law enforcement officials will try to piece together the circumstances of both incidents while government officials, mental health authorities and others try to come up with ways to prevent what has become an all-too-common scenario.

The horrible fact that 20 of the shooting victims in Newtown were 6 and 7 years old has provided new incentive and urgency to trying to stop the cycle of violence. One of the first reactions from government officials is to renew effort to control gun ownership across the nation. Reducing the number of guns, especially high-powered assault weapons, could have a positive impact, but the issue of gun violence in America is a complex problem that requires more than one approach.

One is to deal with the kind of mental illness that often drives horrific incidents like the one in Newtown.

After Friday’s shooting, a mother and writer from Boise, Idaho, shared a wrenching online account of life with her 13-year-old son who already is exhibiting frightening symptoms and behaviors. A few weeks ago, after she asked him to return his overdue library books, he pulled a knife and threatened to kill his mother, then himself. Police officers came and took him to the hospital emergency room but there were no beds in the mental hospital so they sent him home with a prescription designed to treat psychotic conditions.

The mother readily admits that her son’s problems are too much for her to handle, but because many state-run treatment centers and mental hospitals in Idaho have been closed, the only advice her son’s social worker could offer was to get her son charged with a crime so “the system” would “create a paper trail.” How desperate must a mother be to take that advice concerning her high-IQ, sometimes loving son?

Unfortunately, there probably are families right here in Kansas facing a similar dilemma. State hospitals have been closed in recent years, and it’s extremely difficult, especially for people with limited financial resources, to find in-patient mental health care. We can’t keep using our jails and prisons as a substitute for mental health facilities.

Many experts also wonder about the impact of our violent culture on people who may already be predisposed to violence. Video games and many movies and television shows glorify and normalize violence in a way that may make it somehow more acceptable to someone who has trouble controlling his or her emotions and discerning the difference between right and wrong. As a society, maybe we need to re-examine our “entertainment” values.

We applaud the commitment of officials in the wake of the Newtown shootings to “do something” about gun violence in America. It is a challenging issue that won’t be easy to solve, but the tragic deaths of six educators and 20 young children certainly should concentrate our attention to the task.

Comments

Centerville 1 year, 3 months ago

Liberals just want everything to be 'well-regulated'. No thanks. Ask the Germans in 1933 how all that 'well-regulating' turned out.

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Milton Bland 1 year, 4 months ago

Holleywood is as much the problem as the NRA. My understanding is that most teachers in Israel carry guns in the classroom. And that seems to have worked for them. But why don't we start by limiting the violent games and movies. It is interesting that there is such a political outcry to do away with guns, but the heavly Democrat Hollywood producers do nothing about reducing the violence they promote. If one can learn anything from our history, we should study the 1950's. We prayed to God in the classroom, and television programming was pretty mild. We didn't seem to need secure chools during that time. The liberals would do away with guns, except they would make an allowance for crooks and actors. Just doesn't make much sense.

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Brock Masters 1 year, 4 months ago

There really is two types of gun violence. The everyday crimes related to robberies, drug deals and murder for purpose. And then there are the mass murders against known and unknown people. Each type of crime needs its own solution.

For the mass murders there seems to be a trend that they are committed by mentally ill people. Perhaps we need to focus on making treatment more available and allow reporting of these individuals if they pose any danger to society.

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Ken Lassman 1 year, 4 months ago

Thank you for writing a call to action that digs below the surface and explores the complexity of causes and solutions, realizing the ambiguities of both but affirming the need to continue to explore and address both nevertheless. Sorry for the complicated sentence, but it's not an easy topic to address and hopefully will not be an easy topic to dismiss.

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buffalo63 1 year, 4 months ago

I agree that gun regulations are not the only answer. The Idaho example is the heart of problem. I was taken aback watching an ad for a video game set around assasinations. That 13 year old playing a game like that adds to a reaction he showed. Mental illness treatment needs to be given more attention as a major part of this solution.

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