Monday, December 17, 2012

Making Hard Decisions In Times of Crisis

The day after I blogged about the Illinois Appellate decision on Illinois' failure to enact a reasonable concealed carry gun law, some deranged individual senselessly shoots his mother, then proceeds to a grammar school where he guns down 20 young school children including some in kindergarten, and 7 adults. The guns used in these ghastly actions were all legally obtained and owned.

Once considered inconceivable, senseless school shooting rampages, whether at a grammar school or college, exist. In the past few years, we even witnessed a mass shooting at a military base. Locally, in 1988, we were horrified when Laurie Dann shot up a Winnetka grammar school and set fires in a Highland Park grammar school. One young child died and six were wounded before Ms. Dann took her own life. Several years ago in nearby Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, another senseless slaughter took place. Nationally, other episodes have occurred.

Making sense of senseless acts is difficult. Most jump to conclusions before all the facts are revealed. The usual calls for increased gun control laws after such tragic acts ring hollow. Gun control laws or gun free zones in these cases just doesn't seem to matter to those who embark on senseless shooting rampages.

What seems very clear is that our society finally needs to invest more heavily in a neglected field of medicine, mental illnesses. It is time to figure out what causes a mind to snap, followed by senseless violence. It is time to discuss and identify warning signs or odd behavior that may show plans of violence. It is time to assist families in dealing with and seeking treatment of mental illnesses. There are families out there now who are in denial over this disease. Others simply have difficulty or are overwhelmed from handling family members suffering from this disease. And finally, we need to adequately diagnose and treat this disease while looking for some cure.

Which types of mental illnesses can lead to violence? Which ones do not? What is our definition of someone who can function in society without causing harm to others? And most importantly, individuals who suffer from mental illnesses, severe or mild, also have rights. The fact that someone is diagnosed as suffering from a mental illness should not automatically mean incarceration or institutionalization.

None of us are ultimately safe from acts of violence, with or without handguns. We may feel safe, but violence may visit us at any time, individually or in a group. Mass acts of violence may make for sensational headlines, but individual acts of violence also occur daily. Some famous examples of individual acts involved President Ronald Reagan who was surrounded by highly trained and armed body guards and was still shot by someone suffering from a mental illness. Singer, song writer and former Beatle John Lennon was gunned down in front of his New York City residence by someone suffering from a mental illness.

In Illinois, mental health facilities and centers are being closed due to a lack of funding. Residents of mental health facilities are being transferred to group homes. Institutionalizing mental health patients, which was once a norm, is now an exception.  It is time to dig deeper into this subject and reach an intelligent understanding of what mental illness entails, and which mental illnesses lead to violence.

This course of action clearly is more far difficult and complicated than enacting a broad series of gun control laws that will continue to fail to protect the citizenry of this nation, including the most vulnerable amongst us. Often, long term thinking and solutions are more practicable and bring better results than quick reactions to various crises.

Is our society finally prepared to take on this massive task?  Hopefully, it is.

1 comment:

  1. The media defy common sense by naming these murderers or shooters over and over and showing their pictures. Constant repetition can lead a disturbed individual to feel that by committing such an act, they too can obtain permanent notoriety or even immortality.

    Even in this article, you name the shooter in the 1988 local tragedy, thus perpetuating their legend.

    Trebor of Libertyville