• Mental health – more than guns – should be addressed first

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  • Again and again, I have heard in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that it has long since passed the time that “something must be done.”
    Journalists, educators, citizens, countrymen and our own president of the United States have all so stated.
    While it is impossible to disagree with this oft-heard refrain, I am yet to hear a conclusive statement as to what precisely it is that must be done.
    And if there were some clear-cut, feasible reform that would have prevented this tragedy, and any one of those like it in recent years, then who among us would be able to oppose such a measure?
    But, it seems that acknowledging that something must be done is about as simple as figuring out exactly what it is that we must do is difficult.
    Precise statements as to necessary reforms have been elusive.
    Do we attempt to ban all firearms in the possession of citizens?
    Such is a notion I have not heard proposed even among my most liberal, anti-gun friends, acquaintances, Facebook friends, Twitter tweeters and colleagues.
    Such a measure would be not only a violation of our Bill of Rights (whether you agree that it should or shouldn’t be, or not), but also as a practical matter, impossible to achieve, with firearm possession and ownership so prolifically ingrained as a basic part of the American way of life since the settlement of our continent, and the subsequent founding of our country, years later.
    And while we could undertake to ban or restrict certain types of firearms or ammunition, that would still leave plenty of deadly options available to those who would do harm.
    Many would say that despite the horrific events that bring on such discussion, we are still, overall, safer as a society than if we did not enjoy the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
    However, I would suspect that you’d have a hard time convincing the loved one of a victim of the Sandy Hook tragedy of such purported wisdom, nonetheless.
    But if you look at the most publicized acts of wanton gun violence in America in recent memory, two commonalities seem significant.
    First, most occurred in venues where firearms are strictly prohibited, be it a school, a college campus or a movie house that prohibits them. Such prohibitions, quite obviously, were of little benefit to the victims in those instances, and perhaps may have thwarted defensive efforts by those abiding by such rules.
    Secondly, most, if not all, of the perpetrators of these headline grabbing events had manifested known proclivities of disturbed mental behavior to those around them in advance of the occurrences, yet no steps to evaluate, treat, intervene or otherwise protect society from those manifestations were undertaken.
    Page 2 of 2 - Yes, we can increase regulations on firearms, however, it remains unclear if measures along these lines would have served to prevent or diminish the destructive events that have occurred.
    A more appropriate response it seems to me is to restore and even improve upon the badly needed funding for mental health intervention services that have been so drastically stripped away in recent years, so that parents, educators, friends, neighbors and colleagues can access a system that once existed for the investigation of those with mental issues that might represent a danger.
    Unfortunately, the mentally ill in recent years have been lumped into the same category as other purported “freeloaders” in society, such as the disabled, the handicapped, and the poor, and funding to address their needs stripped accordingly.
    And so, perhaps one place we can begin is to address the need for mental health intervention services, that are currently in a sad state of affairs.
    For a greater understanding of this issue, I urge you to check out the blog of freelance writer Liza Lang, the mother of a mentally ill son, at anarchistsoccermom.blogspot.com.
    It’s truly powerful stuff that is worthy of our consideration.
    Ken Garten is a Blue Springs attorney. Email him at krgarten@yahoo.com

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