Friday, December 14, 2012

Regulate Guns and Offer Mental Health Care Now

I'm not sure there is a good time to connect the killing of scores of children in Connecticut and a political problem that has been with us since the birth of the country. But if those kids died in order that others may live in the future, then at least there's that. If not, their deaths are simply awful and intolerable wastes.

The fact is that with the deaths of our most innocent, their parents, grandparents, uncles, brothers and sisters are outraged and are calling for gun laws that make sense and that help prevent this kind of catastrophe in the future. The mantra that "guns don't kill people, etc. ..." is simply wrong and we have reached our level of compromise on this point.

Guns have to be regulated and if that means occasionally a criminal gets his hands on one, then we'll just have to deal with that. Criminals and angry, isolated people who would not be criminals if they didn't have access to guns can get them any time they want them. They can get any kind they want, up to and including rapid-fire assault weapons that kill many people in seconds.

People commit suicide and murder at outrageous rates in this country because it's easy to do either with a gun. Many of those deaths would not happen without a gun's presence.

The number of guns owned by an individual, their type, calibre and whether they are rapid-fire must be regulated now. I have no problem at all with people who want a .30-.30 or a 12-gauge shotgun for hunting and home protection. I have a lot of problem with the ready availability of a gun to a man who would shoot dozens of people in a school, his family and anybody else he happens to see on a dark, dark day.

Guns are not the only problem here, either. They are simply the easiest to deal with in a sensible and clear fashion: regulation. The mental health issues that go unreported, unnoticed, unchecked and untreated are as much a tragedy as anything else surrounding these acts. The people who kill 20 or more children in an hour aren't simply those who are angry about something. They are tortured people who have been that way for a long time. They have no way of handling the demons within and we all suffer for it. We must make drug and alcohol addiction treatment available to those who need it and mandatory for some. Mental health counselors and treatment centers must be as available as hospitals for those with cancer or a broken leg. Insurance must cover treatment.

If we don't do these things and do them quickly, our children will continue to die for our ignorance, our cowardice or our neglect. None of that is acceptable.


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