I’ve put my little series on getting laid in South Florida on hold a day to talk about something just a bit more important.
More innocent people who had nothing to do with the shooter’s sorry life dead simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So what’s the answer?
Who knows whether more gun control is the answer. The Navy Yard shooter bought his shot gun days before his rampage at a Virginia gun store without background checks that might have revealed his past history of mental illness. I’m a strong gun control proponent ; the Founding Fathers would think we’re crazy on how we’ve twisted their intent behind the First Amendment. And certainly there needs to be universal waiting periods and a national registry so guns don’t get into the hands of known “crazies,” safeguards that ironically in this computer wiz age we don’t have in place. But my orthopedic doc who’s from Puerto Rico told me that his island homeland which has one of the tightest gun control laws anywhere also has one the highest homicide rates. And there will always be the illegal gun trade.
Is more security which obviously should have been in place at the Washington Navy Yard the answer? My niece tells me the school her daughter started this fall goes into lock-down once all the kids are in class. But will we be going through metal detectors the next time we shop at Target’s?
After all, if it can happen to a bunch of kindergarten kids it can happen anywhere.
But as a former heath care exec, I feel the answer is to stop treating the treatment of mental illness in this country as some poor stepchild. Oh, we all give it a lot of lip service (like obesity), but as Pretty Tom Cruze once said, “show me the money.” After all, how many of the mass shootings this country has suffered in just the last few years have been at the hands of perpetrators who were off balance and, ironically in almost every case, society already knew were off balance but did not do enough to help or keep them out of places individuals with their mental history didn’t belong?
I was in the early years of my heath care career back in the mid ‘70’s when the enlightened ones, blessed to benefit from an era when psychotropic drugs were coming into their own, thought de-institutionalization was the answer on how society should deal with mental illness. End the snake pits, get them on meds, move them into halfway houses and get them leading productive lives in society, even if productive meant cleaning toilets.
OK, and in the’ 80’s and even the 90’s there was a safety tent for these individuals where their meds compliance could be monitored and their whereabouts and well- being addressed. Privately, those of us who worked in the medical side of health care were jealous that our mental health professional counterparts got fatter raises and fatter budgets, courtesy of federal and state grants. My health care system operated one of the largest mental health networks in NYC, and we often joked that if there was a grant for counseling dwarfs who beat their dogs, we’d be the first to start a program.
All that came to an abrupt end in the 2000’s as the feds and the states and the large metro centers, feeling the pinch, started cutting back, without first establishing a viable alternative. Many of the homeless we see wandering our streets are the victims of this gross “oversight.”
But ah, you say, almost all of our shooters of recent vintage were young, middle class and already receiving some kind of therapy or had been identified as mentally unstable in some way. In retrospect, they should never have been given the clearances or positions of responsibility they held. But how do you stop a person who hears voices from entering a crowded shopping mall with a gun or stop a coddling mother from having her clinically diagnosed son join her on the rifle range?
So is there an answer? A more comprehensive coordinated approach to dealing with mental illness and all its ramifications may be a start, but where’s the money going to come from when half the bridges in the U.S. are ready to collapse?
Maybe the answer is that there is none.