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September 13, 2019

Solutions to Tragedy

Patricia A. Kelly

Three mass shootings in one month – El Paso, Dayton and Odessa. Too many after too many. We always begin with shock, grief and prayers, appropriately so.


Next, we question: Who? How? Why? Where did the weapon come from? Who knew something? Who didn’t communicate? Where did he get the weapon?


If the weapon was a gun, we return to calls for an end to gun violence in America vs. the importance of Second Amendment rights. Then we argue about statistics on gun violence, background checks, red flag laws, buy-back programs, and outlawing of semi – and – automatic weapons and large magazines. Our political leaders, instead of looking for workable solutions and compromise, spend their time blaming their opponents and even President Donald Trump in hopes of winning re-election.


The views of Americans are evolving in favor of universal background checks and removal of military style weapons and large magazines. People do want more safety. Too bad people use knives, bombs and vehicles for mass murder, too.


Gun law reform is part of the solution, even though the problem is really in the minds of the killers, rather than in the guns themselves. Universal background checks are appropriate, with inclusion of information on past violence and serious mental illness. Special licensing for semi-automatic weapons, and restrictions on large magazines are appropriate, too.


As a nurse, I’ve seen implementation of a current law that allows people who are reported to be a danger to themselves or others to be held for 72 hours for psychiatric evaluation without their consent. This law has worked, just as correct red flag laws would.


Red Flag laws should allow emergency, temporary removal of weapons, pending legal processes and mental health evaluations, for people reported to be a danger to themselves or others.


Virtually every person who commits suicide or mass murder shows some sign in advance. The trick is reading that sign, which can be difficult, and reporting it. Laws that prevent intervention in the absence of a crime, but with serious signs of impending disaster, should be changed. Concerns must be passed on to professionals, who can evaluate people on the edge.


The state of mental health care for the seriously ill is inadequate. Short term hospitalization, long enough to administer but not really evaluate new medication, is often the health-insurance-mandated norm. Community follow-up is limited, another historic failure of Congress, beginning at the time of de-institutionalism of mentally ill people following the development of psychiatric drug treatment. Congress offered funding to assist with community care in lieu of hospital care, but completely failed to deliver.


The death penalty is not the answer. Why should the government commit violence as punishment for violence? Life imprisonment without parole, possibly in a supermax prison, certainly with restrictions on communication with the outside world, is a much better choice in a civilized society. The death penalty should be reserved for people who cannot be safely managed in prison.


Current cultural issues and technology can be associated with both mass killings and suicides. Social media and news media sensationalism, widespread internet violence and hate mongering, increased isolation of people who spend their lives online, and a culture of narcissism contribute. One can aspire to fame on the Internet, without any real accomplishment. And who is more famous or powerful, than a mass killer?


Young men are struggling now, demonized for their masculinity with their value often ignored, especially those reared by inattentive parents or poor role models.


Instead of active, caring parenting, our society focuses on acquiring possessions. The use of credit or loans is considered good. Pressure from constant advertising and glorification of movie and music stars to have the best house and a new, expensive car every few years is constant, leading to more working time and financial pressure on parents, who should instead be spending time with their families.


Each child counts. Each child can grow into a successful adult with the skills and self-mastery that can help him to lead a rewarding life. That takes parenting, though, not the newest SUV.


No one should grow up isolated, angry and unloved, but that is becoming more common, social media “friendships” notwithstanding.


Debunking the myth that buying things with loans or credit is a good thing, living within our means, saving, limiting social media time, spending time with our children and helping them prepare for adulthood is the way to help our children grow up happy and fulfilled, rather than twisted or angry.


It's not all about guns or our president. There are things that can be done to help solve the problem of mass violence.




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