In the wake of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn., of 20 kindergartners and eight adults, including the assailant, who turned a gun on himself and his mother, some people are calling for more gun control. Connecticut, however, already has gun-control laws, and the shooter in this case happened to get hold of two guns to enable him to do his despicable work.
But there is a change that could be made, one that should have been made a long time ago, and that is for states to improve care to the mentally ill.
The Associated Press quotes an informed source who describes the shooter as Adam Lanza, who lived with his mother, and was believed to suffer from a personality disorder.
The Columbine High School massacre that killed 15 in 1999, the shootings this past July at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., the killings this week at the Clackamas Mall in Portland, Ore., the massacre at Fort Hood in 2009, the massacre in Tucson in 2011 which killed six and critically wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others, all have one thing in common: The crimes were committed by mentally ill people.
Do all mentally ill people commit such crimes. Of course not. But their illnesses can lead to drug addiction, homelessness, many kinds of crime, joblessness, loss of family connections — the list of sad and socially negative consequences is a long one.
And yet, state legislatures, including California’s, do as little to help the mentally ill as they can get away with.
Most people in prisons are to some extent mentally ill. In prison, they get some treatment, but when they get out, they’re on their own. They go back to square one unless they can find help.
The mentally ill once were treated while in confinement settings, but beginning in the 1970s, a gradual closure of most of those facilities began, replaced by prescriptions for psychotropic drugs.
The outcome of such an approach has been terrible for the mentally ill, and for society.
Yet, legislators persist in marginalizing these people in need because the mentally ill hardly ever vote. Incidents such as that in Newtown, Conn., are terrible reminders of that tragic neglect.