Once again, the nation has been horrified and shocked by more mass shootings and killings in public places. The most recent in Dayton has hit close to home.
This kind of event has become so common that while we are dismayed and grief stricken and shake our heads for a few days, we soon go back to our everyday lives asking ourselves when will this horror end?
Our elected government officials stand up and pronounce their sorrow and offer thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families. They suggest all kinds of remedies that have not worked in the past and say they will now take action, that “enough is enough.”
How many times have we heard that? How much action has been taken that is effective?
I think you know the answer.
How many times have we heard in the wake of one of these tragedies, reports from people who knew the shooter saying he was acting strange, or he was collecting guns and talking about shooting people, or “he was just different.” Even family members have reported they knew something was wrong with their child, but they were helpless to do anything about it because they were over 18 years of age.
The Dayton shooter had no record that would have prevented him from buying a gun. His classmates, however, said they knew he was keeping a “hit list” and a “rape” list. As a society we are all responsible for each other and looking the other way is no longer an option.
I agree with others who believe that our method of dealing with mental health issues in this country is not only flawed and outdated, but broken. If you have not guessed by now, I think that being able to recognize someone with the intent of committing one of these acts is key. The idea that a person at age 18 can make life decisions with any modicum of wisdom is for the most part in error. Sure, some can, but can we any longer take that chance? I understand that making it difficult to declare someone insane or incompetent is necessary to prevent abuses in legal matters. Something needs to be done to make it possible for those who honestly see a red flag go up with a family member, friend or acquaintance to take some kind of action. I think this law can be amended so that families with a member suffering from mental illness can seek help without taking away a young adult’s rights.
All too often authorities view individuals who exhibit signs of instability as having a behavioral problem. They may take them into custody, but they seldom get treatment or even an examination and are returned to society. Other times an individual shows no apparent indication of being unstable and suddenly they are in the headlines and more often than not dead along with their victims. The price of apathy is way too high in lives and tragedy.
From my own experience, unless the individual does something obvious or commits some kind of violence that indicates he or she is a danger to themselves or others, they have the final say on whether they will receive treatment or even an examination. Believe me, some are very good at hiding their instability even to psychiatric personnel.
Obviously, they had underlying mental problems that are not at all apparent. Either way this has to be addressed and quickly and decisively no matter the cost.
As a gun owner myself, it is my personal opinion that assault rifles are manufactured for one reason and one reason only: to kill human beings. I believe only the armed services and law enforcement should have access to these weapons because it is their duty to defend us from criminals and in time of war.
We all cherish our freedom in this country. It sets us apart from much of the rest of the world and the price of freedom is always high. We are always, as Americans, hesitant to do anything to take away a freedom. As for gun laws, doing background checks sounds like a good idea, but it cannot catch all with evil intent. However, making background checks, REAL BACKGROUND checks with a follow-up, can make them more effective.
All of us must somehow become sensitive to what constitutes unstable behavior. We cannot all become psychologists, but we can be alert to someone who is suffering and is dealing with demons the rest of us cannot comprehend.
Ask yourself, do you feel as safe to go to the mall, a party, your work place, a restaurant or to church as you did 10 years ago or even five?
I don’t know about you, but I want that security and freedom back.
Neil Winget is the former president of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio.