Shootings Highlight Mental Health Policy, Not Just Guns

As a Coloradan, I am heartbroken over the massacre that took place at Century 16 in Aurora. It is senseless, as are so many things. When a violent action takes the lives of innocents, we ask ourselves why someone would do this and how can we stop it from happening again.

The sad reality is that you cannot stop every destructive action of mentally ill people who are prone to violence. There are no laws that can be written and enforced with a 100% success rate that can stop human beings from acting upon free will and making destructive choices. We cannot control every outcome; we cannot guarantee something better– we are human, we live in this kind of world, and we are subject to variables and conditions that we cannot control.

The action we can take, is to make sure that people can protect themselves when shootings do happen. Enacting bans on weapons or disarming people will generally lead to a situation where a violent criminal with a gun could easily find and knowingly take advantage of the situation. If that person who wanted to commit a crime knew that their victims could be armed, it detracts from the criminal’s willingness to take that risk. It may not stop them, but if people can fight back (if they are armed), then this can stop incidents from escalating out of control. We are our own best defense– calling 911 doesn’t result in immediate action and help.

We have evidence of gun-control laws correlating with more violence (Chicago and Washington, DC), and we have evidence of open-carry and Constitutional carry laws equating to less violence (Arizona), plus we have a majority of Americans and their representatives agreeing on the meaning of the 2nd Amendment, so that gun control is not being discussed much on the floor of Congress.

So what if it is not guns that are the problem, but the people who use those guns to accomplish horrible ends? Many times these people are considered mentally ill, or have obvious emotional issues that cause them to commit horrible acts. How do we stop these people from committing these acts?

Policies from the past have had drastic effects on the mental health facilities of this country, and how we treat our mentally ill. An over-reliance on drugs to take the place of people in communities who used to work closely with patients is a contributing factor. The lack of resources and facilities for the mentally ill (after the release of thousands of mentally ill back into society) is another factor. Funding is, of course, the issue, and perhaps this should be part of the discussion of states and localities about the mental health of those in their communities and how to best serve and protect people by having humane and effective options for those affected with mental health issues.

There is no guarantee for any of us — how long we will live, or how our lives will end. All we can do to make a better world for all of us is make sure that we can protect ourselves as best as possible, and figure out how we can create effective safety nets for people who have mental conditions that lead to the kind of havoc like what happened here in Colorado.