After the recent school death massacre in Florida, it seems the national mood is now demanding more strongly than ever that something be done. The surviving children are demanding action. President Trump is listening today, and tomorrow I predict he will be acting. The question is whether we turn our attention to the guns or to the root problem, which is mental illness. We have a mental illness crisis in this country that demands action.
Nikolas Cruz, the Florida shooter, is mentally ill. I am no psychiatrist, but anyone who does what he did is mentally ill, and we don’t need psychiatrists or other experts to tell us that. Why this 19-year-old kid with his troubled history was able to legally purchase an AR-15, I have no idea.
But let us say for the sake of argument that Congress and/or the courts do away with the 2nd Amendment. Let us say that all ownership of firearms is declared illegal, and legal gun owners are ordered to surrender their weapons immediately. Let us say that they all comply. We will still have hundreds of thousands, if not millions of guns around the country illegally in the hands of criminals. Public safety will not be enhanced, it will be worsened. As far as the Nikolas Cruzes of the world, if they can’t get their hands on a gun, it will be a knife or a car which they will use to commit mass murder. Ask the Palestinian terrorists in Israel
I think we need to address this as a mental health issue. That means that mental health professionals, law enforcement, and the courts will need increased powers to intervene and, if necessary, invoke involuntary confinement for the protection of the individual and others. As a retired law enforcement officer (DEA), I say this only after long reflection. I am leery of giving our government more power at any level. The world has a long history of dictatorships taking away people’s freedom for no other reason than to maintain themselves in power. Often, they have used mental institutions as a weapon, for example, the old Soviet Union. However, there is a difference between the above and a democratic government that is honestly trying to save innocent lives. That is the point we are at now.
While I hate the idea of more government spending, we do need to devote more resources to mental health treatment. We also need to apply it to the homeless problem. Even this broken down old DEA agent admits that when it comes to the drug problem, more money needs to be spent on treatment and rehabilitation.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers to a problem that has stumped others with far more expertise than I. Ultimately, however, we need to discuss increasing society’s ability to intervene and put ticking time bombs like Nikolas Cruz in places where they can be treated. Can there be abuses? Absolutely, even in a democratic country. Obviously, there will have to be safeguards. I would like to see Trump take the lead on this rather than just do things like ban butt stocks and declare victory.
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