To the editor:
The white nationalist sentiments stoked by a litany of statements, tweets and even executive orders from our president, targeting immigrants is the apparent backdrop of many of the mass shootings we’ve seen in the last 2 years.
Political swirling from those opposing the president complete the picture of a dangerous condition of conflicting sentiments and leanings that cannot be contained by civil discourse.
Mental health care in this country is in a crisis state as millions of undiagnosed or under-treated individuals are no longer easily reachable by health workers due to limitations of resources. Many of those limitations are imposed by insurance companies — through a powerful lobby — unwilling to pay for a variety of treatments.
Many demented individuals, under-insured and under-served, are sewn into the fabric of our communities. When you add to these conditions the specter of substance abuse with the unbridled scourge of the opioid crises, our communities now face a massive security threat.
Though I cannot condone the abuses of institutions directed to mentally challenged persons for decades, I can safely surmise that I see people walking in the streets and in public places today in mental states that I very rarely witnessed when growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
The causes for mass shootings are also based in deliberate acts of terrorism ( versions international and domestic) by marginalized individuals who are of sound mind but utterly devoid of morality. Many project “manifestos” and agendas that hearken to an older form of civil discord from the previous century known as anarchy.
So today I witness most of the headlines regarding the causes of the shootings of Aug. 3 and 4 — in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, almost entirely focused on the political underpinnings of the shootings. There are also limited discussions of mental health care lapses.
The solution is gun control robust enough to overcome the failures of our politics and health care system. Those defending their political leanings provide the faux argument that “ …it’s not gun control, it’s health care that’s the problem.” If we continue to be held hostage to this ridiculous notion many thousands of innocent people, over many years, will die.
New Zealand offers a glimpse into an attainable solution. In April , just one month after the shootings at two mosques where 50 worshipers were murdered in Christchurch, the country’s parliament ushered in the first of a series of developing public policy initiatives to dramatically reduce gun violence.
The first act was the simplest one; outright ban of assault weapons and all mechanical devices to enhance their deadliness. To follow are the initiatives being bandied about for years here such as background checks, restrictions to access, physical security measures and so forth.
New Zealanders have not struggled as we have since the Sandy Hook tragedy of seven years ago to address the problem . Our troubles began with the expiration in 2004 of a key piece of legislation: the 1994 federal assault weapons ban. It applied to 118 models of firearms defined as “ …military weapons that can either fire continuously or in short bursts with a single trigger.”
Now is the time to re-authorize this law and dramatically expand it to include mechanical devices that enhance rapid firing. Phasing in strong security measures such as background checks and cross agency communication in sweeping fashion are essential parallel policies too.
We can’t wait for crazy people to be adequately cared for, nor a future election cycle to bring in politicians who talk nicer.