Meadville Tribune

Opinion

February 21, 2013

Enough about gun control: Time to look at mental illness

MEADVILLE — It did not take long for the liberal politicians and media to get on the bandwagon of gun control. It is incredible that politicians would jump to the conclusion that the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Conn., was caused by firearms instead of paying close attention to the individual and what drove him to do such horrendous act.

Was the act perpetrated by a gun enthusiast who went practice shooting, or was the act of a madman? So far, the evidence leads to the conclusion that Adam Lanza was mentally ill. This is the root of the problem: If the problem is a mental disorder, why not start doing something about the mentally ill?

Let us explore another case. Take for example Jared Lee Loughner, who shot former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the head, killed six and wounded 12 others in a Jan. 8, 2011, Tucson, Ariz., rampage. Was that a case of mental illness? The lawyers appointed to represent Loughner were ready to use an insanity plea until Loughner pleaded guilty to all charges.

Are there youngsters who are affected by mental illness? Liza Long addresses this point in her “I am Adam Lanza’s mother” article published in the San Francisco Chronicle on Dec. 17, 2012. She explains in detail the problem of mental illness and the agony a mother goes through knowing that her son has a problem but according to the existing laws, there is nothing she can do until the youngster does something drastic. Why? Why do we have to wait until a mentally ill person harms others before that person can be isolated and forced into treatment?

This situation goes back to 1970 when the then-young investigative reporter, Geraldo Rivera, exposed the horrors he visited at the Willowbrook State School in New York. When Rivera exposed the inhumane conditions the residents endured at these mental facilities, civil rights suits followed. Instead of improving the conditions in the facilities, the states opted to do away with many of them. Results? The mentally ill were discharged from the institutions and to this day, according to Sue Abderholden, executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness of Minnesota, “society view on mental illness is that people belong in communities and not institutions.”

On Aug. 13, 2008, Renee Montague, co-host of NPR’s Morning Edition, addressed the problem in her article “Inside The Nation’s Largest Mental Institution,” where she stated, “Until the 1970s, the mentally ill were usually treated in public psychiatric hospitals, more commonly known as insane asylums. Then, a social movement aimed at freeing patients from big, overcrowded and often squalid state hospitals succeeded. Rather than leading to quality treatment in small, community settings, however, it often resulted in no treatment at all. As a consequence, thousands of mentally ill ended up on the streets, where they became involved in criminal activity.”

Is it a gun problem or mental illness or something else? Oren Dorel in the Dec. 18, 2012, USA Today article “In Europe, fewer mass killings due to culture not guns” claims that “The USA leads the world in gun ownership, but it’s our individualistic culture that puts us at greater risk of mass shootings compared with other countries where guns are prevalent, according to a British criminologist who has studied gun violence in different nations. Mass shooters in any nation tend to be loners with not much social support who strike out at their communities, schools and families, says Peter Squires of the University of Brighton in the United Kingdom, who has studied mass shootings in his own country, the United States and Europe.”

He also states that according to latest small arms survey conducted in 2007 by the graduate institute of international and development studies in Geneva, there are 88.8 guns per 100 people in the U.S. This probably does not include illegally owned guns.

If the idea of gun control is to prevent unwarranted deaths, does it mean that we should also look into other manmade objects? Take for example the death and injuries caused by automobiles.

According to the 2010 census data, in 2009 there were 33,808 deaths due to motor vehicle accidents. There were 9,203 due to firearms, including 6,503 due to handguns and 352 due to rifles. The report does not specifically differentiate the type of rifle such as bolt action or semiautomatic. The deaths for the same year due to knives or cutting instruments was 1,836, and this number is greater than the deaths due to rifles. Shouldn’t knives be considered assault weapons?

I hope all elected officials will finally get serious and do something about getting to the bottom of the real problem, for the number of individuals who are willing to kill innocents and then take their own lives is increasing. To me, it is shameful to exploit the passing of so many innocent lives for political gains.

Each time there is no action in finding the root of the real problem. The gun control advocates always accomplish the opposite: Instead of preventing gun ownership, people rush to buy a weapon for self-defense because they feel that the authorities cannot assure the safety or their families.

Congress let the Federal Assault Weapons Ban expire on Sept. 13, 2004. Since then, no assault weapons ban bill has reached the floor of Congress for a vote. If the elected officials feel now that a ban of assault weapons would have prevented the Sandy Hook massacre, why have they not even considered renewing the ban since 2004?

Why start all over again to condemn animated objects instead of doing something about the individuals who use them?

DeFrancesco, a Republican State Committee member, is a Guys Mills resident. He can be contacted at lsdefrank@yahoo.com.

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