Left Looking for Answers after Tucson Tragedy

When tragedies like the Tucson shootings occur there is always a predictable pattern to what will take place in the aftermath. The various media outlets will rush to be the first to get us breaking elements of the story. As the hours pass they always have to recant the mistakes from their original claims. Then eventually the blame game starts to roll in. Then of course there is the “call for action”.  Somewhere in the mix a few sincere people will remember to honor the victims and perhaps the first responders who dealt with the scene. The only thing that was totally different in the Tucson aftermath was a President holding what ended up looking more like a pep rally in place of a memorial service.

The other very unfortunate piece of the timeline is that afterwards there seems to be volumes of evidence regarding the perpetrator. A long line of people in and around the life of the assailant will suddenly look for a microphone to tell all they knew about his insane behavior or past actions. In just a few days we all learn about how all the warning signs were there but no one ever acted on them. The old saying that hindsight is 20/20 doesn’t seem to quite cut it in most of these cases.

Whether it is Tucson, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood or even going back to the Edgewater “Mucko” tragedy here in Massachusetts there is always one very common denominator – severe mental health issues. There is of course the Fort Hood attack which was more related to terrorist actions than anything else, but it is quite clear he wasn’t quite right either. All of the perpetrators had mental issues that the media and others say should have prevented them from having access to a firearm. What is surprisingly missing from the national debate is why were these people walking around free to have access to us, the general public?
I have attempted to insert this issue into the debate during many a media interviews. Inevitably I get the question – Do you think these people should have access to firearms? The answer is obviously of course not. The answer as it turns out is an even bigger problem to tackle then who should have their rights removed due to a criminal arrest or conviction.

For many decades there has been a constant debate on what crimes should be included as permanent prohibitions on access to firearms. There are some who have even argued that simple arrests rather than convictions should be part of that debate. As tenuous as that battle has been at least there is something tangible to debate, of course leaving out the “suitability” issue which is a completely separate problem. As for the convictions there is usually a clear record that the person did this or that and a debate ensues as to that particular act. The mental health issue is easily a hundred times more complicated and thus the dilemma.
Perhaps the greatest hurdle in determining mental health disqualifiers is government access to personal health records. As gun owners we can attest to the need for keeping personal information out of the hands of an overreaching government. So the question becomes at what level of mental health treatment does the public/government have the right to know about? Is it someone who has been involuntarily committed to a facility and a court has declared them a danger? What if they have not been committed, but have been under treatment? What if they just needed some counseling and for what?

With all this there is always that point at which most adults can agree that a person committed or diagnosed with “X” should not be walking the streets and be given the opportunity to harm themselves or others. Sadly as soon as that agreement is reached in a conversation about the issue reality sets in. Quickly the talk will move forward as to who makes the decision, who has access to the records, what will be done with those records, etc. and the path to a solution quickly evaporates.

While it may sound like tin foil hat talk, people simply don’t trust their government even at the most basic levels. Sadly the government continues to reinforce that sentiment. All one has to do is remember how our returning troops were treated recently. Remember how our government wanted to automatically disqualify any service member who sought counseling. That action was a clear case of how government can’t be trusted with certain information nor to do the right thing with it. So where does this leave a society looking for answers and solutions? 

First, it explains a little about why some politicians and others quickly run to the blame game and calls for banning objects. Because the true solution is going to be hard and modern political leaders and the media rarely have the patience to take on such a cumbersome task.
Perhaps the tougher question for Americans is how much freedom and privacy are we willing to give up in an attempt to stop these rare tragedies? Any level of which would indeed only be an “attempt” since there is no definitive way to make sure events like this don’t ever happen. The answer, or at least part of it, should be that government should do everything it can to keep citizens safe from maniacs BEFORE asking us to give up the slightest bit of freedom.

Tragedies like this put Americans in a very difficult situation. They create a time and need for very strong honest leadership at our highest levels of government. Perhaps the toughest question in this entire issue is do any such leaders even exist anymore?

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  • 1/28/2011 4:40 PM Mike wrote:
    I could not agree more the Tucson incident was tragic but rare! Let's not over react to all the to fixing the problem at the cost of given up even one more right! Just because there is allot of Monday morning quarter-backing! Enforce the laws we have! Go yet another step and make the offense penalty more! Simply put you commit a gun crime be ready to spend allot of time in lock up! Marking more laws for the honest citizen is not going to ever HELP this type of situation! I really wonder if they, the politicians think we are that stupid, more gun control is not working! Criminals can don't read the laws, don't intend to live by them, and can get guns out of any trunk in most major cities! Laws for the lawless don't work, period. Laws are for the good citizens that try to do the correct things! I live in Massachusetts with some of the craziest firearm laws you will ever want to see! Ask the question was that crime committed by a legal firearm, NO! So none of the many pages of Firearm laws pertain! No More firearm laws tougher criminal firearm laws! Firearms don't kill people do! Oh wait, there goes my neighbor running down the street being chased by that mean bad assault-rifle! HMM!

    If we are so worried about our good citizens being killed than we ought to ban all automobiles as thousands more die each day by automobiles than firearms!

    Mike -
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