Our View: Caution needed after Newtown

Jan 2 2013 - 3:53pm

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The Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Conn., was horrific, and hopefully, leaders and lawmakers will use it as a catalyst toward trying to prevent the frequency of these types of massacres. However, caution is needed when looking for solutions. The root problem of Newtown and similar massacres is the person, not the firearm.

While a plethora of ideas will be discussed in early 2013, many are just recycled proposals that try to make people safer by restricting constitutional rights. A ban on some types of firearms, as well as registration for weapons, as proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., will not prevent massacres. Nor will proposals by the National Rifle Association to have armed law enforcement officers in all schools. Conversely, arming teachers and administrators seems an unwise addition to their responsibilities.

These types of ideas, with flaws that are evident once thoroughly debated, are a natural reaction by all of us who want to do something to prevent the horror of what occurred at Sandy Hook, or at the theater in Colorado last summer. But the best solution to preventing these types of massacres, which will happen at places the perpetrator feels safe, is to become more aware of mental illness, its signs and how to prevent it from leading to a situation where an Adam Lanza, who most had tagged as severely disturbed for several years, starts killing.

This will require many areas of improvement. Parents will need to be more aware of mental illness signs with their children. Schools should invest in more counselors who will work with students who show signs that are clearly anti-social. More of us, including our lawmakers, should read the Huffington Post article, "'I Am Adam Lanza's Mother': A Mom's Perspective on the Mental Illness Conversation in America," by Liza Long. In it, Long recounts her struggles raising her son, 13, who does not relate well to people and suffers from violent rage and attacks, often without a reason. In the article, Long laments that the only option for children like her son seems to be locking them up in jail or a mental institution.

Going after the guns, or shooting it out with the offenders, won't stop the illness that drives these attacks. We must learn more about mental illness in younger children and work to treat it. That may involve restrictions on violent video games that may trigger these deadly impulses in some people. A tax on firearms and ammunition seems a good way to fund this research. 

But we need real answers, not political solutions, in order to address the roots of the problem and prevent massacres.

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