Sense and sensibilities

Mental health policy underlies Navy Yard shooting, not gun laws

The default position of liberals after every mass shooting tragedy – gun control – makes less sense than ever in the case of the Washington Navy Yard massacre.

We know it’s an easy, feel-good knee-jerk reaction. Fact is, the blood hadn’t stopped running in D.C. by the time actor Henry Winkler sent out a sarcastic tweet about the need for gun control.

But what amount of gun control would have prevented an episode by an inarguably deranged man with approved access to a secure military installation where guns are – guess what – already banned? And in a city that Guns and Ammo magazine ranks as the strictest in the nation on guns?

It may feel good to seek gun control after such tragedies. But it actually would do nothing to prevent such calamities, and would only disarm sane, law-abiding Americans.

Meanwhile, this blame-the-implement mentality tends to let real culpability slide out the back door.

The Navy Yard shooter, Aaron Alexis, had serious mental illness issues, including reported paranoia and hearing voices. Reports indicate he’d been treated by the Veterans Administration for mental illness.

That’s one thing: Even after multiple mass shootings in Newtown and Aurora and elsewhere by people with easily discernible mental illness problems, this country has done next to nothing to reform its mental health system and laws.

But in addition, it’s inconceivable to us that after the massacre at Fort Hood by a raving radical Muslim that the Pentagon and defense industries wouldn’t have done a better job of
policing their ranks and screening out the lunatics.

As noted above, Alexis wore red flags like a sash. How could this guy have maintained a security clearance? If the VA and defense industry aren’t allowed to compare notes on potential threats, the law needs to change – not only to allow it, but to mandate it!

Far from taking guns away from people, this government actually needs to re-examine whether it’s smart to disarm members of the military on bases. Of all places, our men and women in uniform, and those civilians who work side by side with them, should not be forced to be sitting ducks to lone gunmen. How many lives might have been saved if Alexis’ victims had been armed?

As some have wryly noted in social media, it’s interesting – if not blatantly hypocritical – that the Obama administration is arming the rebels in Syria while promoting the disarming of law-abiding Americans.

To put a finer point on that: By definition, gun laws disarm only the law-abiding.

We can have that debate yet again, ad nauseam. But it misses the point. And all the while, our mental health laws are antiquated and our mental health infrastructure is more neglected than our crumbling bridges.

Guns aren’t the issue. The issue is dealing with the small fraction of the mentally ill who pose a danger to others.

It’s an indelicate matter that must be dealt with delicately. But it must be dealt with.

As soon as we start worrying more about sense than sensibilities.

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