The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 26, 2012

Harder to kill

— The new found enthusiasm among some lawmakers for the treatment of mental health issues following the massacre at Sandy Point Elementary school is welcome, though please, forgive me, if I appear cynical.  Going all the way back to President Ronald Reagan’s term in office when he defunded federal support for mental health programs and effectively threw thousands of unmedicated patients onto the streets, the mentally ill have been ignored except when a scapegoat is needed to blame for such carnage.

Following last week’s brutal murder of 20 children and 6 adults by a presumably deranged individual armed with legally-obtained, military-style, semiautomatic assault weapons, many politicians in thrall to the gun lobby have suggested that this is not a matter of weaponry but a mental health problem. I suggest that a more rational view is that it is both, and that both need to be addressed if we are to reduce the incidence of these tragedies in the future.  

In China last week, in an eerily parallel attack, 22 primary school children were wounded by a mentally ill 36 year-old man.  One might wonder why his victims survived and those of the Connecticut shooter did not.  The simple answer is that Chinese laws ensured that the attacker was armed only with a knife. We may never stop the killing but we can certainly make it harder to kill so efficiently.  

Twenty-two young children will go home to their families because guns were hard to obtain.

David S. Richard, Winfield