The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


January 12, 2013

Proactive vs. reactive: Gun control from view of school shooting survivor


As we learn in school, to work with fractions, it is important to first find the least common denominator. Apples need to be compared to apples, not oranges.

The least common denominator among school shootings can be passed off at a quick glance as guns ... but there is more here.

What about mental health? In every school shooting, mental health has been a very common theme. Sandy Hook, Columbine, Bishop Neumann. All involved perpetrators who were social outcasts, who fell between the cracks and, when looking at their pasts more closely, offered some red flags that something was just not right.

Take the magnification level up a few degrees. The Oklahoma City bombings, the Unabomber, deadly arsons, etc. In these cases, we lose the gun element, but the mental health thread never goes away.

How can we as a society better identify those who are struggling before vicious acts are initiated? How can we be more proactive in finding and helping those people who are capable of such acts — or, at the least, hindering their plans before it is too late?

We can put a Bandaid over a cut, but if it isn’t properly washed out, the infection remains. It festers, and eventually, it manifests itself in other ugly ways.

Gun control feels like a Bandaid for an injury that runs much deeper. Again, this ties into mental health. It touches on graphic, violent media such as video games and movies where kids can become desensitized to the reality of what a gun can do in real life — and how the ripple effect of one bad decision can hurt so many people in so many ways.

There is no guarantee that widescale gun control would have changed the outcome of Sandy Hook, Columbine or other tragic shootings.

Drugs are illegal, but even in our local region, if you are at the right place at the right time, you can likely score some marijuana or other more potent drug. People who are capable of such heinous acts as Sandy Hook will find ways to secure the weapons they need — regardless of the hurdles that a few new regulations may bring. They don’t exactly feel they have much to lose, anyway.

And even if guns were totally unavailable, there are other ways to create mass carnage. Bombs can be created with fertlizer and other fairly common ingredients. Cars can be driven into buildings. Poison can be dumped into a water supply. Again, in each of these cases, those who would use any of those tactics are likely struggling with some major mental health issues.

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