Last week, there was a long, worrisome day-long experience for many in and around the Princeton area. At first, there were reports of an armed, suicidal man on the loose. As of today, we don’t know if that was true or not. We don’t know if there was ever anything to worry about. Pending investigations will bring forth the facts and let us know exactly what the situation was. However, it did make me think of the all too common occurrences around the country involving guns, violence and family.
The problem is the reaction to these incidents is often misguided. Bob Costas and his critics are good examples. One portion of the media says take all the guns away; the other half tells us we need more guns. I think the best perspective lies somewhere in between.
On Nov. 30, reports out of Kansas City told the nation about Chiefs’ linebacker Jovan Belcher. Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend then drove to Arrowhead Park where he shot himself in front of head coach Romeo Crenell and general manager Scott Pioli.
The frequency of these types of events is evidenced in the news on a regular basis. Sadly, so are the same resulting conversations about gun control where advocates and those who oppose any such thing have a collective hissy fit for a week. After that, the news cycle moves on to the next thing.
That is not to say that I am not going to discuss aspects of gun control here. As is the case with most serious issues in our society, the murder-suicide phenomenon requires us to look at it from multiple vantage points.
First, it does, in fact, take a person to pull a trigger. The thing is that in all of these cases, that person has been severely disturbed. Mentally ill people are not difficult to identify, especially to those close to them. I have trouble believing that Jared Lee Laughner’s parents didn’t notice their son’s disturbing behavior in the days and weeks before he shot Congressman Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Ariz. To be fair, the Kansas City Chiefs had been providing counseling to Belcher and his girlfriend. However, I have to believe that people close to him in his personal life noticed he was in a dark place. My conclusion here is that communities need to have services that can provide immediate help and education to folks who think they may have a friend, student, coworker, or loved one that is need of help.
Second, handguns and assault rifles do make it easier to commit murder. After all, both of these types of guns were invented to kill other people. They have no other use. In the case of the Arizona shooter, he utilized elongated clips in his 9 mm to give him more rounds. Are those really necessary? I like shooting handguns, and I understand their ability to help defend a home, but I’d say the standard clip will do the job. As far as assault rifles go, their availability in this country is ridiculous. Why don’t we let everyone carry a rocket launcher as well? I think we need to take a look at tweaking gun control policies, not overrun Second Amendment rights.
Lastly, our communities need to have strong reaction plans that are practiced regularly by all institutions. This includes law enforcement, emergency services, schools, the news media, families and the citizenry itself.
Clearly, part of keeping our daily lives relatively safe requires that we react well to dangerous situations. But it does not stop there. Being able to identify mentally ill people in our personal lives, in our schools, in the workplace and help them is another portion. Finally, taking another look at our gun control laws is necessary as well.
Derek Johnson of Dover can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.