Valdosta Daily Times

What We Think

September 19, 2013

How many more?

VALDOSTA — Regardless of where you stand in the contentious gun debate, one thing that both sides agree on is that weapons can be very dangerous when in the hands of a mentally ill individual.

The mass shootings in Tuscon, Ariz., Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., at Virginia Tech and now at the Naval Yard in Washington D.C. were all carried out by males with a history of mental illness. The young man in the Newtown shooting took a gun from his mother’s cache, but the others were able to purchase guns with seemingly little to no problems.

What happened to waiting periods, background checks, red flags for the mentally ill — all initiatives that are either supposed to be in place or have been discussed extensively for more than 15 years, since the Columbine tragedy.

None of these men, or the young man’s mother, should have been able to purchase guns or have them around a person with a background of mental illness, psychosis, or  violent episodes.

Unfortunately, right now in Georgia, the closing of the institutions that have housed the most critically mentally ill is forcing tough decisions on families who thought their loved ones were safe in a place where they could no longer harm anyone. Putting the mentally ill in jails and prisons with the general prison population creates another set of problems.

So what can our society do to get the mentally ill the help they need, keep guns out of their hands, and ensure that they are not a harm to others? Someone needs to step forward with the answers and soon before a similar tragedy happens again.

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