The deaths in Newtown are heartbreaking on so many levels. As I struggle to come to grips with such tragedy, and ache with a mother's love for those families caught in the tragedy, I'm concerned that we are focusing attention on the wrong issue. The knee-jerk reaction of people after a tragedy like Newtown's is understandable, from a human nature standpoint, but it frustrates me and saddens me. We hadn't even learned the complete truth about the event itself on Friday and people were already calling for stricter gun control.
Are we forgetting that every year, cars and other motor vehicles become legal weapons of death in the hands of careless, stupid people? There are far more senseless deaths via motor vehicles (35,885 in 2010*) than guns (8,583 in 2011**), but you don't hear people calling for cars to done away with. No, the underlying root problem is examined: alcohol, drugs, cell phones, road rage, tiredness? And we go from there.
Why then do we react to mass shootings by focusing on the tools that were used? Instead we need to be focusing on the elephant in the room: mental illness. One thing that every single one of the mass shootings over the years has in common is the troubled mental state of the person who carried them out.
Mental health resources in this country are abysmal. I know this first hand, because once upon a time I worked as a job trainer for an organization who worked with adults with disabilities. We battled this issue on a daily basis, struggling with the lack of not just physical resources like good job placement (it's hard to find employers who are willing to take a chance on those with disabilities), but mental resources for those whose mental issues make it hard to keep a job, especially with no insurance to pay for psychiatric help. It's rather like the boy with his finger in the dyke: you just hope the fissure won't get worse on your watch.
Our society shies away from any in-depth look at mental illness, I think because people fear it and because we don't as yet know the underlying causes for a lot of mental issues. Until we make better strides with mental health resources without the societal stigma, I'm afraid we will continue to have more mass tragedy, if not with guns, then with homemade bombs or something else.
Just my measly two cents.
*Motor Vehicle Fatality Statistics
**Murder Victims by Weapon