Commentary: More guns are not the answer to violence like Newtown

The Lexington Herald-LeaderDecember 19, 2012 

We don't know why Adam Lanza decided to kill his mother Friday and then 20 first-graders and the six women who tried to protect them at the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

We don't know why Nancy Lanza, Adam's mother, felt the need to legally own several handguns and rifles, one of which, a Glock 10 mm, the handgun Adam Lanza used on himself, is issued to rangers in Greenland in case they encounter a polar bear, said John Miller, CBS senior correspondent.

And we don't know why these mass shootings seem to be occurring more and more frequently with more and more victims.

All we know is that this nation is not doing enough to deal with our love of bigger, badder guns, or our urgent need to help minister to the mentally ill.

We no longer feel safe as a nation and the less safe we feel, it seems, the more guns we buy. The more guns we buy, the more likely someone with emotional issues will have access to a firearm and use it on innocent people. And then we buy more guns.

It is insanity. But the blame is placed everywhere but the where it belongs.

My adult Sunday school class blamed the mass killings on the absence of prayer in our schools. It is a debate we have whenever our children or youth are caught up in negative activities.

They believe everything started going downhill when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against religion in our schools. By limiting prayer, my classmates said, some of the children don't learn about God and his salvation.

I've heard others blame the Newtown public school system for not having security at the school. They want to make our schools more like jails to keep our children safe. Let's arm school administrators and teachers because we all know they won't go off.

Let's do everything but address the elephant in the room.

If we are a frightened people, if we no longer feel safe in our homes, schools or churches, buying more guns is not the solution.

I agree with President Barack Obama and all the politicians with an ounce of integrity who are calling for talks about our love of guns and our disdain for limitations on that love. But even that is not enough if we resist examining the human element as well.

No one loves chess pie more than I do. But I also know a couple of pieces twice a year is my limit. Otherwise my health will pay dearly for it.

We must allow folks to have a gun or two, but restrict the types of guns. Who needs a semi-automatic rifle for protection? Some of these weapons are meant to protect us from dangers that are not present. Why would anyone in a city need a pistol that can take down a bear? How many bears have been spotted in that area of Connecticut?

We need restrictions, folks, on the types of guns we can buy and who can buy them. And then we need to take a hard look at how we address mental illness in our society.

I read the touching account of the mother of a son who has mental and emotional issues that aren't being addressed. Liza Long, a writer based in Boise, Idaho, said talking about guns and gun control is easy. Talking about mental illness is not.

Long has a 13-year-old son who scares her to death. She has taught her two younger children how to run to the car and lock the doors when the teenager becomes unhinged. But she has not been able to find a correct diagnosis for his illness, nor much help in controlling him.

She was told her best solution was to have her son charged with a crime and then the system would act.

"No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail," she wrote. "But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, 'Something must be done.'

"I agree that something must be done. It's time for a meaningful, nationwide conversation about mental health. That's the only way our nation can ever truly heal. God help me. God help Michael. God help us all."

But we must make an effort to show our children we care enough about them to find a better way to protect them than with a weapon.

Reach Merlene Davis by email: mdavis1@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.

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