In her letter published Wednesday, Aimee Johnson expressed her exhaustion with news reports of shootings and calls for stronger gun regulations and required training.
I am sympathetic to her plea — we are all weary of these pointless deaths — but she would be better advised to call for a strong mental health program. Our mass shootings are so completely senseless they can only be interpreted as acts of madness.
Virtually all of our mass shooters gave ample advance notice that they were losing contact with reality and could have been stopped. Almost always, their families, friends, employers and even the police had advance warning of problems to come. In many cases, efforts were made to help these people, but came to naught for lack of laws allowing official intervention, or the absence of facilities to hold and treat them.
In a world awash in guns, and where guns can be made in a garage, the firearm training she calls for will be useless. What we need is legislation providing legal authority for intervention in the lives of psychotic or suicidal individuals. This legal authority must be tempered with strong due process legal protections; and money to pay for treatments, including hospital incarceration when necessary.
The program must be bi-directional and allow a subject to have his full civil liberties restored after his troubles have passed. If a one-time diagnosis is a lifetime sentence, people will fight the program. All too often, the fight will literally be to the death of innocent people.
A strong mental health program will be expensive, but surely it is cheaper than the funerals.