BY SHARON MARTIN
Legislators talk about the latest politically charged topic until the next item comes along. It’s all talk and no action. Meanwhile, the root causes of violence – addiction, poverty, mental illness – haven’t gone away.
There are two things that recent mass murderers have had in common – guns and mental illness. Sane people don’t open fire in kindergarten classes and Sikh temples. Sane people don’t shoot strangers in crowded theaters, malls, or college classrooms.
William Spengler, who burned down his neighborhood and shot four firemen who responded to the blaze, was a felon who spent 17 years in prison for killing his grandmother with a hammer. Gun laws, if they worked, should have prevented Spengler from getting guns; the laws don’t work.
We can debate whether we need more gun laws or manufacturing regulations. What’s not open for debate is that we lack access to mental health treatment options in this country.
We’ve closed state hospitals. Families don’t have the money, insurance coverage, or the laws on their side to deal with mentally ill family members.
A friend of mine has a schizophrenic stepdaughter. The young woman’s family knew she was dangerous. They tried to get help for her, but it wasn’t until she badly beat an old man who befriended her that the authorities stepped in … and took her to jail.
While we certainly don’t want to return to a time when your eccentric Aunt Lola and homosexual brother could be locked away because of whim and ignorance, we do need mechanisms in place so that families can get help for the truly mentally ill daughters and brothers, sons and sisters.
It is unconscionable that we jail the ill and ignore the caregivers until it is too late.
This isn’t about guns. It’s the lack of empathy and load of greed that keeps us from funding and fixing the real problems. We need sane drug laws that include treatment for alcoholics and addicts, and we need ready access to mental health services before it’s too late for the mentally ill and their victims.
Where’s the outcry?
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer