What It Do: Looking For Answers Alex Benson December 26, 2012 Columns At first, it seemed futile to even write about it, and maybe even a little wrong. Who am I to presume to have something worthwhile to say about something so unbearably horrible? Besides, with all the wall-to-wall coverage on the part of the media, I felt the situation could use a little more silence. But ultimately, it felt more wrong to say nothing. The impulse is to try to find “meaningful action” and attempt to create a sound, reasoned argument. This is why it happened. This is how we prevent it from happening again. And possibly, this is who we blame. But these are feeble attempts to transform the tragedy into something we can process and hold within our minds. Because what truly terrifies us is the prospect of having no answer. So within days, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer announced their intention to introduce legislation to ban assault weapons, gravely intoning about “the time to act.” But would such a ban have prevented what happened? Many would vehemently argue that it would have, as it is now clear that the psychopath—he doesn’t deserve to have his name in print, and, were it up to me, his name would never be spoken aloud again—used an assault rifle during the massacre. But he also had handguns, and those bullets kill with just as much finality, if not as rapidly. So maybe if there had been an assault weapons ban in place, it might have prevented access to the rifle. It’s even possible that the presence of the rifle served as some sort of catalyst, and without it, the terror would have never happened. Or if it did, the loss of life could have been lessened. Hardly a comfort, but still. The myth that assault weapons are needed to protect oneself from criminals and totalitarianism is a fantasy that should stay in Hollywood where it belongs. If the cost of the safety of school kids is to prevent Crazy Eddie from having a fully stocked arsenal, that’s fine by me. So I’m fine with an assault weapons ban, just like I’m fine with banning large-capacity magazines. But it has to be acknowledged that those solutions are hardly comprehensive. As much as I’d love to be able to view a piece of legislation as “the answer,” I’ve seen too much of human nature and how the game is played to take such a leap of faith. For one thing, as evidenced by the claims of some conservative that “the answer” is to arm teachers, it’s not like Feinstein and Schumer will be able to just sail their ban through Congress to the president’s desk. And even if they were able to craft something that was somehow able to make it through not only the Senate, but also the GOP-controlled House Of Representatives, it would be full of so many loopholes as to be effectively toothless. And then there is the risk that the legislation, even if it passed Congress, would be struck down by the conservative-leaning Supreme Court on Second Amendment grounds, ultimately having the opposite effect as intended. In China, on the same day as the Sandy Hook shootings, another psychopath attacked a group of children with a knife. There were no deaths. Supporters of an assault weapons ban point to this as an argument in favor of the legislation. But if the Chinese attacker had been equipped with a semi-automatic pistol, the outcome would certainly have been different. And nobody is seriously considering a widespread handgun ban in this country. The common thread to these massacres is someone with deep mental health problems, who is not getting the treatment and supervision such conditions require. The fact that the budgets of mental health departments nationwide have been eviscerated over the past decade or so is hardly a coincidence. As far as I can see, the most meaningful action we could take as a nation to prevent such tragedies is to ensure that mental health departments have the funding and the tools to identify and treat serious mental illness, and until we change our attitude and approach to mental health, preventable loss of life will occur. But mental health is a complex issue that presents immense challenges to public policy, so dealing with it doesn’t provide a singular rallying cry like an assault weapons ban does. But if we are serious about wanting to put a stop to the seemingly endless cycle of bloodshed, mental health treatment is where we should focus our efforts. Maybe this is my own feeble attempt at finding “the answer.” To craft it and use it as a shield against the chaos. And maybe my “answer” is no better than their “answer.” It’s hard to say. But we all have to try. Even if it feels futile and meaningless. The one thing we can’t do is pretend it never happened and wait for the next one. Unfortunately, I fear that may be where this is ultimately headed. Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.