Newtown 2 – The Mental Health Side of the Coin

I had little new to say yesterday regarding the Newtown shooting, including my last statement, which was that we should keep guns out of the hands of crazy people.

Not surprisingly, there is a ton of discussion going on now about the gun side of the equation.  But not much is being said about the crazy people part.  On that front, here is an interesting opinion piece from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.  The author, David Kopel, is the author of a law school textbook on the 2nd Amendment.  He makes the case that while most forms of violent crime have declined substantially over the past 30 or 40 years, “random mass shootings” (the particular form seen in Newtown, Aurora, etc.) have increased, and that this increase is attributable mostly to cuts in mental health funding and the weakening of involuntary commitment laws.

You can read the article here.

I struggle with much of what this guy has to say.  He’s an advocate of concealed carry who believes that the presence of any armed person would bring these incidents to a much more rapid end.  To his credit, he cites some examples.  I believe in the acknowledgement of facts, especially those that make us uncomfortable.  I’m not ready to agree, but willing to listen.

Meanwhile, his case for increased mental health funding and stronger commitment laws seems like something on which we can all agree.

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5 Responses to “Newtown 2 – The Mental Health Side of the Coin”


  1. 1 Adam December 18, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Newtown is a tragedy that has to spark discussion about the society we live in, and the way we approach gun control in America.

    Along those lines, I want to share an amazing short film called “A Perfect Day” about a potential mass shooter on the morning of, and an unsuspecting stranger who opens the shooter’s eyes to the implications of what he’s about to do. Powerful stuff!

    • 2 Dan Wallace December 18, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      It’s a sweet film, and I’m happy to post the link. I’m afraid, though, that it’s a bit fanciful – presumes that these troubled people are in possession of their faculties and within both logical and emotional reach.

  2. 3 Brad December 18, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    The Kopel article seems to be well articulated. I had the opportunity to read it yesterday and agree with pretty much every word of it. Here is the most disturbing part to me that is quoted:
    “At the Clackamas Mall in Oregon last week, an active shooter murdered two people and then saw that a shopper, who had a handgun carry permit, had drawn a gun and was aiming at him. The murderer’s next shot was to kill himself.”

    I first saw this section of the Oregon shooting story buried in a couple of conservative news outlets…but after that, that part of the story seemed to fall off the radar. Media outlets such as MSNBC, CNN, ABC, NBC,…etc. seemed to turn a blind eye to that part of the story.

    Somebody was hero at that shooting. They stopped the shooter. They were a conceal carry citizen. Who was it? Rather than giving this hero the recognition, the mass media gave the mentally ill shooter all the fame and recognition. This is a real media failure, and potentially a very dangerous bias happening. As Kopel points out, the media is every bit part of the problem too. Sensationalism is rampant.

    This reminds of the incredible Samual Williams story that happened this past July. Check out the video:
    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/07/19/florida-customer-who-shot-suspects-during-internet-cafe-robbery-will-not-face/

    This story only aired on just ONE LOCAL channel that day…Fox. No national coverage. The local ABC station picked it up a day or two later only after they saw Fox was getting high viewer traffic from it. Ironically, ABC cited their source as being Fox. Although I can’t prove it, I’ll bet ABC first new about this story too. They do not want to own it. Politics surely at play here.

    Again, a real media failure going on here. We need more Samual Williams stories out there.

    -Brad

  3. 4 Andy Rockwood December 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    It seems to me that in a disproportionate number of these horrific cases, the perpetrator isn’t the (legal) owner of the weapon(s) involved . . . they are owned by a friend or relative who may or may not know they were misappropriated. For that matter, I think a lot of plain old street crime involves stolen weapons. Yet I’m not aware that the legal owners of these weapons face any serious criminal or civil penalties when their weapons are used in the commission of a crime. So the problem is, while we can prevent felons and the mentally ill from legally obtaining weapons, we can’t prevent them from using weapons that careless gun owners don’t secure properly.

    Part of the solution, I believe, is to put a very heavy onus on legal gun owners to keep their weapons secure . . . I don’t know if that means rendering the weapons inoperable when they’re not in use or keeping them under lock & key, but somehow there ought to be a standard for securing guns. And if people insist on owning guns but fail to meet that standard, then they should be held accountable. Maybe that’s the case now, but if it is, I’m not aware of it.

  4. 5 Brad December 19, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    I just found the name of the hero in the Oregon shooting…and an interesting twist!

    The person who stopped the Oregon shooting is Nick Meli. As it turns out, Meli was legal concealed-carry-holder who had not noticed that the mall was a gun-free zone. He pointed his (otherwise legal) gun at the shooter as he paused to reload, and the next shot was the attempted mass murderer killing himself. Meli aimed, but didn’t shoot, because there were bystanders behind the shooter.

    Rack another bonus point for concealed carry.


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