· weak (or, non-existent) family and social ties to organizations such as churches, which contribute life values and skills that enable persons including adolescents and young men to resolve problems without resorting to violence;
· school bureaucracies that make it exceptionally difficult and risky to declare a person an imminent danger to himself and others; and
· insurance companies which in many respects have become the tail wagging the medical dog, and whose primary goal with patients exhibiting potentially violent mental problems is to get them out of the hospital or institution as quickly as possible.
In fact, guns are largely irrelevant in assessing what happened in this tragedy; as they are to the even more important task of taking steps to reduce the chances it will happen again. If we want to prevent future attempts, we must stop rushing to the easy scapegoat, which only addresses the “what” of mass shootings. Instead, we should focus on addressing the “why,” which will eventually help lead to answers on how to prevent future attacks.
Of course, this is not an easy task. It requires everybody, especially parents of at-risk youths, to make extremely hard decisions.
Liza Long, a single mother of four children, recently wrote about her heartbreaking struggle dealing with a special needs child who shows warning signs of future violence. “No one wants to send a 13-year-old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail,” writes Long. “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.”
As Long writes, it is easy to talk about guns in the wake of a national tragedy. It is much more difficult to discuss the underlying causes, especially mental health issues, and social/cultural issues like divorce, video game violence, juvenile narcissism, and the diminishing role of religious/civic organizations in children’s lives.
However, this is the “meaningful action” we must take as a nation if we want to prevent another Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, or Columbine. This is the commitment we must make together. We need to leave politicians like Bloomberg, wearing their ideological blinders, to prattle among themselves; while the rest of us work to identify and help solve the underlying problems.