Pathway to Lethality

The news headlines and by-lines of today are disconcerting. Twelve killed and 70 wounded in Aurora Colorado, three dead and one injured in the WDBJ shooting in Roanoke, Virginia; and Georgia shooting: “Murder-suicide leaves 5 dead, including children, police say”.

When it comes to mental illness, drugs and weapons… who ultimately receives the brunt of the criticism for what seems like unheralded, inexplicable violence? Really, does it matter where the blame resides? It does if we seek some amicable resolution. As to many of today’s shootings the fact of the matter, one is hardly more complicit than the other. The fault or blame should lie solely and exclusively with the offending principal, which is the individual who willingly and deliberately pulled the trigger barring some mitigating or extenuating factor. Nevertheless, after the fact there most always is an intervening petitioner whose skewed logic is unhesitant and unrepentant when blaming the gun and launches into a personal campaign to directly or indirectly restrict another’s access to weapons. However, guns are not the prevailing problem per se, merely a tool. In addition, it should be noted people who are mentally ill, invariably are no more dangerous to others, than other members of the populace. Regrettably mental illness is aggravated and the graveness is accentuated when the person is poor, unemployed, living in disadvantaged communities, using drugs or alcohol and victim of violent victimizations. Irrespective of mental illness when one mixes drugs and guns the outcome many times is a tragic one.

Most mentally ill people, seeking treatment with few exceptions, will subsequently be self-medicating, often with psychotropic drugs and absent of supervision or oversight. Those who fail to garner the legitimate attention of clinicians will often times go undiagnosed, remain untreated or their treatment will be sporadic and intermittent at best, with faulty and less than desirable outcomes to be expected.

Mental health practitioners have been plagued with a sundry of bureaucratic, professional entanglements and encumbrances which ultimately have genuinely failed to provide timely mental health records to their respective repositories or data pools, so those who are ineligible because of a bonafide preclusion to purchase a firearm via some retail or wholesale outlet cannot purchase any weapon. Now that mental health treatment has been largely relegated to our respective communities for aftercare the means for treatment should be adequately funded in order that those who seek treatment have the opportunity to be accorded a better quality of life. Submitting the appropriate and timely mental health records must be absolutely compulsory and under penalty of civil and criminal law when a practitioner fails to comply. Often times, mental health practitioners fail to communicate with one another and in many states their records have not been fully computerized. After all in many ways this is a means of how a prospective purchaser is green lighted for a purchase.

As much of a proponent as I am for the second amendment, something has to change. And, for the betterment of all. Some concessions could and should be made. There are approximately 88.8 guns for every 100 people in these United States, the most guns of any nation in the world. I don’t want to keep guns out of the hands of good people… nor should we. But we should improve the user landscape? I realize this proposal lends itself to frustration, consternation, and even contempt, not unlike many others who believe our government already over regulates us in our day to day lives.

In closing, I believe we can do better and I would advocate:

  1. That local mental health communities must be adequately funded to the extent that the many thousands of people who are significantly and adversely affected by mental illness and seek treatment are treated and monitored in the most prompt and humane of ways, hopefully according the individual a better quality of life.
  2. More extensive and wholesome background checks. Develop a blue ribbon panel that consist of and is heavily weighted with ordinary citizens from the various regions of the US along with a representative from, the Trial Attorneys Association, NAMI, IACP, DOJ, National Rifle Association, etc. all for the purpose of proposing and defining provisions for sanctioning or regulating private gun sales – NOT familial transactions, etc.;
  3. Vigorous and rigorous prosecution of anyone who violates America’s gun laws to include stealing, unlawful possession, straw purchases, felons in possession of weapons, all with significant mandatory sentencing etc.;
  4. Engineering a concerted effort for our respective state legislatures to pass uniform laws, clarifying states privacy laws and HIPPA issues not be in conflict with the 14th amendment; but wherein mental health entities and practitioners are to be held civilly and criminally liable where they fail to provide the appropriate mental health record(s), specifically involution MH commitments to the NICS data base, as required and in a timely fashion where preclusions can be immediately be made available and applied for those who are ineligible to purchase or otherwise possess a firearm.

Our inattentional blindness has led us here and in an almost obstinate way kept us from meaningful discussions and resolutions regarding these issues which invariably collide in life’s dangerous social intersections. That must change and change soon if we are to preserve civility and the sanctity of life. We in the threat management business, along with health clinicians, managers, supervisors, human resources and law enforcement have a vested interest and must double down on our efforts to salvage lives.

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