It’s not supposed to happen in America, certainly not during the Christmas season. It’s unthinkable that it happened to children, especially very young children, but it did.
Unlike a good part of the world, in America we protect our children, we cherish them and at Christmas, for parents, most of us create a magical world of happy memories. What happened in Newtown, Conn. is a nightmare that engulfed not just a small community but the nation.
In respect to the parents, I’ve waited until the funerals were completed and the initial emotional shock to subside before commenting in this column. Now it’s time to have the “conversation about guns” that was immediately called for by many, which is unfortunately but not unexpectedly turning into a monologue demonizing opponents.
It’s important for people to stop shouting at each other and start listening, to evaluate all of the facts, not just the political talking points put forward by political leaders or activists with an agenda to promote. As an example, Senator Feinstein, our U.S. Senator, normally a rationale person on most issues, immediately stated, as she re-introduced her federal ban on assault weapons, “if she were in charge she would tell Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them ALL in: rifles, handguns, shotguns…” a total ban on firearms. That will get a lot of people’s attention. It also undermines any hope of obtaining cooperation from a very suspicious population of firearms owners convinced that the real agenda is the disarmament of the civilian population.
There are several components to the tragedy in Newtown. The first is a recurring theme, a killer with a pre-existing mental disability, a loner left either undiagnosed or untreated who then explodes in a psychotic rage against innocents. We’ve seen it here, where a deranged man stabbed a stranger to death in a Paso Robles laundry mat.
We saw it the year before when a deranged young man stole a gun and murdered two women, both strangers to him, in Santa Margarita. He couldn’t get the mental health treatment he needed although his condition was well known.
This is an underlying theme that is repeated over and over since the courts and legislatures dismantled substantial portions of our mental health system over the last 40 years.
In the early 1970s, we had over 500,000 mental health beds nationwide. We now have less than 45,000 nationwide as the previous mental health population has been literally dumped on our streets. Notice the increase of homeless people? Many have significant mental health problems, are incapable of unassisted living yet have no place to go. Some are quite dangerous to themselves and others, but the legal labyrinth we’ve created ties the hands of mental health professionals.
The second issue is the security of public places, especially schools. We compel parents to send their children to school or face serious legal problems. Nobody is compelled to shop at a mall or go to the movies.
We have a moral duty to provide reasonably safe schools. School tragedies have occurred for a long time. In 1927, the worst school massacre in the nation’s history occurred when a former school board member blew up a school in Michigan, killing 45 people, including 38 children.
We just voted to spend $46 million on a school bond. Surely some of that money can be spent on enhanced security for Atascadero schools, especially ballistic hardening of doors and controlling building access.
I have some thoughts, which will be included in Part II along with further discussion on guns.
Al Fonzi is a retired Army Lt. Colonel and career intelligence officer with more than 30 years of service. He is a self-described conservative and active in several political organizations. Fonzi first moved to Atascadero in 1972.For the complete article see the 01-02-2013 issue.
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