After a crazed gunman in Arizona shot a number of people, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, I posted a blog saying that the issues of gun control and mental health need to be finally addressed. Last Friday, a gunman with serious mental illness murdered twenty-six people at a Connecticut school. And again we see the results of our lack of attention to these two issues. For it is much easier in our society for an individual to get high-powered weapons than it is for him to get mental health treatment.
In his speech Sunday night, President Obama suggested a ban on assault weapons. The Connecticut gunman used at least one semi-automatic weapon. This allowed him to fire multiple shots at his victims, most of whom were small children. There is no reason why anyone, outside of a military operation, would need a semi-automatic weapon. It has no place in hunting. It cannot justifiably be used for self-defense.
Yet corruption has prevented our government from responding to this issue. Congress has long been in the hip pocket of the National Rifle Association. It is high time we banned assault weapons. If we need to elect new officials in order to bring this about, then so be it.
Mental health is another issue that the government, on national, state and local levels fails to address. It is traditionally the first item cut from state budgets. In Syracuse, New York, where I practice law, I served on a committee started by an enlightened judge. This committee sought to initiate mental health services in the courts. We were stonewalled by several groups, including the local government.
A number of my clients have been unable to obtain governmental services, including drug treatment courts and PINS, by the very reason that they were mentally ill. The government does not want to deal with mental illness.
It is time we made a priority of this issue. It is time the government sufficiently funded it. It is time that mental health treatment became as accessible as other healthcare.
President Obama has made a call to action. As a society, we cannot tolerate the continuation of such violence as that which occurred in Connecticut. We need to start a social dialogue in earnest on bringing an end to these shootings. And we need to act on the issues of mental health and gun control.