As everyone by now knows 20 year old Adam Lanza went into Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and opened fire with two 9mm handguns and a .223 rifle. As of this writing the physical toll of this tragedy is 26 dead - including 18 children from the elementary school.
Coming on the heels of the Portland area mall shootings by Jacob Tyler just a few days ago, the pall of senseless violence hangs heavy over our nation. As is in our nature as Americans, we want answers, a reason, a solution. We just want it fixed.
Sadly these events rarely have any answers or reasons behind them and we are left to wonder what could have been done or who could have stopped it. With both of the recent public shooters killed in their act we have no opportunity to find a motive or to get a reason. We are only left with questions. The most pressing questions of all - what could we have done to stop this or what can we do to prevent another attack like this from happening again.
There are no simple answers for this yet our political establishment is already out in force swinging for the fences. The calls for gun control have started and are growing in volume - regardless of the fact that a gun is a simple mechanical device and simply does not harm without human interaction. We cannot have a logical conversation about gun control unless all parties admit that a gun cannot act on it's own.
Tragically, ours was not the only nation struck by an attack at an elementary school today. In the tiny village of Chingping in Henan province, China a 38-year-old man armed with a knife entered a the village primary school (primary school in China is 6-11 year olds) and began randomly attacking both staff and children. Before the knife-wielding attacker was subdued he wounded 23 people, including elementary school aged children.
While the village was relatively "lucky" today in that no one was killed, the recollection of similar attacks during 2010 when over 50 children were wounded and 20 children were killed during mass school stabbings brought the conversation to the forefront.
Today both nations are trying to find better ways to prevent this kind of tragedy again. While we focus our energy on the implement used (guns), the Chinese government discusses the weaknesses of the antiquated Chinese medical system when it comes to diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. Nobody familiar with our nations mental health system will honestly tell you that our system is any better.
Doctors and counselors are overloaded with patients leaving little time for anything but the most perfunctory of visits. Hospitals are stretched beyond capacity and have waiting lists for people wanting admission. Emergency rooms are poorly equipped to deal with or recognize people in need of psychiatric treatment - and have few options to help because of the shortage of doctors and psych hospital beds.
Meanwhile, patients are stuck in an endless loop of illness, poor treatment options, and the stigma our society lays on so heavily for those needing care. Many of these people understand that getting treatment can follow them forever and when they finally do reach out - they find the system overloaded and unable to help. Just wait a few days and we'll have a bed. Yet those patients may or may not reach out again and the "brush-off" they felt from the very system they reached out to only exacerbates their sense that they should handle this on their own.
Before we get into the endless debates about gun control and the pro's and con's different people see with gun ownership, can we step back and accept that stopping madmen has little to do with the gun... and everything to do with the person.