Monday, 17 December 2012

The loss of Newtown's innocents ... the world mourns.

My heart goes out to the people of Newtown. I cannot imagine the horror they are experiencing right now, the waking up and remembering that their little ones are gone. There really are no words to describe how every right minded person feels about this senseless massacre.

As someone who works in a school with children of a similar age, I cannot help but imagine myself and the children I work with in that same situation. It is almost too much to think about and it makes me appreciate even more the selfless bravery of those members of staff in Newtown who did all they could to protect their young charges.

There are two trains of thought that seem to be emerging in all this awfulness - the people who cry out for gun reform in the U.S and the people who discuss the fall out of mental illness. At the weekend I read this very moving and really rather frightening post by The Anarchist Soccer Mom . My heart goes out to her and her situation. It is a post well worth reading and gives a new viewpoint to this tragedy.

She describes her own son's struggles with mental illness and the effect his behaviour has on her and his siblings. The frightening thing is that until he commits an act serious enough to be charged there is not much to be done to keep him in check. And there we are faced with the conundrum ... of course we cannot just lock up people because we think they might be capable of violence, but how long do we ignore the warning signs?

I remember when I was working as a doctor's receptionist in my late teens and a man came into the surgery one afternoon. I was alone and I knew that the man had a morbid hatred of doctors and believed himself to be a vampire of sorts. He was never allowed to be alone with a doctor as he had attacked various G.Ps previously and was mentally ill. And here he was was little old me alone in the surgery. As it turned out he stayed for a short time and then left. I asked one of the doctors why such a man was allowed to walk free when he posed such a threat.The reply was that until he actually did something very serious there was no excuse, no reason to detain him.So basically he had to seriously hurt someone before anything was done to protect people from him. He was a time bomb waiting to go off.

But did he ever go off? Yes, he was a frightening man, a man with cold, dead eyes, but that in itself is not a crime. He had rights too. You can't just lock someone up because they are mentally ill. The days of the asylum are long gone ... But what about the rights of the innocent? What about the rights of the Soccer Mom, having to hide every sharp implement in her house, having to teach her younger children to run to their car and lock the doors if her older son started to lose it?

The question I ask myself is what on earth was Adam Lanza's mother doing with assault rifles in her house? They were, apparently, all legal firearms, but, for the love of God ... who in their right mind needs guns like that (or any guns at all really...) especially when your son is mentally unstable?

As an English woman I suppose I have a very different viewpoint on guns to a lot of Americans. I read tonight that some NRA supporters were saying that if only the teachers had had guns there would not have been a massacre ... Hello???!!! From my point of view that is an insane thing to say. The stats tell a story. In the U.K last year there were 8 deaths caused by handguns. In the U.S - over 10,000.

The debate over the right to bear arms and the care of the mentally ill will roll on and on. I am not sure there will ever be an answer. If someone is really that determined to wreak death, destruction and misery upon innocent people then they will do so - whether they use a rifle or some other weapon. The awful thing is that caught in the middle are those who lose their lives, lose their futures.

Right now I hope that those poor children and their teachers are the last to ever lose their lives in such a ghastly pointless way. But I fear they will not be.


Kat Pearce said...

It is truly heartbreaking and so completely unnecessary. I can't believe a country would allow this to happen repeatedly without changing the laws on fire arms.

Bill said...

This from The New York Times about the weapon used in the school shooting.

Imagine what the total number is for all the guns in civilian circulation.

"Gun makers do not release sales figures for specific types of firearms. But Mr. Halbrook, who compiled manufacturing estimates for a lawsuit, said that by a conservative estimate, 3.3 million to 3.5 million AR-15s were made in the United States from 1986 through the first half of this year and were not exported. A similar estimate, for manufacturing from 1986 through 2009, was summarized by a District of Columbia circuit court judge as sufficient evidence that the rifles were in “common use.”"

Razmataz said...

Without saying his name, I think the shooters mother has some kind of fear of the economy collapsing and the world running amok and that she would need protection. (read that). If that is even true, she was totally irresponsible to having weapons in her house given that she was well aware of her sons issues. It's like the perfect storm. A desensitized boy, mental illness and easy access to weapons. I do believe the Right to Bear arms was contrived when Americans were fighting off highwaymen and "savages" as the deplorably called them. I am not sure IF anything will change. SADLY.