Local view: Mental-health care must be brought into the 21st centuryEvery one of the Constitution’s 17th-century-era rights has evolved because of situational and persistent maladaptive behaviors and generational changes to traditional cultural mores.
By: Thomas Schur, for the News Tribune
During an early Kansas winter in 1959, two cold-blooded felons brutally murdered all four members of a family for their pocket change and a transistor radio. Not long afterward, famed author Truman Capote knew that in order for the tragedy to be worthy of his literary talents he had to extract what was going on in the mind of the trigger man, Perry Smith. It took more than six years for Capote to persuade Smith to reveal the gory details that made his work, “In Cold Blood,” a masterpiece. At the end of the book, Smith laments, “I didn’t have noth’n against them (the Clutters). I guess they were the unlucky ones who had to pay for it all.”
Was that also what Adam Lanza was thinking? Or was he like so many others who suffer from serious cognitive and emotional disorders and who so desperately want others to know and feel their frustration, anger and pain? Although few parallels exist between Smith’s and Lanza’s life experiences, both used easily accessible firearms and had virtually unrestricted and unlimited amounts of ammunition as a catharsis for their inadequacies.
Since 1959, changes in behavioral science and mental health care have been monumental. But they pale in comparison to the changes in physical health care. Technological advances in tests, screenings and numerous preventive measures are commonplace, and people are living longer, healthier lives because the perception of physical health care changed.
The same change in perception must now begin with mental health care. One of the many reasons is the impulsive and immediate access to millions of small arms and countless rounds of ammunition that can be legally obtained by even those who are cognitively and emotionally unstable.
The preventive measures used today by authorities and others are like 14th-century alchemists combating the plague with pixie dust.
In an effort to curtail carnage, before another firearm or box of ammunition is purchased, including those by straw buyers, a multiphasic personality exam should be mandatory. The exam could be similar to the battery of tests administrated to police and military officer candidates. Examination results could then be evaluated by licensed mental health practitioners who would, or would not, issue a health card. The health card would have to be presented anytime anyone purchases a firearm or ammunition and would expire the same time as one’s driver’s license. All overrides and exceptions would be determined at police discretion.
As an owner of multiple firearms, I believe this difficult measure is necessary. Random deaths from firearm violence in the past 50 years steadily have increased along with the population density curve.
Every one of the Constitution’s 17th-century-era rights has evolved because of situational and persistent maladaptive behaviors and generational changes to traditional cultural mores. What constitutional libertarian would dare speak for the thousands of innocents whose basic human and civil rights have been eternally violated and slaughtered by crazed, impassioned and angry gunmen, staining their homes, streets, churches and schools with their blood?
Thomas Schur of Mountain Iron earned a degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota Duluth and is an avid firearms owner, shooter and collector.