In the aftermath of the Newtown school shooting, the main question on American’s minds is: why?
Why would somebody take it upon himself or herself to commit such a horrific atrocity? Why would we, as a society, allow for such an act to occur?
While it’s easy to point at lax gun laws, the answer is much simpler: Adam Lanza was a mentally ill, deranged young man.
Let's remember that Adam’s mother owned her guns legally, there's nothing wrong with that, and it’s her right under the Constitution. Mrs. Lanza was a teacher, mother, and friend who, as far as we know, wished no harm on the students she worked so diligently to protect.
But did she know the internal struggle her son was having? And if not, would she have even known what signs to look for?
Millions of Americans own guns for legitimate reasons and wouldn’t even dream of committing such an atrocity. The underlying issues here was not how Adam Lanza was able to acquire guns, but the lack of treatment options available to address his illness.
Obviously stricter gun laws are one side of the coin, but from a pragmatic point of view we’re never going to see a complete ban on weapons, nor should we. Rather, we should take a look at the public health system we have in place and how we can build a stronger infrastructure for identifying those with mental illness and giving them the treatment they need before this type of event happens.
Events like these are not a result of the shooter “snapping.” They are premeditated and executed with the intent to afflict the maximum amount of damage possible. As a nation we choose to prioritize for-profit prisons and ineffective treatment programs to help address society’s ailments. But while prisons continue to grow and expand, access to preventative public health treatments are dwindling, allowing psychological issues to fester in the minds of the mentally ill until they manifest themselves in a violent act of terror.
Until we allow for a system that brings the mentally ill into a strong, supportive health care infrastructure beforethey decide to act on violent tendencies, no amount of government regulation is going to prevent an atrocity like this from occurring again.
I don't disagree that we should have a strong system in place to prevent guns from getting into the hands of the wrong people, but by focusing the dialogue on banning weapons we avoid the big picture: stigmatizing mental illness and denying mentally ill people the care they need is at the root of gun violence, not guns themselves.
That’s the why. It’s now time for us as a nation to come together and answer, how?