The Washington Post

Connecticut shooting: Too Many Shades of Gray

The wounds are still fresh, and for nearly 30 grieving Connecticut families the scars will likely always be in the forefront of their hearts. After all, who can explain a mass shooting at an elementary school?  It’s hard to wrap our minds around this tragedy. How can someone shoot children who were just a little older than babies? They didn’t even understand the sound of gunshots.

But we do. Our heads, hearts and stomachs ache at the news. And we will explore why and how this could have happened.

(Jahi Chikwendiu/WASHINGTON POST)

Maybe it’s because I’m from Connecticut and I had just returned from there two days ago that I was so impacted by the news. When I heard “shooting in Connecticut school” I could only think of the wide eyes and sweet laughter of my nieces and nephews as they play their video games. Were they victims? Had they been hurt? Trust me it’s been a while since I’ve run to a television set so quickly.

We Americans enjoy great freedoms: the right to bear arms and a valued but diminishing right to privacy are among them.  These freedoms are great along the black-and-white edges but when stubborn problems arise we get into the gray areas.

For instance, does the right to bear arms mean handguns for protection, rifles for hunting and military assault weapons? Who uses high-powered rifles and 100-round clips to take down deer?  Today’s shooter had at least one high-caliber rifle, large magazine clips and body armor when he entered the small school full of young children. What happens when the right to privacy stops parents and well-intentioned loved ones from helping their mentally unstable relatives from getting the care they need?  While it is unclear what the mental health history of Adam Lanza, the man responsible for the massacre, we still need to ask these questions.

Indeed, in many states adults can only be forced to get mental health treatment if they are seen to be “a danger to themselves or others.” It’s usually too late by the time a depressed, psychotic, or violent schizophrenic shows his or her most painful side. Just ask the families of the shooters in Colorado, Wisconsin, as well as Virginia tech among too many others.

Maybe I’m sensitive to this because mental illness has claimed the minds of many of my family members—including my sister who has a genius IQ but can’t keep a grip on reality. I’m blessed to say my afflicted family members aren’t violent and my heart goes out to those families who wrestle with that painful version of any kind of mental disorder.

Yes, my background gives me a close-up view of the problem but a painful truth is becoming obvious to many Americans:  guns are too easy to get while mental healthcare is too hard to get.

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