The root cause of gun violence and how to fix it
The tragedy in Uvalde, Texas has raised the same discussion as such tragedies always do. It's the guns. However, what isn't being discussed is the underlying problem: the mental health of these perpetrators.
The fact is that guns don't leave home and go places to injure and kill people on their own. They are taken there by people. Among the people who commit these horrific crimes, the common denominator is mental health. Therefore, it is on mental health that we should be focusing.
From Columbine to Sandy Hook to Parkland to Buffalo to Uvalde, all of the perpetrators had mental health issues. Most had prior brushes with the law. Some were known to the FBI. All were known to have social problems, to be loners, to be "unusual" with family problems. Many were bullied.
So why were these people not being treated? Why were they not under a doctor's care? More importantly, why were they not living in a mental care facility, where they could be monitored and treated? Had they been under treatment and monitoring, this and the other shootings probably wouldn't have happened.
The problem is that America does not have effective methods for protecting these people from themselves and us from them. We don't have processes for committing these people and getting them the care and treatment they desperately need. In fact, we have laws prohibiting forcible incarceration of the mentally ill.
Mentally ill people who try to get help are often turned away. They are not taken in for evaluation and support and treatment. Instead, they are frequently just handed a bottle of pills and sent on their way.
This plays into the homeless problem we have. The majority of the homeless people in America are mentally ill. Many are also drug-addicted. Yet regular, helpful, and effective treatment is not available.
Instead of turning a blind eye to this and focusing on guns, we must get to the root cause of the problem. We must address mental health and dismiss the appeals to privacy rights from the people who refuse to allow these mentally ill people to be taken in and treated for their illness.
Solutions are hard but are doable and are much more reasonable than stripping law-abiding citizens of something guaranteed to them by the Constitution and multiple Supreme Court rulings.
We need laws passed by Congress that allow federal funding for effective mental health support nationwide.
States need to enact laws that make these mentally ill individuals subject to sequestration from the general public so they can be treated and so the public can be protected.
Research shows that a disproportionate number of criminal defendants and incarcerated people suffer from various forms of mental illness and substance abuse. Federal and state criminal justice systems recognize that incarceration alone is not a complete answer to the challenges posed by untreated mentally ill people.
The traditional prison setting does not account for the needs of those struggling with their mental health.
The problem is that mentally ill prisoners sent to jail or to prison do not get the treatment they need. Even prisoners who were on medication before being arrested and incarcerated don't continue to get their medications once they land in jail.
Instead of routing mentally ill people who commit crimes to jail, we should route them into a system where they can get support and treatment. They can be incarcerated in a restrictive non-jail setting, with access to mental health professionals and the medications needed to control their behavior. Settings such as this can provide the psychological and psychiatric care they wouldn't otherwise get. They can be taught coping skills other than drug use to help them once they're released, and there should be gateways for them to easily return if they feel the need.
Metrics need to be established in order for states to get those funds. How many are they treating? How many are showing improvement? How many are released successfully and unsuccessfully?
We need tracking systems once patients are released so that intervention can take place before a Columbine, Buffalo, or Uvalde occurs.
The question is, will privacy advocates let this happen? Will they support getting ill people the treatment and support they need? Or will they continue turning a blind eye and pretending they're noble for "protecting" these people while putting the rest of us at risk?
Image via Pxhere.