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Sandy Hook Elementary School.  As a child from 1966-1971 I went to Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I grew up in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown CT. After Sandy Hook School I went through the normal school progression, Newtown Middle School and then Newtown High School.  When I got my drivers license, I joined the Sandy Hook Fire Department just down the driveway from Sandy Hook School.  I worked for the Parks and Recreation department as a teen and mowed the lawns at the schools and the town park used for all those terrible press conferences. From 1980 through 2005 I worked for the Newtown Police Department.

I retired as a sergeant and deputy fire marshal from the town of Newtown in 2005.  As a firefighter in the late 70's I gave fire prevention talks to the kids at Sandy Hook Elementary. As a police officer and then as head of the detective and youth bureaus, I patrolled and later helped write the emergency response plans for the school after the tragedy at Columbine.  I also spent the last 10 years of my career teaching recruit and incumbent Connecticut Police Officers in Law Enforcement Response to Crimes of Domestic Violence.

I watched the TV in shock on December 14th.  I saw too many familiar faces contorted in pain and fear.  I saw former colleagues, friends and aquaintances in a pain that we couldn't imagine in our wildest dreams, or nightmares. Then the list of victims. Familiar names of school employees and children's families. The President spoke at my former high school, but before he spoke I watched as the members of the Police Department entered the auditorium. One word comes to mind after seeing the faces of the detectives I worked with who were inside that school, shattered.

Some deranged kid with a mental illness who lives about a mile from my mother, killed his own mother with her assault rifle.  He then drove about 5 miles down the road and shot his way through the glass doors of my old elementary school and with the same assault rifle killed 6 educators and 20 innocent babies, some of which had special needs.  The last part of that has been left out of the conversation. Some of those children killed had disabilities and one of the teachers killed was their special education teacher.

By no means am I saying we should "lock up" the mentally ill. Most people with mental illness diagnosis live productive and event free lives on an out-patient basis. There are however people with illnesses and times during the illness, and there are people with mental illnesses who do not comply with treatment programs or medication regimens who should not be allowed access to weapons.

Politicians can fight over assault weapons and high capacity magazine bans, record checks and eliminating gun show loopholes.  Politicians need to look at all avenues to protect our children, and us from persons who shouldn't have guns:

1.   Ignore the NRA. The NRA is supposed to support training, education and safety not promote the agenda of gun manufacturers and suppliers while making American Congressmen and Senators their whores. Any politician who votes against gun safety and control measures should have his/her name and the amount of money received from the gun lobby posted for all to see.

2.   Government needs to do a better job of educating the public on what the 2nd ammendment actually says and what the supreme court decision expanding gun ownership rights to individuals actually says, instead of what Rush, the NRA and Fox News report. If you listen to the gun rights lobby they have a right to have a machine gun turret set up on their roof to take out the tyrannical US government when it drives down Maple Street to come get their guns. Where does the paranoia stop? Are we really allowing people to say they have assault weapons in case they have to shoot government agents?

3.   For Federal, State and Local permits for guns and ammunition a more in depth criminal background check including official interviews with persons such as employers, former employers and neighbors. Currently in many areas of the country the applicant has to submit 3 letters of reference.  Who is going to submit a letter to the permit agency that says "I wouldn't give him a permit, he's a fucking lunatic"?  It's amazing how many people when interviewed by a cop will say "You're going to give him guns?" and then tell you about real or perceived threatening or violent behavior. I had it happen to me with references I contacted for police applicants. My favorite was the day a former employer told me "I wouldn't let him use the cash register, I certainly wouldn't let him carry a gun."

It may take longer, but while the 2nd ammendment and SCOTUS says you have the right to "bear arms" there is no "right" to walk into a gun store, buy an assault rifle and 1,000 rounds of ammo without a permit or background check. The government has an obligation to keep our children and schools, our malls, streets and theaters safe. The US has become reminiscent of what Israeli's had to live with when suicide bombers would target public buses, nightclubs and shopping areas. Difference is, Israel did something about it.

4.   I am a big proponent of ongoing record and mental health checks.  If your permit is good for 5 years, the extension process should include another background check.  A lot can change in 5 years.

5.   Expand the Federal and State Domestic Violence laws to include the removal of guns from homes/immediate relatives of persons who are mentally ill.  If a person is arrested for domestic violence or is the subject of restraining order (including those in the US Military under federal law) that person has to surrender his/her weapons until the end of the court case and only receive them back when a judge orders it.

If the murdering bastard in Sandy Hook didn't have access to his mother's assault rifles, 26 innocent lives wouldn't have been lost.  Connecticut law worked when he tried to buy a gun at Dick's sporting goods a couple of weeks before the shooting and was denied. So the issue in this particular case was a clueless mother with a gun fetish who allowed her mentally ill son access to her weapons since he couldn't obtain his own.  How did that work out for her?

Imagine in the future a 15 year old is sent to the emergency room because he threatens suicide or a 17 year old high school student threatens to kill a teacher or fellow students or a 29 year old sends threatening emails and is sent to the hospital for an evaluation. Now, imagine the law requires Doctors, emergency rooms, counselors, school personnel, police officers, ambulance employees and other "mandated reporters" to report the name of the person to the police department which would trigger a "search" of local, state and federal weapons records. If the address of the person revealed parents, siblings or others with weapons, then the weapons would have to be secured or surrendered until such time that the risk/crisis is abated.

I am not saying take away people's guns forever.  I am saying take them away during the time of crisis and only give them back after the crisis is certified as over, with safety measures in place to protect society from those who should never be around, in the presence of, or possessing weapons.

We have all seen the mass murder stories.  How many of us have seen the stories of kids playing with their parents gun shooting themselves, a sibling or friend? I remember a police officer I knew who was sent to a neighbor's home on a shooting call to find his own son dead after accidentally shooting himself with the officers off-duty gun.  When is the last time we saw an NRA commercial preaching gun safety to gun owners? When is the last time we saw an NRA commercial touting the Gun Nut 2000 gun safe? The National Shooting Sports Foundation located in Newtown CT had a very popular gun lock program years ago, it's time for another safety and security campaign.

The Newtown shooting simply comes down to a problem with access.  Not only did this kids idiot mother take him shooting, aquaintances have said she thought shooting and handling assault weapons would teach him "responsibility".  This kid and his mother lived in a $750,000+ home and she received $283,000 a year in alimony. She could have spent $1,000 on a gun safe keeping her little nut job out and she, 6 educators and 20 babies would still be alive today.  How about it NRA, want to start a campaign preaching gun safety and security? My guess is the NRA will just continue being the John to the whores in politics.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sue B, swampyankee, robctwo, Stuart Heady

    Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.--Adolph Hitler

    by hwstormer on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 08:17:00 AM PST

  •  small note: how would you define mental illness (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annecros, kyril, hwstormer

    to know which home to remove guns from?
    Another thought how about those of us who are retired or disabled who have no employer, who have most of their friends die or move away, who live in rural areas so our nearest neighbor's distance is measured in miles and who are no longer engaged in former activities where a former employer may be 10 years or more in our past?

    Just asking as I recently had problems coming up with 3 letters of reference to adopt a pet from a shelter

    •  Use the definitions already on the books.... (0+ / 0-)

      used by doctors, therapists, hospitals, probate judges for those diagnosed and for those showing a crisis{ A person who is a danger to himself or others, a person who exhibits threatening or destructive behavior, thoughts, words toward any person.

      Criminal history and medical background checks along with having to pass a gun safety and handling course suffice in most areas.

      Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.--Adolph Hitler

      by hwstormer on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 04:09:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  it appears most of the mass murderers did not have (0+ / 0-)

        a medical history which would rise to the level you suggest. There are already limitations on gun ownership by people with diagnosed mental problems who present a possible danger to the public

  •  My New New Years Resolution (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is to write a play well with others.  But, I have to say it is extremely hard when I see a diary like this.

    First I cannot stand this argument that "Lanza had to be mentally ill, because no one who is not would do such a thing.  It is not backed up by logic or by psychiatric fact. Timothy McVeigh was a fanatic, but he was found not to have any mental illness. Same with his partner, Terry Nichols (sp?).  They killed just as many children as Lanza did.

    Second, where is the evidence to prove your assertion that Lanza was mentally ill.  Maybe I missed it, but I haven't seen any.

    Third, your suggestion of have  "mandated reporters" report people to the police is just plain bad public policy! It will actually have the opposite affect than you want because people will go underground because they don't want to be "reported".  They will not get the treatment they need, and will only get worst in their mental illness.

    Fourth, the idea of having the police go into someone's house and search for and seize something, even a gun, shits away both the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.  Are you saying mental illness provides Probable Cause to search a person's house?  And property is to be seized without a hearing to provide for Due Process.

    Fifth, what is the criteria you want to use to trigger this "reporting" mandate?  Check out a DSM5, it is a very thick book.  Which conditions, disorders, and so on will you use.  Are you going strictly by diagnosis, or by their functional behavior?

    Sixth, you state:

    4.   I am a big proponent of ongoing record and mental health checks.  If your permit is good for 5 years, the extension process should include another background check.  A lot can change in 5 years.
    You are correct, a lot can happen in 5 years.  And it will most likely happen before someone's re-evaluation is required which means that you are not going to find them before they do what they are going to do.

    Sorry for the long response, but just needed to say it.

    •  I agree with hwstormer (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stuart Heady, hwstormer

      I have been practicing law in Corvallis Or. for 36 years.

      I have been handling mental commitment cases, criminal cases, juvenile delinquency and dependency cases, divorce cases and guardianships. All have people suffering from various mental diseases or disorders.

      The suggestions of the original poster are excellent. In Oregon we have a 180 day involuntary commitment to the State Hospital, and nothing else much. We constantly have people who are in need of mental health treatment, but are not getting it. We usually find them after a criminal conviction with mental health diagnosis and treatment required. They routinely report that there isn't any funding to provide them with treatment.

      Mandatory reporters are nothing new. We have mandatory reporting for child abuse.

      Imposing restrictions on people who are mentally unbalanced, and people who are providing them with housing is not unreasonable.

      Knee jerk criticism of people who have been working in the system for years isn't very productive. Not every suggestion will solve every problem or circumstance, but moving forward from where we are is important.

      •  I was a lawyer in Oregon too. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Do me a favor, respond to my earlier critiques, in a sound legal manner.

        Also, isn't our lovely little state hospital that is under a settlement decree because of all the civil rights violations including deaths, physical, mental, and sexual abuse from patients and staff.

        My critique is not "knee jerk". I too worked with people who were mentally ill.  Most people who are mentally ill are much more likely to be victims of crime, and do not commit crimes.

        From a NYT article

        But there is overwhelming epidemiological evidence that the vast majority of people with psychiatric disorders do not commit violent acts. Only about 4 percent of violence in the United States can be attributed to people with mental illness.

        This does not mean that mental illness is not a risk factor for violence. It is, but the risk is actually small. Only certain serious psychiatric illnesses are linked to an increased risk of violence.

        One of the largest studies, the National Institute of Mental Health’s Epidemiologic Catchment Area study, which followed nearly 18,000 subjects, found that the lifetime prevalence of violence among people with serious mental illness — like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder — was 16 percent, compared with 7 percent among people without any mental disorder. Anxiety disorders, in contrast, do not seem to increase the risk at all.

        Alcohol and drug abuse are far more likely to result in violent behavior than mental illness by itself. In the National Institute of Mental Health’s E.C.A. study, for example, people with no mental disorder who abused alcohol or drugs were nearly seven times as likely as those without substance abuse to commit violent acts.

        Mentally ill people do commit crimes, but they are NOT a significant cause of either mass shootings or other types of crime.

  •  This is an excellent diary. I will share the link (0+ / 0-)

    This person's perspective is amazing.  First of all, he comes from Newtown and knows everyone in the community, and secondly he has been involved in law enforcement and emergency response.  

    This is a perspective we don't hear enough from.  And well written.  

    We need to focus on the issue of getting treatment for kids who need it.  That means getting right with involuntary commitment, as difficult as that issue can be.  

    For a perspective on that from folks who really have been working in the professional mental health field,  I would recommend the Treatment Advocacy Center.

    The purpose of this group is to bring awareness that the tragedy of wasted lives due to inadequate treatment can be addressed by modern science.  

    It happens that I had a tragedy in my family due to the way early onset of mental illness in the middle school and high school time frame is not dealt with.  This is a crucial period and it turns out that after high school graduation and attaining the age of 18, kids drop off the edge into an abyss, if they need help.  

    Lanza, Homes and Loughner were mentally ill.  From reading as much as possible about their affect and behaviors and then looking at their photos, it just seems obvious.  Details will come out as time goes on, but the problem we are dealing with in these cases is about early onset of mental illness and the lack of ability in schools and among parents to recognize this and properly handle it.  

    We as a society are actually still in about a nineteenth century place in our attitudes about mental illness.  We see it as threatening us in a vague and ancient way and so we turn away and deny that it should be something we involve ourselves in.  

    Those people who usually comment on this subject who say that it is impossible for teachers or parents or others to evaluate mental illness really don't understand the mission of education and the necessity for intervening at an early stage.  Not do they understand that the science is really there.  We just don't use it because of our hang ups.  

    I think it is time we paid attention to the Treatment Advocacy Center's call for reform in this area, and to the diarists level headed and sensible perspective.

    We are in desperate need of getting past the sound bite approach to this.  

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 12:04:16 PM PST

    •  And you got your psych degree from where? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I remember the outcry when the Majority Leader from the Senate back in '05 or so used the same method of diagnosis to say a woman in Florida should be left on life support. Just looked at a picture. And he WAS a doctor.

      We are in desperate need of getting past the sound bite approach to this.
      Much of what the diarist wrote ARE sound bites. And they are not reasonable.


      Those people who usually comment on this subject who say that it is impossible for teachers or parents or others to evaluate mental illness really don't understand the mission of education and the necessity for intervening at an early stage.  Not do they understand that the science is really there.  We just don't use it because of our hang ups.
      Where is the evidence to back this up, except for from the NRA.  There is none. In fact the opposite is true.  Most clinicians will tell you that there is no way to tell who is going to do something like this.

      From December 17, 2012 NYT article, In Gun Debate, a Misguided Focus on Mental Illness

      Read the article.  Follow the links, please.  There is way too much good stuff in this article to quote.

      •  I think there is plenty of experience on this (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It is common sense, really.  

        The system needs checks and balances in order to be properly effective and this is where the problems come in.  That implies more people and more programs and therefore, more budget.  

        The system can't be improved by further cutting budgets, nor by fixes like hiring armed guards - at the expense of what we need.  

        hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

        by Stuart Heady on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 04:27:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I respect your opinions (0+ / 0-)

        Thank you for responding.  I wanted to open a dialogue outside the crap that I've listened to for the last month.

        One thing missing from my post is that Newtown CT before the shootings had been well known for being the location of Fairfield Hills State Mental Hospital which closed back in the late 90's.  Located in the center of town, it encompassed about 3 square miles of land had over 30 buildings, and during my career had approximately 1500 patients, many of whom were able to "walk away" and end up in town. It had been open about 60 years.  I accept your assertion that I am not a doctor, but I did spend over 25 years of my life dealing with mentally ill persons.

        My argument to you regarding to McVeigh and Lanza is simplistic.  McVeigh was another militia nut job with a deep sense of paranoia and distrust of the government. Some consider paranoia to the extent he had it an "illness" however when it comes to legal definition and fitness for trial, that's another story.  Someone who loads a rental truck with ANFO and blows up a federal bldg because of his anti government stance has issues.

        Lanza not being mentally ill is harder to accept.  Any person who blows his mothers head off with 4 shots while she lays in bed and then drives to an elementary school and kills 26 teachers and babies, and then puts another gun in his mouth and kills himself is FUCKED UP!  I don't care what diagnosis there is.  

        Neither McVeigh or Lanza engaged in what can be considered normal behavior.

        Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.--Adolph Hitler

        by hwstormer on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 04:28:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  If this diary gets ignored, I would repost it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I think a different title and maybe a picture or something would give it more eyeballs.  Worthy essay.  

    Perhaps try and get it published at Alternet or Huffington.  Hell, I could see this in The Nation or another of the national pubs.

    Necessary, I think.

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 12:47:55 PM PST

  •  So how Mentally Ill do you have to be to be (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Mentally ill?

    State suspends gun permit for CEO who said he would ‘start killing people’ over gun control
    We're talking poster child for the complete ban on civilian ownership.

    He's says he's on the edge of murder.  He calls for followers, he gets followers, and his gun permit is

    I'm sorry, but what more does he need to do?

    Sign my White House Petition Enforce the KEEP in the Second Amendment We don't have a problem with gun control, we have a problem with gun owners controlling their guns.

    by 88kathy on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 03:40:57 PM PST

    •  An example of my point... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The person made a threatening statement and the State did its job by pulling his permit.

      Just like CT law worked denying the killer a gun purchase this State did the right thing.

      People arrested for any violent crime such as assault, domestic violence, threatening, reckless endangerment, child abuse crimes, sexual assault, burglary, robbery should all be subject to the same revocation as this idiot.

      Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.--Adolph Hitler

      by hwstormer on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 04:32:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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