Have we had enough?

The other day I sent my son to school without his cell phone.  This was as a result of some low grades and I had taken the phone away in hopes his grades would come back up so he could get the phone back. He had come into my room that morning and asked if he could take the phone to school and I refused him. Later I saw a text on my phone that he had sent me the day before “did you see the news about the school shooting?”  I had missed that text-and now I know why he came in to ask for his phone-it was the day after the Florida school shooting where 17 students and faculty lost their lives. Only when I saw that text did it occur to me that perhaps he had asked for the phone because maybe he was feeling anxious about attending school and having his phone would have made him feel safer to have a connection to me. Then I realized that it would make me feel better having a connection to him. Who would have thought we would be here as parents – fearful to send our kids to school. Wondering could it happen at our school?

I don’t always write about things that are controversial- but sometimes you just have to speak out.  And to be honest there doesn’t seem to be a need to make this topic controversial because I think we can all agree on the premise – that we are all sick of  kids and adults being shot dead in schools. This problem has become prolific.

Here is a list of recent school shootings in case you missed it.

Aren’t you frustrated at seeing the heartbroken faces of the families who lost a loved one? The faces of the murdered flow past our screens in rapid succession – maybe strangers to us but to someone they were the world.  And don’t we feel the pain? and don’t we become angry? I think most of us agree enough is enough.

But then what? It doesn’t seem our politicians can agree on what to do about the issue. They don’t want to become unpopular to their constituents or perhaps to the lobbies that fund them. So what happens? Nothing. They let  enough time go by and the masses demanding change thin out because they have life to get back to and the pressure on the politicians lessens and they go on without having done anything – then there is a next time and another.

And lets face it- nothing that is done will completely stop these horrible tragedies from happening but does that mean there shouldn’t be change?

And by this time you might be reading Gun Ban into my writing and if you are doing that you have read wrong. I don’t hate guns. I live in the country where many people own and use guns. I think guns are tools that need to be respected. But I do feel not everyone should have one.

The answer to this national epidemic doesn’t fall into one category. In my opinion, there needs to be a multifaceted approach to maybe begin to see the number of these school shootings and hopefully other mass shootings significantly decline. But we have to compromise and we have to admit the truth about a few key issues.

While I find that there is a need for gun reforms there is another pressing and urgent issue that must be addressed in this country and that is the failure of our mental health system. This especially applies to children and teens and young adults.  I keep hearing from politicians that it’s not a gun issue it is a mental health issue. Well politicians here’s the truth our crappy mental health system is the issue – it not hard to find story after story online of our fractured mental health system in the United States. The system is broken and must be fixed. The truth of this situation must be admitted by our national and state governments – only they can facilitate a fix to this crisis.  If it’s not a gun issue and is a mental health issue something better happen to begin improvements to a system that isn’t doing much to help the most broken among us. 

I say this with some experience circumventing the mental health system can be a nightmare.  Our family has been lucky – our needs weren’t huge. I wasn’t looking for a bed for a psychotic or homicidal child. I didn’t need to sit for hours and sometimes days in an ER only to be told  that there just weren’t any beds to admit their child.  Or told that their child didn’t meet the “criteria” for admittance to a residential facility or that the hospital that could take the teen that was suicidalcould only keep them for a few days -the family would need to find other facilities for their child- leaving them to step into the sea of beauracracy and limitation that is our mental health system .  We were lucky, We only had to try to find a psychiatrist and an therapist for my child. This seems easy enough but finding Psychiatrists wanting to treat adolescents under 18 are not easy to find and often the ones I found didn’t take our insurance. We paid the full hourly fee out-ot-pocket for years because we found someone very caring and open to working with our child. He left to go teach and we found another doc only to have him leave the practice shortly after we began to see him and  nobody stepped in to replace him.  I could go on with the stories but you get my drift – I think- i hope.  We are lucky that we could afford it- and we are blessed we haven’t been in the situations I mentioned above but I know of people who have been. Friends it’s a mess. 

The other day President Trump said that when people see dangerous behavior or strange behavior that they must report it. I know of families that did report that their children were becoming a danger to themselves or others only to be turned away. And worse –  At the ER the staff will often look at cases like these and if the parents ask for the child to be admitted- and refuse to take the child home – begging for someone to help – the staff at the hospital might call Child Protective Services or they might spell out what CPS might tell the family…you must take your child home – we have no bed- we cannot help – they don’t meet the criteria- they are too dangerous for XYZ facility – if you don’t take your child home then you will be charged with child abandonment and neglect. The very parents who are trying to get help for their child – the very ones who might feel fear of their raging teen but who still want ot help this child will be charged with neglect if they refuse to take this raging child home. Who is be neglectful really? It is our system.

So the very system that the President is asking people to depend on and report things to is broken and has turned away many people young and old that need attention.  I know the health care providers don’t want this but their hands are tied. This has to stop because those kids or adults who have ben turned away time after time will not be helped and we can expect to see more violence because of this. 

With the closing of many longer term intensive mental health care facilities in the latter half of the last century we see less beds and more doors closed for the mentally ill especially our youth.  Hospitals simply cannot meet the demands that are now placed upon them to handle severe mental health cases. And that leaves so many with no means of help.  What a tragedy.

So with the failure of our mental health system to meet the needs of the mentally ill population the people who need to be in a mental hospital will not be in one. So our gun laws will fail because the only way to fail the mental health part of a gun check to acquire a gun is to have been committed to a mental hospital.

Right now, under federal law, a person can be tallied in a database and barred from purchasing or possessing a firearm due to a mental illness under two conditions: if he is involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, or if a court or government body declares him mentally incompetent (ref 1). So if you have a mental health issue but have not been committed or found incompetent you won’t be in that database that is searched for that red flag.  
So how does all this get fixed?  I venture to say it will never ever be full proof. But still things need to improve. Admitting to and then addressing the issues that plague our mental health system is a start. In the meantime let’s get some rational gun laws on the books. Personally, I do not like the high powered rifles and feel they should be banned but that is just my opinion and not a popular one- so in spirit compromise I thought of the following that could be put into place-

–Don’t sell guns of any type to anyone under the age of 21. Many states have a legal drinking age of 21 for a reason. Why not enforce the age 21 for gun purchases too?

–Don’t sell high powered weapons to anyone under the age of 30. Ok I know people are like What? That is not fair! Well if we take into consideration the maturation process of the brain – it has been studied a lot- and it’s proven that as we reach our latter 20’s our impulsivity declines. So perhaps by the latter 20’s a person may have better control over reactivity, better control over feelings and reasoning.  A more mature person might be inclined to use it for the right purposes. 

Maybe a young person with mental illness will be stopped from acting out in such a devestating way if we just make some effort to tighten up the laws to help protect the most precious among us.  

Now I am sure I will hear the argument  that if someone wants a gun they can find one…this might be true. But I think it might be safe to say that not all of these people who committed mass shootings would have obtained their guns illegally- some may have maybe all would have-but I doubt it  – but something has to give. If the gun laws change and nothing improves well then we know we are paddling up the wrong creek. And I won’t pontificate more on the other huge issue – our failing mental health system. Ive said enough here. 

One of the things that was spouted after this last shooting was that Cruz got his gun legally- but there are clearly gaps in the system that are causing problems. Lets be reasonable. I mentioned above I don’t want a gun ban. I dont hate guns. But I certainly do not feel that any of my children (I have two teen minors and one adult teen)should own a high powered rifle-they have no need for one -and I would venture to guess if you are reading this and you have kids you probably feel the same – ok so I know there are the outliers but I’m sure most of us don’t feel we need our 16 year old running around with an AR15. I am only trying to plead for some reasonable change in laws so we can better protect our schools and other public places – but especially our schools.

I have truly had enough. I read an article the other day about this last shooting in Florida and in the article a woman was interviewed while she and her husband were looking for their daughter. They had been reunited with their son but their daughter hadn’t turned up and wasn’t answering her cell phone. The mother knew the police often ask the kids in a lockdown situation to leave their backpacks in the school and to leave on foot. So she figured her daughter left the cellphone in her backpack. There was another rendevous point that was hard to get to – it was at a mall near the school I believe and her husband borrowed a bike to go to that mall to try to find her – but to no avail. That mom was fairly sure they would find her – she thought she must be with a friend or another parent…

…At the end of that piece was the news. The family confirmed later their daughter was among the 17 killed.

That shook me – my stomach fell- my heart jumped. I felt her hope in that interview. The hope only a parent can have when the alternative is too unthinkable. I can only imagine the horror and grief she felt when she found out her daughter was dead.

I have had enough. Haven’t you?

One thought on “Have we had enough?

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