In the light of recent events, it's time to have a very real conversation about not only mental health issues but where our society is going overall. To say we just need to ban guns or that we just need to place police officers everywhere is intellectually lazy and a cop-out.
By nature, human beings are violent creatures. In case you haven't been paying attention, we've been killing each other since the beginning of our history. Whether it has been over resources or beliefs, we've only gotten better and more efficient at it. We've also lost a sense of what death really is. Everything is so sanitized and remote that unless you've watched "Faces of Death" or actually watched someone die in front of you, it is sort of an abstract idea that most people don't grasp. Why do you think so many soldiers come home with PTSD? They've seen death up close and personal.
I'm not going to tell you I have all the answers to this problem, I don't think anyone really does. However, making more laws isn't going to fix the problem. Making handguns illegal won't stop killings from happening and arming every member of the populace isn't going to do that either. I also know that allowing everyone access to free mental healthcare isn't going to fix it, nor will placing a 100% tax on every box of bullets. As long as there are deranged, evil people walking this earth, events like that of Columbine, Norway, Oklahoma City, 9-11 and Newtown will happen.
America has a sordid history and fascination with violence. Consider that one of the first things the European settlers did upon landing on these shores was to start annihilating the natives. Ponder the fact that the Puritans had zero problem with burning alive people they thought were witches or that except for a few years in our history, America has been involved in one war or another. Why is it that we put warning labels on everything sexual in nature but allow kids to watch cartoons and films in which almost every problem is solved with violence of some sort? How many action films involve the villain being escorted to prison in handcuffs versus being blown up or shot to pieces by the hero? Think about all of that.
There is no law, no reasonable change that we can make that will stop a repeat of the tragedy of 12-14-2012. We can arm every single man, woman and child but we are already the most heavily armed nation in the world. We can ban the sale and possession of firearms but that won't stop it either. We can spout the talking points of the gun lobby and the anti-gun lobby until we're blue in the face but that'll get us nowhere.
As I said, I don't have the answers but here's where I think we can start. Require that further purchases and possession of assault weapons need a license, much like a driving permit. Make it a one time deal where you take a safety course, just like many states already require for hunting. Violations of the law involving firearms will result in the license being suspended or permanently revoked.
Next, if you commit a violent crime involving a gun, you go to jail for the rest of your life. I prefer a place like Angola where you don't sit on your ass in a cell and watch TV. You'll be working in the hot fields, swatting mosquitoes and digging ditches until the day you're buried in the dark delta soil.
All of these suggestions will not stop a suicidal, violent person though. If you're depressed and angry with suicide on your mind, no law or consequences will likely stop you. In fact, there are people who seek "suicide by cop". When I was a kid, we had a mental hospital in my town. People who were suffering from mental issues were sent there for the safety of the community. The problem is that we've closed so many of those and placed such a stigma on mental illness. We've basically made the choice of letting these kids with behavioral problems either stay in the schools and be bullied or be placed in prison. We allow our kids to be fed a steady diet of media that glorifies violence as the answer to everything, as we give them a pill for everything that we perceive to be wrong with them.
Sadly, as soon as the media finds a new tragedy, they'll be on to the next story they can command the most advertising dollars from. The question is will we allow them to? Once the last victim is buried, will we go back to our comfortable little lives and wait for it to happen again, maybe this time in our backyard? Or will we get beyond the paranoid fantasies on the right that the government wants to take everyone's guns and the delusional ideology on the far left that only by doing exactly that will we be safe?