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Taylorville, IL 62568
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FROM THE SHERIFF’S DESK, VOL 3, NR 2
By Sheriff Bruce Kettelkamp
MASS SHOOTINGS – WHAT MUST BE DONE TO REDUCE THEM?
The tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut, still troubles the nation. There were 27 people killed in a shooting rampage on December 14 at the Sandy Hook Elementary school. Twenty of these were young children, six were adults and the 27th was the shooter.
In 2012 alone, the number killed in these kinds of tragic events was 151.
Unfortunately, 2013 has already gotten off to a bad start in Mass Shootings. In Albuquerque, Nehemiah Griego, a 15-year old son of an Albuquerque pastor, used 2 rifles to kill his mother, three siblings, and his father. He then loaded his van with the guns and ammunition in anticipation of a trip to Wal-Mart, where he planned to “murder more people.” He expected to be killed by law enforcement there.
Political forces quickly moved to recommend new anti-gun laws, which would reduce substantially the specific types of guns people could still buy. There would be new limitations on the number of cartridges that could be placed in a magazine. Background checks would be universally required.
In past years, similar ideas were quick to appear and gained support from many Americans. Today the response has changed somewhat. In fact, a significant shift has occurred.
In 1990, those wanting more strict controls were 78% of the population. Those who wanted less restrictions were only 19%of the total population.
But in 2010, the number of people wanting more control had fallen to a low of 44%. Meanwhile those who wanted no increase in restrictions rose from 19% to 54%. This clearly indicates that public opinion has undergone extensive revision in these years.
Part of the reason: When you have very restrictive gun laws, as in Chicago, we now can see that those programs end up placing such restrictions on law-abiding citizens that they are increasingly the victims of gun violence. They cannot obtain guns to protect themselves, but the gang members, who pay no attention to such laws, are increasingly in control of wide areas of the city.
MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAMS -- AN IMPORTANT ANSWER
In many of these shootings, the perpetrators exhibited similarities. They were often suffering from a variety of mental afflictions. A New York Times study of 100 rampage murderers, found that 47 were mentally ill. Records indicated that problems were actually known and some had received treatment.
Of course it’s likely that some of the other 53 shooters in the study may have had similar ailments. But since they had not had any treatment, they didn’t show up in the data.
Complicating the situation, some who displayed a need for treatment didn’t receive it. Why? There is a growing concern that our mental health system is broken.
In the 1960’s many of these killings could likely have been prevented because the mentally ill would have been required to have the care they needed. Each state had its own laws to care for and help those with mental illness.
But in 1963, the federal government began producing a program that would fund community mental health centers to replace state hospitals. After 17 years of the program, the number of patients in state mental hospitals fell from 504,000 to 132,100, a reduction of 74%. The government programs took on some but not all of these patients for treatment. In fact approximately half of those discharged from state mental hospitals, many of whom had family support, actually sought outpatient treatment and generally did well. The other half, some of whom were suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder did not do well at all.
Over these years, the availability of public psychiatric beds in the USA has decreased from 559,000 to only 43,000, even though the nation’s population has increased.
In general those with mental illnesses who are being treated are not a danger. But those with such illnesses who are not being treated are a matter of concern.
Many states are rethinking their mental health budget cuts. About 30 states had reduced mental health spending since 2008.
As a result 9 state-run psychiatric hospitals were closed and another 3,200 beds were eliminated for mental health patients.
The truth is that this decreasing health care availability has been in process for 50 years. That was when President John Kennedy proposed a new program under which the federal government would fund community mental health centers to replace the state mental hospitals. This decrease undoubtedly plays a role in the mass shooting that have occurred.
For example, the Newtown shootings were done by Adam Lanza. His mother was preparing to move elsewhere where he could get the treatment he needed. They were unable to obtain any in their community. His brother had reported that Adam had a personality disorder.
Jared Loughner, who killed 6 and wounded 13 including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, has been sentenced to life in prison. For years, he had displayed signs of serious mental illness, including outbursts during his high school classes. But he received no treatment.
Nehemiah Griego, 15,of Albuquerque, New Mexico had homicidal, suicidal thoughts. He killed his mother, then his younger brother. Next he shot his two young sisters in their room. After he got another rifle, he waited for his father to come home. He shot and killed his father. He then planned to go to a busy store where he would shoot people at random. He expected to be killed there.
Surviving family members said that he was a troubled young man. They were right. But there had been no mental healthcare.
As more states look to find the changes needed in mental health problems, one particular example is worth noting.
Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper is promoting an overhaul of his state’s mental health-care system. It is a response to the attack in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, where the killer, James Holmes, killed 12 and wounded 58.
The Governor’s office spent the last 5 months developing a detailed $18.5 million program to update civil commitment laws while expanding community-based mental health treatment.
The process would combine Colorado’s 3 involuntary treatment laws into one far more effective system. It would protect civil liberties but also make it easier for health-care providers, law enforcement, and the courts to see that the seriously disturbed get the help they need.
A successful plan would eliminate many events and their consequences. One month before James Holmes’s carried out his murderous plan in Aurora, his University of Colorado psychiatrist reported his fantasies about killing a lot of people. But no medical treatment was undertaken, with the results shown above.
The Governor’s plan could greatly reduce such occurrences in the future, along with providing better treatment options for those who need them.
In summary I would like to reprint parts of a press release on February 11, 2013; pointing out the unanimous stance taken by the Sheriffs of Illinois and the Nation: Springfield, IL. – The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association at their Winter Training Conference adopted the attached resolution which mirrors the National Sheriffs’ Association Resolution passed at their Mid-Winter Conference in Washington, D.C. Seventy-three Sheriffs were in attendance at the Illinois Conference held in Springfield. The Sheriffs also voted unanimously not to support the proposed legislation House Bill 132 that bans certain weapons. Sheriffs from across the state of Illinois believe that it is their responsibility and duty to uphold the Constitution including the Second Amendment. Rational law abiding citizens are not the cause of random acts of horrific violence in our communities. The focus should be primarily on the lack of mental health services in our country.
Department Activity for the last 5 months: