Holding Parents Accountable

The Florida school shooting makes me angry and, at the same time, makes me cry. I read fresh stories attacking the 2nd Amendment by outraged people who demand that we “keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” that we “do something.” People like Rolling Stone columnist Jesse Berney. It means they don’t have a clue beyond “lets outlaw semi-automatic rifles, handguns and so-called ‘assault rifles.'”

As a graduate student with a National Institute of Health fellowship, I spent the summer of 1972 living on a ward with 42 chronic, regressed schizophrenics at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. I developed an interactional model of relationships between patients — women upstairs, men downstairs — and their care-giving team.

U.S. kids were fighting in Vietnam and hospital administration told me they attempted to treat thousands of mentally ill patients on less money each year than the cost of one fully-equipped Navy A-4E Skyhawk similar to the one John McCain flew — $2.4-$3.4 million.

Here in Albuquerque, tramps, the destitute and the mentally ill swarm our downtown. On any trip into Albuquerque’s center, beggars pester you for money, knock on your car windows asking for “a little help;” crowds of people walk the streets arguing heatedly with themselves and sleeping on park benches or beneath overpasses. No city in America is much different.

I lived in Florida for many years. Gainesville’s tiny downtown plaza, designed for concerts and celebrations, was choked with panhandling transients pushing grocery carts stacked with their possessions, sleeping on the sidewalks, asking for “spare change.”

Part of the difficulty, notes my spouse, who is a mental-health provider, is that her hospital and/or the law can’t force someone to accept treatment, take his or her medication. They can’t place a violent person in isolation or restraints. In ’72, the nursing assistants forcibly put a person who was “acting out” in isolation. In extreme cases, they undressed him, bundled him in sheets, lay him on a table and poured ice water over him. It sounded like torture, but the nurses swore that, within minutes, a person would fall asleep; when they woke, they would be calm.

America, frankly, does not care about the mental health of its citizens. And that, for many reasons, should be a warning flag for anyone with a concealed carry permit.

If Nancy Lanza had aggressively sought mental-health professionals for her son, Adam (20), she might be alive today, as would the other 26 human beings he murdered. Instead, she wrung her hands over an obviously troubled kid and failed to properly secure the firearms she had in the home. Many parents, it seems, are in denial about their children. They love them sooooo much.

Many years ago, I asked my ex what she would do if our daughter committed a serious crime. She said she would do everything she could to protect her. Would she turn her in to police? “Of course not,” she said. My take was that I would encourage her to turn herself in, but if she refused, I would call the best attorney I could afford … and then the police. (Hence, an “ex.”)

The solution to violence with firearms is complex. America will never adequately fund mental-health services. And we would fight to prevent legislation against semi-automatic handguns and rifles. So, if we can’t take a giant step, how about a few small ones that don’t infringe on anyone’s 2nd or 1st or 4th Amendment rights? Here’s one idea:

  • If we have a child in the house and they can access our firearms without our permission and supervision, we are not responsible gun owners.
  • If a child under our roof takes our firearms and shoots someone, we parents go to prison or jail. The child will be sent to some miserable youth facility, but the parent goes to prison.
  • If a person dies because of our negligence, because we have failed to properly lock up our legal firearms, we should face murder or aggravated assault charges as an accessory.

We purchase a gun, we are responsible. Period. Isn’t that a fundamental part of being responsible gun owners?

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