Stop the Insanity! There Has to Be a Way

September 24, 2013 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

shoot-to-kill-1207606-mSeveral months ago, I downloaded an app onto my iPhone that features Jon Stewart’s opening headlines from each day’s episode of “The Daily Show.” Once a week, I try to go back through the past week’s episodes to catch up. Some of his “newscasts” are side-splitting hilarious, while others can be quite deep, especially following a national tragedy.

Last week, while attending the Federal Demonstration Partnership meeting in Washington, I had a chance to glance at some TVs in the hotel lobby and could tell that there was some kind of major disturbance at the Navy Yard on the other side of town. Because it was too noisy in the lobby, and because I was in a hurry, it wasn’t until I got home that day before I realized the true impact of the shooting at the Navy Yard. With the images of the mass shootings at the Denver multiplex and at Sandy Hook Elementary still relatively fresh in our minds, here’s another one to pile onto our weary psyche.

Stewart’s show following the Navy Yard shooting brought forth something quite interesting. The shooter, Aaron Alexis, had a history of mental illness and had been arrested twice before for “minor gun incidents,” which Stewart appropriately launched into a tirade asking, “What the $!@% is a ‘minor gun incident’?!?” And yet, and yet, the shooter was still allowed to purchase the shotgun he used only days before the mass murders.

My issue here is not as much about gun control, although I fully believe something must be done, but the lack of communication to put the pieces together that would prevent Alexis from purchasing weapons in the first place. This was an idea that Stewart made in his show, and I think he’s got a major point here. Following 9/11, federal grants were established to improve communications between emergency personnel to help better respond to major crises. Similar grants are needed to develop systems than can improve the communication between mental health agencies and law enforcement so that they can better track potentially dangerous individuals and place them on a list that would ban them from buying guns.

There may not be a true way to prevent all mass shootings, but such communication improvements would at least give us a better chance to keep weapons out of the hands of some people who obviously are unstable. This all is very depressing; perhaps I can turn to the next day’s episode of “The Daily Show” to see if Stewart can find some humor in another topic. Fortunately, he usually does.

What improvements do you think can be made to enhance communications between mental health and law enforcement officials? We’d like to hear them.

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