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Letter to the Editor: Failure to Recognize Mental Illness Led to School Shooting

In a Letter to the Editor, Grayslake resident and attorney Jerry Novak writes that he feels the Newtown, Conn. school shooting was not the result of a lack of gun control, but a failure to recognize and treat mental illness.

Well by now I'm sure all of you are aware of the tragic school shooting in Connecticut. Its terrible. 27 lives lost. Why? Because of military "assault style weapons?" Because of high capacity magazines? Because guns are too easily obtained? Because we live in a "gun culture?"

No. None of those reasons. Twenty-seven lives were lost because we as a population failed to recognize mental illness. We failed to recognize that some young man needed help. Help that he wasn't able to ask for. We failed to recognize his silent cries for help and we failed to help him deal with the terrible silent disease of mental illness. The disease won and we all lost. We lost our sense of safety for our children in school. We lost our ability to reason. And many of us scream for stricter gun laws. We lost our ability to think a situation through. We are all busy "re-acting" and are not acting with our ability to reason.

Guns are tools. They are neither safe nor dangerous. They are simply tools and become safe when we promote and participate in firearms education and training. They are unsafe in the hands of the untrained, the uneducated, in the hands of criminals and in the hands of the mentally ill. Guns are life-saving devices... that's why we give them to cops. If they were inherently dangerous we wouldn't want the cops to have them either.

More people are killed in car accidents than were ever killed in gun battles and we don't try to outlaw cars. People who drink and drive are arrested for DUI but we don't blame the car! We don't blame the alcohol. We blame the driver. He (or she) made a choice. They drank and they drove. And many of those drunk drivers have killed or seriously injured many thousands of innocent motorists.

Did we outlaw their military looking vehicles? No. Did we outlaw high capacity vehicles? No. Did we blame the fact that cars are too easily obtained? No. Did we blame these injuries and deaths on the fact that we live in a car culture? No. What we did do was prosecute the offender and provide alcohol and/or drug abuse treatment. We reached out to these people and offered them a helping hand to receive the counseling and education necessary so they could make better choices and decisions in the future.

We don't blame pens for writing bad checks and we don't blame the department stores merchandise for retail thefts. Let's get it right. Let's focus on the real problem. Let's help those that cannot ask for the help they need. Let's get the education we need to recognize those with mental illness. Let's reach out to them and get them the mental health services that they need. They'll be better and we'll all be safer.

Ignore the politicians who blur the focus of the real problem and try to promote their own political agenda with scare tactics and fear. Yes, I mean you, Rahm. And yes, you too Mr. Quinn, Mr. Bloomberg, Ms. Pelosi & Mr. Obama.

Jerry Novak, Grayslake
Attorney at Law
Licensed Private Detective
NRA Certified Firearms Instructor
Utah Certified Concealed Firearms Instructor
Utah Certified Bail Enforcement Firearms Instructor
Certified Oleoresin Capsicum Instructor (pepper spray)
Member Int. Assoc. of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors

RidgewayVol December 20, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Perfect logic. But logic no longer has a place in modern debate. Everything is driven by ideology, hence the result of this tragedy will be ill conceived laws that will make us no safer than we were. We have become a country of uneducated government-dependent lemmings.
Brian L. December 20, 2012 at 02:26 PM
It's frustrating because everything you said is true and we definitely need to target the individual and find out why kids are doing this. Unfortunately when people are interviewed after the case, the shooter is almost always dead and usually people say they were just normal guys...a little quiet...yada yada. One of the things people, myself included, have said is that we need better education on firearms. Granted I am also for tighter restrictions, but I thought educating everyone more would help also. The problem I see with that now is in comparing it with drunk driving. We have more education on that than many other things. People still do it. So we can ask how to get rid of it. Breathalysers in every car provided by the manufacturer (preemptively, not just after DWIs) would stop it. I'm sure though that people wouldn't buy into because of infringement on privacy. Which makes no sense, because your privacy doesn't grant you the right to break the law.
Brian L. December 20, 2012 at 02:37 PM
The auto industry has many regulations on safety to help keep the user and the others around him safer. We register all our cars and have to prove it by using a license plate. We require testing in order to get behind the wheel, both practical and written. We require insurance so that when you do hit someone or something, it's covered. Accidents are bound to happen because of the sheer volume of vehicles you pass each day. I'm no expert, but it seems the gun industry has very few regulations. They do have them, but many are in the form of taxes and who/what you are selling. Gun buyers have to pass a background check which works sometimes, but in other instances it fails to weed out people with problems. Cases like AZ and Jared Loughner, who bought his gun and carried it legally. There are ways to track guns via embedded chips and if you aren't planning on killing people with it, it won't effect you. You can easily find people who wrote a bad check, you can put ink dye or magnetic theft devices on retail products, cops can spot drunk drivers and unregistered vehicles, if someone is carrying a concealed gun with bad intent, it's pretty tough to spot until he/she pulls the trigger. Eduacation of illnesses and guns might be a step in the right direction, but so would making guns more traceable from the factory.
RidgewayVol December 20, 2012 at 03:44 PM
If you don't think there are any regulations regarding firearms, check Chapter 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations, then overlay the regulations applicable in each of the 50 states, then overlay the various ordinances that exist at the city or county level, then overlay the hunting regulations that dictate what types of weapons or ammunition can be used in hunting. There have been a fair number of tree killed writing regulations regarding firearms. And please tell me exactly how would an imbedded chip have prevented any of the recent killings? Who would track the firearm, the Government? You mean to tell me you don't have any 4th amendment issues with that? I am just not familiar with the technology you describe. I'm willing to listen to any ideas about how to make society safer. I just don't think writing new laws that infringe on citizens' second amendment rights is the way to go. How about hiring an armed guard or assigning an armed officer to every school in the U.S.? What about legalizing marijuana so the Mexican cartels have little left to fight and kill each other over? How about parents telling kids to turn off the XBox and share a meal together and talk instead of text each other? All more credible ideas than limiting the number of guns one can buy, or limiting the sale of a gun because its black synthetic and looks scary.
Xander Crews December 20, 2012 at 04:02 PM
this tragedy was caused by a foolish woman who had weapons in her house with a diagnosed mental case. No diagnosis was missed, just common sense. If nothing else, at least he killed her first.
RidgewayVol December 20, 2012 at 04:09 PM
We agree it was foolish to leave the guns unsecured. Would you propose a law that prohibits people from owning guns if they have an autistic, developmentally disabled or otherwise mentally deficient child in the house?
Brian L. December 20, 2012 at 04:40 PM
I didn't say there weren't any restrictions, it just seems to me that we accept far less on a nationwide basis than we do on something equally as deadly like vehicles. The regulations don't stop, or even question people, who own what many would deem an excessive amount of weaponry, both caliber and sheer volume. We don't question the purchase of very large quantities of ammunition. Guns are a viable method of self defense and recreation/hunting. But do people need a 15+ capacity clip for either of those? If the survey numbers are correct and most self defense users never fire their weapon, then they don't require more than one bullet. If you can find me the hunter who has squeezed off more than 5 rounds at the same animal, I'd like to shake his hand. If you search for smart gun technology, there are methods, some more extreme than others. I wouldn't have issues with it because the govt still shouldn't have the right to walk in your door and steal your guns without provocation or reason. In using a car legally, our names and information are in a load of governmental databases and no one minds. If we treat guns as an everyday item in society, why should they be excluded from the same type of data-basing? Even though I wouldn't mind a ban, I know that isn't viable and will never happen on a whole. I do feel there are additional steps that can be taken, including some of what you suggest, to help curb these problems.
RidgewayVol December 20, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Brian, you seem like a reasonable guy and I think we agree that something needs to be done. I guess the technology is really just some sort of electronic serial number, which is aleady collected by law enforcement at the time of purchase. I see nothing wrong with that, unless the "tag" can be tracked. All sorts of constitutional issues with that. I can tell you however, a ranch owner in south Texas needs more than just 6 bullets when he is out surveying his own property or checking his herds. The danger and opposing firepower in that area is frightening. There is no logical reason to disarm (or limit) an American citizen when faced with a literal invasion of militia-type narco smugglers from Mexico. There may be other instances where magizines that hold more than 6 bullets are justified. Much like women going on vacation - better to pack way more than you'll ever need.
Alan Nudelman December 21, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Jerry - unless you were writing tongue-in-cheek, your comparison of guns to cars, pens, and department stores is disturbing and deliberately misleading. Cars, pens, and department stores have primary uses that are valuable to society. Their negative aspects are far, far outweighed by their positive aspects. On the other hand, hand guns and high-capacity assault rifles have exactly one use - to kill people. Their very existence is a danger to society as a whole. Even without the education and treatment programs you're advocating, someone armed with a single shot rifle, knife, or rock would have done so much less harm than what we've had to endure in our gun loving culture. My solution - repeal the 2nd amendment. Ban assault rifles and handguns. Permanently disable all existing assault rifles and handguns in private possession. Make it a crime to carry any such weapons. Yes, Mr Novak, I understand there will be a period when the bad guys will be better armed than you are now. Frankly, the bad guys have been better armed than me for my entire life, and I've survived. Guns kill. Assault rifles and handguns are made with the primary purpose to kill people. You're a lawyer - you can try twisting words to defend any proposition you so desire. But in the end, the truth is obvious - our culture of gun possession has made this country a more dangerous place than any other civilized country. We can change that, and we should.
RidgewayVol December 21, 2012 at 03:06 PM
You, sir, are a nut. Happy Holidays.
Alan Nudelman December 21, 2012 at 03:48 PM
And to you, sir, a very happy holidays to you and yours as well!
Abigail December 21, 2012 at 10:50 PM
I think Obama would love to repeal the second amendment, but it won't happen. If our government can't deport 15 million illegal aliens, then how would our government confiscate all of our guns? And, if they can confiscate all our guns, they'd damn well better start on the deportation proceedings and pronto!
Sully December 23, 2012 at 01:12 AM
Why do they have to be mutually exclusive? Can't it be both? Too many guns with high kill capacity, and mental illness?
Xander Crews December 26, 2012 at 01:45 AM
If you read closely, I propose no laws. People don't need the government to tell them what they already know--having a violent psycho in the home SHOULD mean no more guns in the house. If there is a child/adult with tendencies of a pyromaniac, matches and gasoline should be put out of reach. does there need to be a law saying that? Probably not. If you have a sociopath for a child, with violent tendencies, do you propose taking him to the rifle range?

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