Strategies to minimizing mass shootings

Published 11:47 am Friday, July 5, 2019


The Governor [Ralph Northam] has called a special session of the Virginia General Assembly for Tuesday, July 9, to “take up a package of gun control legislation,” he says, “is urgently needed.”

Guns have been a part of my life since I received a BB gun at age 10; then a .22 rifle in my teens. As a U.S. Army infantry soldier, I was assigned my own M14 rifle and later M16 “assault” rifle. I also fired Army .45 pistols, M60 and .50 caliber machine guns, grenade launchers and anti-tank weapons.

I purchased a .38 Smith & Wesson handgun and obtained a concealed carry permit, which requires background checks, competency on written tests and demonstrated accurate shooting.

Guns do not magically hop into the hands of unsuspecting people, drag that person to where people are congregated and kill them. The common trait of every mass shooter is mental illness. No sane person wants to kill innocent people ‘a la 32 at Virginia Tech or 12 in Virginia Beach. More state funding for mental health intervention must be a priority.

Literally, every report I have seen on per capita spending on mental health services places Virginia in the bottom half of states nationwide. A person who is deemed to be in a “mental health crisis” may be taken to one of our few state-run mental health facilities if a bed is available. That person typically is there 3-5 days for an evaluation and diagnosis. Generally, the person is confirmed to have a mental health condition, but is not treated beyond that brief stay. He/she is then sent home. Can you imagine what would happen if you were taken to a hospital emergency room, the staff confirms that you have a broken leg, and you are sent home without setting the leg?

Mental health professionals and their staff are not to blame. State funding for facilities and treatment is woefully inadequate. Increasing state funding alone will not solve the problem, but it is a start. Also, privacy laws must be restructured so that pertinent background information related to those in mental health crisis can be shared for the benefit of all parties when it makes sense to do so.

Robert N. Holt