By State Representative, Leon D. Young
In the aftermath of the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has finally raised its ugly head in offering its opinion on this unprecedented event. Their press conference had been highly anticipated, in light of an earlier media statement that suggested that the NRA was “prepared to offer ‘meaningful contributions’ to help make sure this never happens again.” What followed at the press conference was a complete and utter travesty, which besmirched the memories of the 26 victims lost.
During his ridiculous diatribe, Wayne LaPierre, the executive director and CEO of the NRA, attempted to deflect much of the harsh criticism that has rained down on his organization in the wake of this unspeakable tragedy. According to Mr. LaPierre, there was a litany of lethal factors which contributed to this mass killing in Connecticut: violent video games (like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse; blood-soaked slasher films (like “American Psycho” and “Natural Born Killers”); and, of course, scandalous music videos that “portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life.”
How convenient and completely self-serving, Mr. LaPierre, that NRA shoulders no responsibility in the epidemic of mass shootings that occur in this country?
In all fairness, I must admit that do agree with Mr. LaPierre on one salient point. America’s dereliction to providing adequate mental health services has been both chronic and borderline criminal. Moreover, much of the current neglect, on the federal level, can be traced back to Ronald Reagan’s administration.
When Ronald Reagan arrived in Washington, he inherited the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. One of the last achievements of President Jimmy Carter, this was passed by the House 277 to 15, and in the Senate, 93 to 3. The law dedicated $800 million over 4 years to redress the gross neglect of the commitment to mental health in earlier administrations. In short, it moved an agenda that minimized homelessness, the reliance on expensive nursing homes, jails and prisons, and one that to more hopeful choices for those who needed help.
However, the killing blow came in the
Reagonomics area, when President Ronald Reagan dismantled much of the federal welfare state, leaving countless mentally ill Americans without access to income or housing. Federal funding for community mental health clinics dropped by 25%. A decision prompted, in large measure, by the spiraling costs for health care. This, in turn, has precipitated a real health care crisis in this country, which still haunts us today.
In truth, problems don’t arise from one causation and, conversely, cannot be resolved by a single solution. Problems are more complicated and nuanced than that. But, having said that, it is completely nonsensical and disingenuous to ignore the obvious “cause-and-effect” between the accessibility of handguns and the incidences of mass murder and random gun violence in America.
NRA must stop its stonewalling and political subterfuge. Mr. LaPierre’s suggestion that placing an armed guard at every elementary and middle school in America is not only deceiving – it’s blatantly reckless. Moreover, it skirts one of the central issues in this whole debate: the frightening availability of handguns.
Enough is enough.