Preventing Another Sandy Hook


The senseless Newtown massacre has saddened the nation.  The loss of so many children among the victims is even more heartbreaking.  Over the coming weeks, we will hear about possible ways to reduce the risk of future tragedies.  How much security can be reasonably added to schools?  What is the proper amount of gun control and oversight?  Can mental health care be improved enough to reach these troubled people before they become killers?
More restrictive gun access should make it less likely that someone can commit a mass killing with a firearm.  But this does not prevent deranged individuals from causing great harm by other means.

This horrible event was caused by a severely impaired person.   The available information does not suggest he harbored previous violent tendencies.  In a sense, this means we need to detect brain failure with enough accuracy so that intervention can be done in enough time.  Unlike other organs, the brain does not always give early or obvious signs that something is terribly wrong until too late.

Doubtless every move the killer made leading to this event will be scrutinized.  It remains to be seen if any predictive pattern can be found, and if so how such information could be used.  Will it ever be possible to data-mine as a means of discovering these dangerous people, and if so what are the implications for civil liberties and society?

Even more disturbing is that this took place in Connecticut, my native state and a place where nothing much ever seemed to happen, and if it did, it was a big deal.  The “Land of Steady Habits” after all, is the place where liquor stores still close at 8:00 PM thanks to a crime spree in the 1950’s.   Now, the state has found itself in the headlines far too often, with Sandy Hook by far the worst event in recent memory.

Policymakers should engage mental health leaders to help them shape an appropriate response to this tragedy.  Although gun access cannot be ignored, unlocking the mysteries of the diseased mind is more likely to reduce the chances of such future events.

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2 responses to “Preventing Another Sandy Hook”

  1. Carl says :

    Well said. Has anyone started to estimate the actual costs of the mental health challenge? Prior to 9/11, most people would have fainted at the costs of agressively pursuing terrorists. But what would comprehensive changes to how mental health is handled mean financially and structurally? Why hasn’t this been addressed comprehensively in the recent past? What impediments? Anyone know?

    • Thomas Pane says :

      Carl – Thanks for your comment.

      I think the costs would be very high and there can be difficulties if people do not wish to have treatment. I’d like to hear what psychiatrists have to say about these issues. They are the ones who should be best equipped to determine which needles in the haystack are the dangerous ones.

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