Mas­sacre should not have hap­pened

The Washington Times Weekly - - Letters To The Editor -

April 16 still re­ver­ber­ates in our hearts and minds. A 23-year-old stu­dent slaughters 32 peo­ple and wounds 28 oth­ers on the Vir­ginia Tech cam­pus and an­other mass mur­derer en­ters the in­fa­mous his­tory of sense­less Amer­i­can vi­o­lence with the largest sin­gle mas­sacre of its type in all of U.S. his­tory.

Long be­fore this ter­ri­ble mo­ment — be­fore the other school shoot­ings and the work­place shoot­ings — there was that McDon­ald’s mas­sacre in San Diego and the re­port that was writ­ten and sent to the lo­cal and na­tional me­dia. It was an anal­y­sis of the prob­lem and a se­ri­ous sug­ges­tion for con­sid­er­a­tion. Need­less to say it was ig­nored.

The re­port sug­gested that we should re­ally con­sider mak­ing ev­ery rea­son­able ef­fort to iden­tify the rel­e­vant be­hav­ioral foot­prints and ex­ten­sively treat such un­sta­ble per­son­al­i­ties be­fore they can be­come such a ter­ri­fy­ing foot­note in our his­tory. It was sug­gested that if we do not do some­thing of this na­ture, such hor­ren­dous events can be ex­pected to be re­peated again and again.

So now what shall we do? Shall we ig­nore the ad­vice once again and con­tinue on as be­fore (with the re­sults con­tin­u­ing as be­fore) or will we some­how man­age to ac­tu­ally give se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion to this idea?

Yes, we can ar­gue that some of those per­pe­tra­tors did not leave many, if any, be­hav­ioral foot­prints to be fol­lowed and that there is so lit­tle we can do when we ac­tu­ally do make a good iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. We can ig­nore the fact that most un­sta­ble per­son­al­i­ties of this type do leave us a rea­son­able trail to fol­low and that we re­ally should de­velop ad­e­quate fa­cil­i­ties and treat­ments for such in­di­vid­u­als, even if they might not even­tu­ally act out such a vi­o­lent end.

That Vir­ginia Tech stu­dent is an im­por­tant ex­am­ple of what could have been iden­ti­fied and wasn’t. He had a long and trou­bled men­tal his­tory. It had even been pro­fes­sion­ally de­ter­mined that his po­ten­tial for vi­o­lence was very high. Records also show his pre­vi­ous in­volve­ment with stalk­ing and set­ting fires. Class­mates and pro­fes­sors re­call him as be­ing sullen and scary. The be­hav­ioral foot­prints were there.

This shouldn’t have hap­pened. But it did. And a few days later it hap­pened again. A gun­man took two hostages at the John­son Space Cen­ter in Hous­ton and killed one of the hostages and him­self. We can ex­pect more of the same be­cause we just don’t seem to be able to learn from such ex­pe­ri­ences.

Matt Cren­son of the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported that mass shoot­ings are more com­mon in Amer­ica since the 1960s. He noted that since Au­gust of 1966, at least 100 Amer­i­cans have gone on shoot­ing sprees. So should we just ac­cept the sit­u­a­tion and hud­dle in our homes and hope that it will all just go away, as we seem to be do­ing with so many of our se­ri­ous is­sues? Is that go­ing to be our an­swer? I sin­cerely hope not. If there is go­ing to be a so­lu­tion it is go­ing to have to start with each and ev­ery one of us as in­di­vid­u­als. Jonathan West San Diego, Cal­i­for­nia

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