by Jeffrey Kaufman, MD
Meadow knew she was going to die. Parkland students, teachers, parents, police and “the authorities” knew it would happen, knew it would likely be many more than just Meadow who would die. And more did! Seventeen students and faculty were massacred. So, why did it happen?
The Valentine’s Day gift given to Parkland, Florida was the direct result of, a predictable consequence of misunderstood human behavior. Frightening to me is that experts in psychology and human behavior understand well, but this knowledge is being ignored and in its place come Progressive political policies which seek to deny what do many others know. What kills people are troubled people. You may have heard “hurt people hurt people.” It’s easier to blame guns.
Though the red flags were right in front of their eyes, not hidden, not unspoken, in Parkland the killer had warned of his plans, he’d made his threats well known. He warned he would rape his classmates, he would shoot them and kill them. So how can it be that the school district and school authorities failed to act on so many such notices? It wasn’t that they didn’t hear them. They simply took an alternative approach. These Progressives wanted to believe in and put their faith along with precious lives into the hands of Restorative Justice.
Ignoring blatant threats and clear warnings of danger expressed by a seriously troubled person, and taking trusting lives in their hands, they coddled the severely troubled young man, year after year, incident after escalating incident until he finally kept his word. He shot and killed 17 at the Marjorie Stoneham School in Parkland Florida. These Progressives knew so why didn’t they act? Was there no effective path they could have taken?
In fact, there was such an alternative which has been used for years in cities large and small for many years. Standard practice in NYC as long as 35 years ago the procedure was triggered by a single call to 911 raising an alert that a person was a risk to themselves or others. That’s all it took! One phone call, to save so many lives. This tragedy provides all the lessons necessary to prevent violence in our schools, in our communities, especially those involving weapons, including firearms. Such safety does not begin with removing guns from dangerous people. The danger IS the PEOPLE, not the weapons, not the gun. When someone tells you who they are, believe them!
Meadow’s lesson is simple, but not easy. It requires communities to target the root of what drives these killings which is abnormal psychology. Mental illness kills in these terrible cases, not guns. The solution in practical terms simply requires psychiatric evaluation of those who may harm themselves or others, certainly those who express a desire, who plan to harm others. If confirmed by professionals, and in conjunction with appropriate treatment, both the patient and the public are immediately rendered safe by utilizing a protected environment. Such protection continues during treatment until such time that the patient no longer presents a threat to the community. This may involve days or years, how ever long the person’s condition requires such protection.
Recognizing this, it’s clear that Vermont’s Red flag, Relief from Abuse and other laws and current bills which focus on firearms, which invoke surrender of guns, ignore the underlying driver of violence, ignore the choice of the sick mind which may or may not choose that particular tool to act on inner violent directives. Only when the abnormal thinking and feelings driving violence into our communities is evaluated, treated and people at risk are properly protected, will our communities be truly safe.
Effective mental illness treatment for the potentially violent patient requires the capability and community readiness to hospitalize those who present risk of causing violence to themselves or others by placing them into appropriate protected inpatient settings. There are no shortcuts, no transformative alternatives. It is irresponsible and dangerous to trust people with the lives of others who are not trustworthy. Taking their guns, ammunition, or other weapons is an ineffective misdirected temporary measure which would not be expected to solve the problem as it focuses on the hand and not the brain.
Simply stated, sick people need and deserve appropriate treatment. Some of the very sickest require inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. The people of our communities, towns and cities deserve no less.
The author is a physician and Burlington resident.