Guns, ammo not only targets

  • Posted: Friday, January 18, 2013 8:08 a.m.

“If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that — then surely we have an obligation to try.”

— President Barack Obama
Dec. 12, 2012

The battle lines were clearly drawn before President Obama announced his $500 million plan to reduce gun violence on Wednesday. The NRA and other gun advocates are more than ready to fight the plan, and those pushing for more gun control have clearly staked out their positions, too.

In the hoopla over that volatile issue, many may overlook other provisions of the president’s proposal — provisions that should win support from the entire nation, or at least a solid majority.

The previously unthinkable massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month brought one issue into sharp focus: school security. Obama’s plan includes several measures to tighten security, including increasing the presence of school resource officers. Rowan-Salisbury high schools have had officers on campus for years; similar positions at the middle schools fell victim to budget cuts. Reinstating those positions and putting an officer at every elementary school is an expensive undertaking that will require partnerships between the school system, law enforcement and federal and state grant programs.

It’s doubtful anyone could have stopped the Sandy Hook shooter, but failing to beef up security in the wake of such an attack would be foolhardy. Hurley Elementary School’s PTA took the first step by buying security cameras and installing an intercom system at a cost of $2,700. Good for them for taking the initiative.

Obama also called for ensuring quality coverage of mental health treatment, particularly for young people. The vast majority of Americans with mental illness are not violent. But clearly the nation needs to do more to identify mental health issues early and help people get the treatment they need before problems erupt. This will be harder to define and carry out than hiring resource officers, but mental instability and access to high-powered weapons are the common threads in the mass shootings that have shocked the nation in recent years. They must be addressed.

Critics say North Carolina’s mental health system is broken. To most of us, the system is a mystery — an important service that has gone underground via private contractors and faceless agencies. The general public needs a greater understanding of mental illness and the treatments available, and we need to be protected from the small minority who are a danger to themselves and others. One person can massacre dozens and break an entire nation’s heart.

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