The recent tragedy in Tucson didn’t bring an end to the silliness that has inspired my posts recently. First the Sheriff of Pima County blamed the shootings on the degradation of political discourse. Apparently he is more politician than law enforcement officer and couldn’t see the event as another deranged person bent on destruction. Predictably the media picked up the scent and went bonkers on the sheriff’s idea. Never mind that there is no evidence to support that. It’s all a waste of bandwith.
The tragedy is that the real problem is being ignored: the lamentable state of the law and mental health services in this country. In several of my careers I have to deal with people who are bi-polar, schizophrenic, and disordered, and the aftermath of their untreated illnesses from wasted governmental resources to children whose lives are forever scarred. Now we have murders to add to the bill. Virginia Tech all over except now we have a live defendant to sketch in a courtroom.
I hear from advocates about the rights of mental health patients and even their right to refuse treatment. Crazy people have a right to their craziness even if they end up homeless and potentially violent.
But they don’t have that right.
Government and society have a responsibility to protect themselves from those who would do harm and people with demonstrable mental health issues fall in that category. Police and courts need more tools to prevent the mentally ill from harming others, harming themselves, and becoming a burden to society. The definition of a dangerous mental illness needs to be revisited along with the resources available to treat people. Alas in this era of shrinking public budgets we can only look forward to more tragedies like Tucson and then endless litigation about whether a defendant is fit to stand trial or is not-guilty by reason of insanity.