News of the deadly shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut was heard around the globe almost instantaneously. My heart ached from the moment I heard the news. The pain is still there and I suspect it will be there for a long time.
I pray for the children who went to their creator with their big smiles running to his embrace. I pray for their parents who will no longer receive those hugs. I pray for every person who witnessed the horror and will live with those nightmares for many nights to come.
I pray for the members of the family of that young tormented man whose actions cannot and will never be explained, much less justified, for they will live the rest of their lives with the unanswerable questions as to what they could have done to prevent it. I pray for that young man who might have not received the mental health services he might have required and I pray for his mother who God only knows why he spared her the horror of knowing that her son had become a mass murderer.
I also pray for all of the families who have a child with mental illness and who live in fear that their child might cause harm to him or herself or worse yet, to others. I pray for them for this incident only aggravates those fears.
Those in the political spectrum reacted in the usual anticipated manner; liberal Democrats calling for gun control and conservative Republicans saying guns don’t kill people, people do.
Meanwhile I was moved to another question. Did the mother ask for the help she must have needed? If she did, did she receive it?
I have lived in the world of developmental disabilities and while not fully immersed myself in the world of mental illnesses, I nevertheless have a cursory knowledge of the challenges families of these individuals face day in and day out. It is never a pretty picture; it is always painful and sometimes the burden is so big that many end up as broken families.
I know statements have been made the shooter had Asperger syndrome, which lies in the spectrum of autism. I don’t know whether in fact he had been diagnosed with that syndrome or not. But up until now there is not a lot of documentation of a correlation between Asperger and violence, certainly not this horrific kind.
There will be a lot of discussion about gun control and reducing the level of violence on TV, movies and video games, which I am sure many people would agree needs to happen. But should congress do nothing to improve the mental health system and increase the scarce resources currently available to those with these kinds of mental health problems; then, no amount of gun control will prevent these kinds of tragedies in the future.
And we will have missed an important opportunity to provide the support and assistance that many families so desperately need.
Rosario Marin was the 41st Treasurer of the United States and is co-chair of the American Competitiveness Alliance.