For many of us in the mental health field, the January 8 shooting in Tucson, Arizona was like a darker version of the movie, “Groundhog Day.” Surely we had seen this all before: the “senseless, horrific attack” on innocent persons; the “mentally disturbed young man” charged with murder; the ever-recurring polemical arguments between supporters and opponents of gun control.
While the facts are still unfolding, and the accused shooter’s motivations — Jared Lee Loughner — still unclear, the murders in Arizona have once again raised a number of troubling questions: what if any link is there between violence and mental illness? Which problems in our health care system may contribute to untreated or inadequately treated mental illness? How should we balance civil liberties — including legitimate second amendment rights — against society’s very real safety concerns, when deciding whether guns should be sold to those with a history of severe mental illness? And would the answers to these questions have made any substantial difference in the case of the Arizona shootings?
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