Saturday, July 21, 2012

Colorado Mass Shooting Day 2

I have been watching the media coverage of the mass shooting incident today - Interviews of family members, medical personnel and officials.  I saw a trauma surgeon at one of the receiving hospitals describe the current status of patients taken to his hospital.  He described this as a "mass casualty incident".  One reporter said that people don’t want insanity to replace evil as a focus of the prosecution.

In an interview that I think surprised the interviewer, a family member talked about the significant impact on her family.  When asked about how she would "get her head around this" she calmly explained that there are obvious problems when a person can acquire this amount of firearms, ammunition, and explosives in a short period of time.  She went on to add that she works in a school and is also aware of the fact that there are many children with psychological problems who never get adequate help.  She thought a lot of that problem was a lack of adequate financing. 
I have not listened to any right wing talk radio today, but from the other side of the aisle the New York Times headline this morning was "Gunman Kills 12 in Colorado, Reviving Gun Debate."  Mayor Bloomberg is quoted: “Maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it,” Mr. Bloomberg said during his weekly radio program, “because this is obviously a problem across the country.”

How did the Presidential candidates respond?  They both pulled down the campaign ads and apparently put the attack ads on hold.   From the President today: " And if there’s anything to take away from this tragedy, it’s a reminder that life is fragile.  Our time here is limited and it is precious.  And what matters in the end are not the small and trivial things which often consume our lives.  It’s how we choose to treat one another, and love one another.  It’s what we do on a daily basis to give our lives meaning and to give our lives purpose.  That’s what matters.  That’s why we’re here."   A similar excerpt from Mitt Romney: "There will be justice for those responsible, but that’s another matter for another day. Today is a moment to grieve and to remember, to reach out and to help, to appreciate our blessings in life. Each one of us will hold our kids a little closer, linger a bit longer with a colleague or a neighbor, reach out to a family member or friend. We’ll all spend a little less time thinking about the worries of our day and more time wondering about how to help those who are in need of compassion most."

These are the messages that we usually hear from politicians in response to mass shooting incidents.  At this point these messages are necessary, but the transition from this incident is as important.  After the messages of condolences, shared grief, and imminent justice that is usually all that happens.  Will either candidate respond to Mayor Bloomberg's challenge?  Based on the accumulated history to date it is doubtful.
A larger question is whether anything can be done apart from the reduced access to firearms argument.  In other words, is there an approach to directly intervene with people who develop homicidal ideation?  Popular consensus says no, but I think that it is much more likely than the repeal of the Second Amendment.

George Dawson, MD, DFAPA

Barack Obama. Remarks  by the President on the Shootings in Aurora Colorado.  July 20, 2012

Barack Obama.  Weekly Address: Remembering the Victims of the Aurora Colorado Shooting.  July 21, 2012.

Mitt Romney.  Remarks by Mitt Romney on the Shooting in Aurora, Colorado.  NYTimes July 20, 2012. 

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