The events of last Friday in the Sandy Hill Elementary School have devastated the nation. In its wake, people want action. The president is seeking change in regard to the nation’s gun laws, and even the NRA is now supportive of bans upon assault weapons.
But the real culprit is not the status of our gun control laws.
The real culprit here is how the pendulum has swung on the laws of forced hospitalization of people with active psychiatric disorders. In the past it was very simple for family members of a mentally ill person to force that person into a treatment program. There were laws in place that allowed this to happen.
However, when abuses of these laws became too commonplace, these laws were changed. In many states across the country, a system of checks and balances was put in place that ostensibly protected individuals from having their rights taken away inappropriately.
If a patient with an active psychiatric disorder is exhibiting behaviors that a certified health care professional believes could lead to imminent harm to that person or another person, then that health care provider can initiate the process of involuntary hospitalization.
In both New York State and Connecticut, the process is fraught with difficulty. One needs a very high level of proof and substantial documentation. After being hospitalized, the forcibly detained individual must be provided with information about the legal process and access to a lawyer.
The pendulum must swing in the other direction regarding these laws. Adam Lanza’s mother, it seems, was trying to deal with these laws at a very critical juncture. Adam realized what she was doing and killed her and then went to the Sandy Hill Elementary School.
We have before us a choice. While the rights of the mentally ill must also be preserved and safeguarded, it is the laws of involuntary hospitalization that must be re-examined in light of last Friday’s horror. The safety of our children is at stake.