Reducing Number Of Mass Murders

Knee-jerk reactions such as many of those to the December massacre at a Connecticut school will accomplish virtually nothing to prevent such horror in the future.

Yet at the federal level, the only firm suggestion to date has been to enact new restrictions on certain types of firearms. If we are serious about preventing at least some mass killings – rather than merely appearing to “do something” – more thoughtful steps based on reality, not prejudices, will be necessary.

It appears such action will have to be taken at the state level, given the political climate in Washington.

Here in West Virginia, events scheduled for this week in Charleston and Bridgeport may be a start toward realistic action.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., plans to address the state Association of School Administrators Friday in Bridgeport. Their conference will be the group’s first since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in December.

Manchin, who understands the futility of using gun bans to avert mass shootings, wants input from school administrators on effective safeguards.

Another event scheduled for this week, a forum on school safety, is to be held in Charleston.

A key program at the forum will involve psychologists and others who deal with behavioral health among children. Identifying troubled students and intervening to help them will be discussed.

Such intervention would not have helped at Sandy Hook, of course. The murderer there was an adult. But students are the killers in some cases, such as the infamous episode at Columbine High School in Colorado.

What the discussion in Charleston reaffirms, however, is that mass killings almost always are at the hands of mentally troubled people. It is there that West Virginia officials should begin trying to find ways to safeguard both children and others who may be potential targets.

Obviously, returning to the days when an eccentric person could be locked away merely because his behavior was considered odd is unacceptable.

But identifying people so disturbed they may turn to murder, then keeping guns of any kind out of their hands, may be an acceptable strategy.

There is no magic wand to be waved, despite what some politicians may want you to believe. But meaningful action to at least reduce the number of mass killings is possible. Here in West Virginia, it may be up to us to take such steps.