Guest Columnists

Shootings Stem from Mental Health Issues

By Father John Catoir

WHEN PLANE HIJACKING became a national threat, we immediately addressed the problem by upgrading preventive measures at our airports: X-ray surveillance, body searches, luggage inspections.

These were all resisted at first, but stricter methods worked. The immediate public reaction was to complain: it’s too invasive, too time-consuming, too annoying, etc.  But now, people feel safer, and the threat of hijackings is no longer on everyone’s mind.

We need to do the same thing for our children, who are terrified by the mass-murders at schools. We need to upgrade our surveillance techniques.

The problem needs to be addressed from a two-pronged perspective: First, tighter prevention measures are needed against outside intruders: metal detectors, armed guards, etc., and secondly, increased mental health vigilance must be introduced. Too many suicidal youngsters have access to unsecured firearms.

How can a person raging with enough hatred to commit mass-murder, be at the same time sweet and innocent looking to one and all?

Most parents know when they have a troubled child; maybe not a mass murderer, but a potential problem. We must turn to the parents more for their cooperation.

To the trained eye the normality or abnormality of a person can be surmised. Right now, there is too little emphasis on the students. Many of these atrocities have been committed by students with mental health issues. This is a spiritual problem, more than a gun control issue. Too much emphasis has been placed on the moment of combat, and not enough on the remote cause, the brooding dysfunctional killer lurking in the shadows.

This must change! I’ve tweeted about this problem, but none of my critics offered adequate solutions. The most serious objection was concern over the constitutionality of any invasion of privacy. That’s what they said about airport searches. My answer is simple: take only those measures that are constitutional.

Cooperating parents can tell us a lot. Refusal to cooperate might be a wake-up call. Some homes are virtual arsenals. Safety measures need to be secure. Can these homes be identified without violating the Constitution?

All law-makers should be concerned about the common good. Teddy Roosevelt insisted that the Constitution was made for the people, not the people for the Constitution. Our children are terrified by the fear of being murdered at school. We are failing them if we do nothing more than fight to ban guns.

The second amendment is not the issue. This is a spiritual and a mental health problem. We need just laws to protect us against disasters. Also, people who have arsenals in their homes should be subject to legal inspections. We owe our teenagers respect enough to make their safety a top priority.

I know how much harm a demonic presence can do. I ran a drug and alcohol rehab for a few years. All of our clients were struggling with their own demons, and they weren’t afraid to admit it. A demonic influence is part of the mental health issue.

I’m calling upon all police departments and federal law enforcement agencies to flush-out potential killers by upgrading their preventive measures against school-shootings.

Working within the letter of the law, you can make a difference. Lives can be saved by fostering a spirit of cooperation among all concerned.

Father Catoir, a native of the Brooklyn Diocese, is a retired priest of the Diocese of Paterson, N.J.