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Shooting underscores need for mental health funding

Times Daily - 2/18/2018

Here we are again, wondering why a troubled young man walked into a school and opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, armed himself Wednesday and walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and opened fire a few minutes before school was to be dismissed for the day. Within minutes, he had killed or mortally wounded 17 people, and injured a dozen more.

As more information emerges about Cruz, it's clear he was troubled, and had even received counseling for depression about a year ago. He had been expelled from the school a year ago, and his mother had died in November. He was living with the family of a friend who agreed to take him in after his mother's death.

Family members say they saw little that would signal a murderous rampage. But investigators are uncovering an online profile of a deeply troubled young man obsessed with weapons and violence, and a supporter of white nationalism.

President Donald Trump has said he will focus efforts on mental health services in the wake of the shooting, but one is left to wonder if he means it.

A year ago, Trump canceled an Obama-era rule that added mental health records to background checks for firearms purchases.

His proposed budget cuts Medicaid funding, which is a major source of mental health services for the poor.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has vowed to do more for mental health services, and to make it more difficult for the mentally ill to buy a gun.

That's good news, but with the firearms laws currently on the books, the effect of better mental health services and the prevention of gun crimes likely would have little correlation.

Cruz, apparently at the age of 18, bought the weapon legally, as well as hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Records of ammunition sales are not kept, and the privates sale of firearms between individuals is unregulated.

Yes, better support for mental health services is needed and would benefit a large number of people, not just those who might be prone to violence.

The real debate will have to be about firearms ownership, and the types of weapons Americans don't want in our society. When parents are afraid to send their children to school, and the average music fan is reluctant to attend a concert for fear of a sniper with a modified rifle, something is fundamentally wrong with our country.


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