LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Look at Hollywood and mental health

Our youngest son was a graduating senior in the Virginia Tech engineering school at the time of the tragic shootings in 2007. Thank God he was safe, but 32 of his classmates and a professor were killed. My son could have died easily that day at the hands of a mentally ill young man. Since then, there have been other senseless acts of violence, including the theater shooting in Colorado and the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. These events can cause us only to shake our heads in disbelief at the deaths of innocents at the hands of the mentally ill who roam our streets — those who should have been institutionalized for their protection and ours.

The answer is not more gun control. This is not a gun problem. It is a mental health and moral values problem. Hollywood and the video game industry need only to look in the mirror to see who plants the seeds of moral degradation in America. The outcry against Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association proves only that he correctly touched a core element of the problem when he unashamedly called out liberal Hollywood.

What is this country doing about the mentally ill? St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington serves a mere fraction of the patients today that it has historically helped since 1852. In 1963, the Community Mental Health Act was enacted and forced the mentally ill back to their families and into the community. Neither was equipped to care adequately for these people and, ultimately, large numbers of them were turned out onto the streets. Our current situation with the mentally ill is the outcome of that legislation, which was borne out of a desire to control costs.

There is no logic in the current, frenzied gun-control debate. If Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, use the same strategy against automobiles as they are using against guns, all cars would be banned. In 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 32,327 automobile deaths in America. In 2010, 211 children were killed by drunken drivers. Are these deaths any less tragic than those at Sandy Hook? The United States does not need more laws designed to hinder or obliterate the Second Amendment. Politicians and law enforcement officials need to enforce the laws we have, improve school security and provide care for the mentally ill.

Hollywood needs to be socially responsible — and if it cannot or will not turn from the violence it promotes in the name of “artistic expression,” then we, the people, need to tell them enough is enough. As long as there is a market for violent movies and video games, there is no monetary reason for Hollywood to change course.

MAUREEN BRANCH

Woodbridge, Va.

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