How Many More Killings?

How Many More Killings?

To the Editor:

How many killings do there have to be — before someone realizes that Fairfax County and the state of Virginia are not dealing with mental health issues? Obviously the VT shooter (graduate from Westfield High) was mentally ill and anti-social just like 18-year-old Michael Kennedy (another Westfield High graduate) who went on a killing spree May 8, 2006, and gunned down two Fairfax County police officers. At what point does Fairfax County start doing something about the lack of mental health support?

I too have a 23-year-old son who is mentally ill (graduated Westfield High with both of these boys), and I have been struggling with the red tape to try and get him help for four years now, only to hit roadblocks at every turn. It was not until he was arrested for minor criminal charges that the county would even consider helping him and then when he finally got admitted to a 12-18 month residential treatment program he was released after just five months with "maximum benefit" because they could not deal with the extent of his issues. Since then he has been in and out of trouble several times and Fairfax County has been delaying and steamrollering his case with more red tape. It appears as though they want to wait until he commits a serious crime before they will give him the help he needs.

The shootings in Virginia Tech this week are tragic and horrible. I can't help but feel that they, along with the shootings of the two Fairfax County Police officers last year, might have been avoided if Fairfax County and Virginia were more proactive in their treatment of our mentally ill youth. I hope we don't have to wait for more innocent people to die before they take action.

In addition, there is a problem with the laws around purchasing a gun. In December 2006, my son purchased a gun from a dealer in Manassas – and prior to him purchasing it, he had been charged with possession of marijuana five (5) times. His record is public on the Virginia court case Web site, and yet he was allowed to purchase a gun. Fortunately for me, he was stopped for speeding that same day in West Virginia, in which the gun was confiscated.

Patrice Showalter