The theatre shooting in Aurora, Colo., instructs us on one possibility. James Holmes' psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton, was so concerned about her patient that she broke the code between doctor and patient to discuss his case with others and run a criminal check. Her options were limited. One possibility, rarely used, is what is referred to a psychiatric "hold" or a temporary commitment for evaluation. The bar is high for such procedures, as it should be. The patient has to be an "imminent danger" to others, and there needs to be a specific threat. Perhaps we should consider a lower threshold and establish a "hold" for a psychiatric patient to purchase a weapon. Colorado is considering a similar law.
The defenders of the Second Amendment get justifiably nervous when there is discussion of one person restricting the rights of another, but there might be a way to navigate those concerns. If Fenton had that option it's likely James Holmes would have not been able to buy the AR-15 assault rifle he allegedly used in that massacre.
There is much we don't know about the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and more, likely, that we will never be able to understand. The status of Adam Lanza's mental health is not known, yet but I'm comfortable with the notion that his actions were not those of a rational being.
It's hard to know how this or any other specific incident can be prevented, but it appears to me that one of Fred's three rules was violated -- your weapon is your responsibility. None of the weapons used int he Newtown shootings were registered to Adam Lanza.
Fred is 89, now. I hope he's lived a full and happy life. My classmates have moved on, but for a time, most of us on that island lived in a world without fear. The thought of needing to use a weapon on someone else never occurred to most of us. Since I left the island I've had the privilege of traveling the world with my wife and daughter more than once.
I've found the differences between Americans and others are far less important than those things we share. We've been invited into the homes of many. All were generous to us, fellow travelers on the road to discovery.
There is only one country where that universal sense of hospitality was not offered: here -- my own country.
My wife and I once bicycled across the U.S., and although we were met with characteristic American kindness we were never invited to stay in anyone's home. The reason was obvious to us. Sometimes it was declared, other times understood but not said. People are afraid.