Thirty-one years ago, when a man named Mehmet Ali Agca shot Pope John Paul II, the arrest and the trials that followed were dominated by a question: Who sent the would-be assassin? The Soviets? The Bulgarian secret police? Turkish fascists? John Paul was asked if he had a view, and he said it didn’t matter. In his biography “Man of the Century,” Jonathan Kwitney reported John Paul’s conversation with a close friend Cardinal Andrzej Maria Deskur. “I know well that the responsible one was the devil,” the pope said. “And whether he used the Bulgarian people or the Turkish people, it was diabolical.”
I thought of that story for days after the first bulletins of 20 children shot in Newtown, Conn. Whatever we find out about the thinking, habits and sickness of Adam Lanza, it was the evil one who sent him to kill those children. And evil is part of life.
But there are three obvious public policy ideas that come to the forefront after Newtown, and what happened there can push them forward quickly.
First, broadly, we must provide more treatment options for parents of children whom they know to be mentally unstable and potentially dangerous. If your child is hungry, you can get food. If your child breaks his leg, the hospital is there. But if your child is psychologically sick or mentally unbalanced and beginning to show signs of violent behavior, you’re more or less on your own. We have to change this. We are making more sick teenagers and young men now, not fewer, and this is going to continue as our culture breaks up. I think we all know this, deep down.
Second, Congress should move quickly—really, right away—to ban something almost every member would ban next week if they were given a clean, short, unambiguous piece of legislation. Two years ago, after Tucson, I urgedPresident Obama to make such a bill a priority in his 2011 State of the Union Address.