The horrific tragedy that claimed 26 lives in Newtown, Connecticut is incomprehensible for the millions of us who watched the events unfold this past week. What has yet to unfold, however, is the inevitable onslaught of civil lawsuits against various people and organizations that some may potentially deem culpable for the shooting spree that began at the Lanza residence and ended at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
As we saw shortly after the Colorado movie theater massacre, a significant number of claims were presented for personal injury, emotional distress, and wrongful death. Undoubtedly, similar claims will arise in the wake of the school shootings in Connecticut. What makes the cases more challenging is the location, in a government- funded school, where sovereign immunity potentially plays a partial role in limiting damages.
Arguably the first line of defense against such an attack is refocusing our efforts on improving the nation’s mental health services. Like those responsible for the Gabby Gifford shooting and the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, Adam Lanza reportedly suffered from a severe mental disorder.
According to Priscilla Dass-Brailsford, an associate professor of psychology in the psychiatry department at Georgetown University Medical Center, our society waits for things like this to happen to shine a light on mental health, but we quickly forget. Perhaps this time, we shouldn’t forget that there are many people suffering from mental health disorders. By being proactive in this regard, could we avoid future tragedies?