The local chatter about Casey Casper puts me in a bit of a difficult spot as a reporter because I interviewed this man, I wrote a story about his initial situation and I got to know him and his family a little bit in that process. Also, in the comments he’s left on the Tribune’s Facebook page, he said several flattering things about me and my writing. So, while he has clearly made several misguided decisions, at least the guy has good literary taste.
It is difficult to have too low of an opinion of someone after having been a guest in his home and seeing that he clearly loves his baby, his dog and his significant other. While I had plenty of healthy skepticism about some of Casper’s claims, he did ask some important questions about the rights of patients to make their own decisions. It’s too bad that he undermined his own effectiveness with his recent alleged behavior. All I can hope now is that the situation is peacefully resolved.
Paralleling this local series of events with other state news, the always-morbidly-entertaining Kansas State Senator Forrest Knox sponsored legislation this year that allows anyone who can legally buy a gun to conceal and carry that weapon without a license. He wrote a column in our newspaper bragging about how such a step will help make us all safer.
Now, someone like Casper might be wanted by law enforcement officials, but he is not currently a convicted felon. He could still meet Knox’s standards for carrying a concealed gun without a license. If he took a concealed weapon with him when confronting those he feels have done him wrong, I don’t think anyone in such a scenario would feel safer.
I wonder how Knox would feel if someone who hadn’t yet been convicted of anything suddenly showed up at his office in the Capitol carrying an unlicensed concealed handgun. That probably won’t happen because lawmakers like Knox were careful to exempt the Capitol building in Topeka from these laws. Knox never has to worry about encountering a gun-toting individual at his workplace; he just generously promotes the rest of us having that daily fear.
I understand that any criminal who wants to carry a gun is going to do so whether or not Forrest Knox says it is okay. It still seems sensible to try to limit the number of people packing heat by at least making them take some sort of test and meet some type of standard beforehand.
Adding to this atmosphere of fear, there is currently a shortage of mental health facilities in the state. The State Hospital in Osawatomie was found not in compliance with federal standards, so the cap on its patient population had to be reduced. Currently, there is a moratorium on new patients to that facility while renovations are being done. That means those among us whose mental state might render them a danger to themselves or others will have to find somewhere else to go, without many real options available.
If that’s not scary enough, it was announced last week that Applewood Rehabilitation in Chanute will soon be closing its doors. Owners of the facility that cares for people with severe and persistent mental illness told the Tribune that it was closing because reimbursement from the state was being further cut.
If a certain fugitive gets caught, spends time locked away with other criminals in jail, and then decides to get some help for his mental issues, what options is he really going to have? If someone like that can’t go to the state hospital or a like facility, I don’t really know what an adult in that situation is supposed to do.
If our governor and our state lawmakers don’t understand why such programs need support and funding, perhaps they should consider taking advantage of the mental health services that are left instead of trying to cut them.
Perhaps, if our state was more sensible in the way we dealt with issues like guns and mental illness, we would have a lot fewer of these incidents to comment on and worry about.
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