Questions behind the headlines

Aug 14, 2015 By Chris Peck

It's time for better thinking on drugs, guns, mental illness

If you haven't thrown it out, go back and look at the front page of The Ranger from July 29.

There's a nice color picture of rodeo clown there.

But keep looking.

I did --and was struck by the fact that three of the six stories on page one involved drugs, stupidity and mayhem:

- There was Oliver Reed, the guy who stole a gun in a Riverton residential neighborhood and started shooting up the place at 3:30 a.m. before police managed to subdue him and cart him off;

- And William Wallowingbull and Chrissy Big Eagle, sentenced to jail for driving the body of Jared Little Whiteman to a remote part of the Wind River Indian Reservation and trying to hide him after a night of drug-filled partying went horribly wrong;

- Finally, the funeral for Stallone Trosper who was gunned down at the Center of Hope shelter and whose family has vowed to urge prosecution of his accused killer for a hate crime.

What stuck in my craw about all of this is the fact that the after-the-fact conversations about events like these are very short, and so often miss the point.

A guy running around in the middle of the night with a stolen gun?

Very soon after this dangerous foolishness you could start to hear the familiar bromides about the importance of an unfettered Second Amendment.

The real discussion about Oliver Reed should be about the amazing number of stolen guns that end up in the hands of unstable people.

Oh, and there is this other important story related to the Oliver Reed incident. It's the story that he is lucky to be alive today all because of the restraint shown by Riverton police officers who decided not to shoot when Reed turned and ran when ordered to stop and drop.

Some cops don't shoot. It's easy to forget that.

And the pair who tried to hide the body of Jared Little Whiteman? They weren't angels. They were young and drunk and drugged. But the larger issue in their case involves not their brain-fogged plan to hide the body, but what to do about rampant drug and alcohol abuse among young Americans Indians that is ruining lives every day.

And what more can be said about the tragic double-shooting at the Center of Hope? Roy Clyde decided to shoot two unarmed men at the homeless shelter because he considered them riff-raff. He didn't' like what they were doing to the town.

Well, look what Roy Clyde has done to the town. The pain he's caused.

There remain these questions:

What's going on in that guy?

Did anyone along the way bother to try to interrupt his twisted thinking? Family? Friends? Co-workers?

And will Roy Clyde's senseless act finally jar anybody into realizing that multiple shootings of innocent people are way out of control in this country?

Look at the numbers: In 1975 there were zero mass-shooting deaths or related injuries in this country.

In the last 12 months, about 100 people have been killed in mass shootings and another 200 injured in this country.

All at a time when crime in America is down 50 percent in the last 20 years.

I'm glad there was a rodeo clown in town and that people enjoyed the show at the Fremont County Fairgrounds.

One of the best antidotes to mayhem and dysfunction is to go out for a normal night with everyday people.

Yet we who count ourselves among the law-abiding, conscience-conflicted, worried-about-our-direction crowd need to dig deeper behind the headlines.

Something is off track. Time for new thinking and a new direction in terms of public policy on drugs, guns and mental health.

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