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The Republican Congress can deal with it. The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a rule that would place most of Alaska's waters and land under the control of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers.

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Hazel Lydia Snapp, 70, died Nov. 17, 2014, in Seattle.
9/19/2013
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Tragic, there's no other way of putting it.

But the solution isn't a ban on guns.

Early this week a young gunman killed 12 people at a Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., before being fatally shot by authorities.

The anti-gun lobby immediately picks up where it left off after similar cases in recent years, pushing to limit access to guns. Even if that was the solution to the problem of these crazy shootings, the effect would be to take guns out of law-abiding citizens' possession and put them into the hands of criminals. Outlaws seeking guns get them.

But the problem isn't the guns. It's the state of mind of the people who handle them. And, therein lies the solution.

As a society, we can't push people who are having problems aside.

When it comes to our collective attention that someone is suffering mentally, we need to see to it that the person receives help. It often isn't something loved ones can do alone. It takes everyone who becomes aware of the problem, and then states, communities and the federal government ensuring that facilities and services are available to the mentally disturbed.

It isn't usual to see public outpouring for projects that would serve the segment of the community that struggles. It isn't exactly the type of infrastructure communities focus on most of the time. But it's just as important as schools, libraries, firehalls and police stations. It's about the well-being and safety of society.

It's not difficult to isolate the problem after a terrible tragedy like the one that occurred earlier this week. The difficulty comes in not using mental-health issues in a political argument in gun debates and to really do what it takes to provide help to people before they become responsible for actions that cause them, their loved ones and the nation a whole lot of pain.

Monday's tragedy isn't a wake-up call. The nation can't possibly be asleep when it comes to this issue because such incidents are occurring too frequently, and we know it. But it should be a reminder to elected leaders from the local to the state and federal levels that each has a responsibility to their constituents to ensure everything is being done to help the most vulnerable in society. That includes those whose minds lead them to kill others.

The Senate, while discussing gun legislation in April, approved an amendment known as the Mental Health Awareness Improvement Act, 95-2.

The act, if funded, would have provided grants to pay for mental-health awareness training programs for such groups as school district employees, nurses, emergency responders and veterans.

That would be a beginning, but only a beginning. Mental-health issues permeate all segments of the population. Dealing with those issues is more than a matter of training a few groups.

Still, the act or any other mental-health legislation won't advance as long as it's attached to a gun bill, as Alaska's Sen. Mark Begich pointed out this week to Senate leadership.

A mental-health bill must be made to stand on its own.

And waiting another four months — the time that's passed since the mental-health awareness act was voted on — to come to that conclusion is irresponsible and, frankly, dangerous for society.