Since the tragic Valentine's Day massacre at a Florida high school, several articles have been written about the need for better treatment of mental illness. There is no argument about this. Our health care system has been extremely inefficient in both diagnosis and treatment of mental patients.

However, these articles are really of no help as they provide no solution. I suspect many are more likely written as diversions to distract from the real problem which makes school shooting so deadly. That is the availability of semiautomatic weapons.

Mental illness is a very complex medical problem with its categorization, etiology and treatment poorly understood. There are 23.6 million persons throughout the world diagnosed with schizophrenia. This disease is more common in males and tends to have its onset in late teens and early adulthood. This appears to be the exact population of these school shooters. Since treatment is spotty and often interrupted by the patient himself, improving health care, though helpful, would not solve the problem.

Limiting the availability of weapons would, however, significantly reduce the death toll. This has been convincingly demonstrated in other countries (England and Australia). At a minimum, there should be a nationwide prohibition on sales of semiautomatic guns to anyone under the age of 25. Preferably, these weapons should be restricted only to the military.

The NRA, as it has in the past, will obfuscate, initiate diversion tactics, and threaten any politician with loss of re-election who does not support its goal of selling more guns. Members who pay dues or contribute funds should seriously consider how their participation contributes to the continuation of these terrorist acts. Politicians who accept money from the NRA should be voted out of office.

I am encouraged and in complete brotherhood with the young students in Florida who are organizing to bring this issue more distinctly into focus.

— Dr. William D Bezdek, Bakersfield