We've often heard the phrase, most of the time spoken tongue and cheek, that this or that person has a dark side. Last Friday we found that to be true when 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother at home, then went to a Connecticut elementary school and slaughtered six women and 20 children.

Whatever caused Lanza to slip over the edge and perpetrate such horror will never be known since he took his own life. Reports indicate that he was a loner and withdrew from society, which raises the question of whether persons crossing his path may have have missed the warning signals, causing him to fall through the cracks of the mental health system. Any time we see a loner with no friends who seems pained, confused or agitated and who may show a lack of empathy or a disregard for rules, it should raise red flags.

Strained family relationships can also cause deep emotional wounds. The divorce of his parents apparently also troubled Lanza. Whenever there are family breakups, it's important for parents to stay connected with their children, no matter what the age.

School officials in Newtown apparently employed the best safety measures, but even an elaborate security system couldn't keep the deranged gunman from forcing his way inside the building. Technology can take us so far but then it's up to trained school officials, especially office staff personnel who oversee the entry systems, to quickly observe and identify any threat.

One thing we have come to believe is that mass shootings like Columbine, Jonesboro, Virginia Tech, Tucson and now Newtown reflect a cultural sickness within society that cannot be controlled by legislation such as more gun controls. Laws may help deter crime and security measures may delay an individual from creating chaos but they can never totally eliminate the kind of evil we saw surface and scar a community and our nation last Friday.

One psychologist I heard said that while we've seen a moral decaying and a drift away from the laws of decency safeguarding our society, fringe people, including those with personality disorders or mental illnesses, are also driven farther away. It's up to all of us to remain vigilant to the signs given off by people who may be mentally ill, troubled or confused.

News commentator and former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who had to deal with a mass school shooting incident in Jonesboro while he was the governor of Arkansas, is correct in stating that the laws are just a reaction to a bigger issue and that we must understand who we are as a society. Huckabee, who is a minister, believes the evil in society have only worsened since God and religious instruction were removed from public schools.

We agree with Huckabee that it's the people that must change. We can't afford to sit idle or remain silent as another troubled individual concocts the next mass murder ... especially when children, our greatest resource, are being taken from us by that evil.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com [1]