Since that first shooting, things have only worsened

Sixteen years ago, the Columbia Basin was shocked and sickened when 14-year-old Barry Loukatis, dressed like a gunslinger in a long coat and armed with a hunting rifle and two handguns shot and killed his algebra teacher and two classmates at Frontier Middle School in Moses Lake.

That was the beginning, it seemed, of a sad and terrifying trend of school shootings that have become progressively more monstrous.

Before the Moses Lake murders, there had been a spattering of school shootings in the country with relatively few casualties.

Fast forward to now where the latest tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., feels like a culmination in gun violence that has plagued the nation for years.

Little has been done to quell the cause of such atrocities. Remember 15-year-old Kip Kinkel?

In 1998 he killed his parents and then drove to Thurston High School in Springfield, Ore., and opened fire in the cafeteria. He killed two teens and wounded 22 others before he was subdued by students.

Then there's the Columbine massacre in 1999 where teens Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold tore through the school, killing 12 students and one teacher before killing themselves.

And now it's Adam Lanza, 20, who murdered his mother and then took the lives of 20 little boys and girls and six adults before committing suicide.

Barry, Kip, Eric, Dylan and now Adam. These aren't the only ones, either.

Unfortunately there have been many more troubled young men driven to extreme violence.

You'd think after 16 years we would have a better understanding of what forces lead to such disturbing behavior and how we can curb such horrendous violence.

But help for the mentally unstable remains woefully inadequate in this country.

There used to be facilities that housed the mentally ill, but those have closed and now people with mental health issues either end up with families who don't always have the resources to care for them or they fend for themselves -- often ending up on the streets or in jail.

The debates that raged after Moses Lake and Springfield and Columbine are being repeated now.

Some people, like Wayne Lapierre National Rifle Association executive vice-president, believe it's violent video games, movies and music that encourage people to kill.

President Obama pledges to tackle the tricky issue of gun rights.

Schools have implemented lockdown procedures to prepare for the possibility of gun-toting intruders.

Most communities have embraced anti-bullying policies in schools to help curb any vengeful anger that might trigger a disturbed youth to commit murder on his classmates.

But obviously more must be done.

Teens don't just suddenly plan a massacre and commit suicide.

It's the pain and the anger that build, along with personal and psychological factors that lead a distressed mind to think murder is their best plan.