Gun Control? No, Better Mental Health Care

Obama calls for tougher gun control laws as he light candles in honor of the Newton victims on the one-year anniversary of the tragic event. Many individuals must be nodding their heads in agreement and thinking that it is about time. The public has been pushing for increase in regulations for quite some time, especially after tragic events like the theater massacre back in July 2012, during the late night premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises,” and the Naval Yard shooting that happened not too long ago. As a matter of fact, on Friday, December 13, another school shooting took place. Fortunately, it was over before it began and the only death at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado was the shooter himself. Shooting after shooting, congress has done nothing so, yes, it is about time that congress does something to prevent any more tragic events from taking place. However, while stricter gun control regulations are needed, what the government should really focus on is mental health legislation.

Congress can try to take away all the guns they want but let’s be real, there will be as much opposition as there is support for that motion. Besides, the blame should not fall solely on guns; some of the blame lies with the individual using it. After all, a gun is merely an object; it would not be able to shoot at anyone by itself. So, instead of focusing on getting rid of guns in general, the government should try to restrict who can purchase and own guns. I mean, come on! The current background checks done on customers who purchases a weapon is just ridiculous. Take for example, Aaron Alexis, the navel yard shooter. He had a history of misconduct and mental illness and yet, he was able to purchase a shotgun? Interesting enough, he tried purchasing an assault rifle but was denied. Now, why was he able to purchase a shotgun but not an assault rifle? The reason is because each state has their own regulations that individuals wanting to purchase a gun need to pass. Alexis was denied his assault rifle because the “state law there limits the sale of such weapons to out-of-state buyers” but in Virginia, where he legally got his shotgun, the only requirement was to pass a criminal background check. This is just unacceptable; if an individual is barred from purchasing a gun in one state, they can just simply hop on over to another state where they can. So, if congress wants to pass gun control legislation, it should be on having stricter background checks and to make sure that each state has the same regulations because it isn’t the guns the public should fear, but the individuals holding it.

With so many of the recent shootings being done by individuals with mental health issues, there has been debates on what would prevent more future mass shootings from happening: Increase in gun control regulations or the increase in better mental health care? Personally, I believe that the government should address issues on improving mental health care rather than focus on new gun laws. In fact, a study found that, while mental illness does not predict future violence, it does correlate with an increase in violence. So, while it is true that stricter gun regulations can help prevent shootings, many cannot deny there is a correlation between all the recent mass shootings and the mental health of the shooters. In all the recent shootings, the shooter either had or still has some form of mental health issue. As mentioned earlier, Alexis had a history of mental illness and before him, there was the tragedy in Newton where 20-year-old Adam Lanza “[killed] six adult women, 12 girls and eight boys in 11 minutes.” Before that, he had killed off his mother and she certainly had a history of love for her son. Like Alexis, Lanza was suffering from mental illness and prior to his rampage, he was receiving treatment for his illness. It’s unfortunate but a pattern between mass shootings and mental health seems to be on the rise as shooting after shooting is committed by individuals with known mental illnesses.

However, no matter if you support legislation for more gun laws or better health care, one issue still remains: the passage of time. Just because the individual passed a background check to purchase a gun or was diagnosed with no mental disorder at a certain point in time, it does not mean that it cannot change in the future. Humans don’t remain in stasis. You may think you know someone and then the very next day, they can wake up as a whole new person. In other words, they can change. In terms of the recent Arapahoe High school shooting, a high school senior commented that “[the shooter, Pierson] was the last person [he] would expect to shoot up a high school” and others recalled the shooter with affection, stating that he was a “nice young man.” This was true for Alexis and Lanza; the people who knew them did not expect them to go off murdering people like that. Thus, it is imperative that the legislations, be it on gun control or better mental health, should include in the factor of time and the human ability to change.

Congress needs to do something about all the recent shootings that’s been in the news lately. While Obama focuses on more gun laws, I feel that there is a need to also address mental health care, as there is a growing correlation in mass shootings and mental health. In any case, whether it is stricter gun regulations or better health care legislation that is passed, Congress should consider the passage of time. There is a need to do chronic check ups on both background checks and diagnosis on mental health of gun owners. It is unacceptable that there is so little precaution when it comes to such matters; there is a reason why it’s always best to double check and even triple check things.

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