Gun laws must address mental health issues

Published 7:56 pm Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What America needs are common-sense gun-control laws that respect both sides of the argument and do whatever’s necessary to thwart preventable gun-related violence.
Last Friday, a young man in an upscale California community killed six people and then committed suicide with legally bought handguns. Elliot Rodger, the gunman, left a trail of social-media explanations for why he sought revenge against those he felt had shunned him. In the last few days it’s become apparent that Rodgers’ previous encounters with law enforcement and mental-health officials weren’t enough to stop this unsteady young man from committing another of these all-too-common American mass murders.
The Second Amendment — regardless of your modern-day interpretation of it — doesn’t touch on one of gun control’s biggest problems: how to keep firearms out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them because of health concerns.
This passage from Monday’s Los Angeles Times is particularly wise. “The mental health system is imperfect, by design — a teeter-totter that weighs patients’ civil liberties against public safety. Rodger existed in the middle, on the fulcrum, simmering and disturbed, just beyond arm’s reach.”
When it comes to gun violence in the United States, statistics are both helpful and confusing. Since the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut in December 2012, there have been at least 44 additional school shootings in America, according to gun-control advocacy groups Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Nevertheless, Bureau of Justice data released last summer show that the number of gun-violence deaths dropped 39 percent between 1993 and 2011.
If you want a verified statistic involving guns in America, you can find it.
Devoid of spin or political influence is this fact: guns are readily available to too many people with mental-health issues. Databases designed to prevent the mentally ill from legally purchasing guns work well in too few states. And from the law-enforcement perspective, there’s this: Half or more of the people shot and killed each year by police have mental-health problems, according to a study from the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Treatment Advocacy Center.
America’s quest for a safer nation compels us to rethink the “teeter-totter” that’s allowing guns to legally get into the hands of the wrong people. The death toll rises, yet again.
– The Anniston Star

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