Controlling guns without banning them

| Contributing Writer

I’m from Connecticut—where the Newtown tragedy occurred—but mass shootings aren’t limited to my home state. Mass shootings don’t discriminate based upon geography and have occurred in Colorado, Oregon and countless other places. Victims of these atrocities aren’t remembered as fallen Republicans or Democrats; they’re victims of senseless violence.

I know with certainty that gun violence is an epidemic in this country. Gun-related incidents are the third-leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S., which explains why the United States’ rate of homicide by firearm is the highest of developed nations. There have been 1,000 mass shootings (shootings in which at least four people are injured or killed) since Sandy Hook, which was just under three years ago. Lastly, in 2015 alone, 10,403 gun deaths have occurred in the U.S. as of publication. Declaring that gun violence isn’t a problem is a fallacy. Gun control and mental health reform need to be immediately examined by Congress.

If we move away from the ubiquitous rhetoric on the topic, we can get to the real issues. How do we protect students and public places from mass shootings? How do we prevent people who are likely to commit mass shootings from turning to violence?

In order to save future victims, we ought to take responsible steps to reduce gun violence and simultaneously protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners through common sense gun control measures. Loopholes that let felons and domestic abusers buy a gun without a background check need to be closed immediately. Similarly, someone convicted of misdemeanor stalking can still purchase a gun even though they are a clear and present danger to others. Another loophole allows people to buy guns at gun shows without a background check. Irrespective of placement on the political spectrum, I would hope that members of Congress could act in a bipartisan fashion to immediately fix common sense issues.

What is likely to take a lot longer to fix are the more controversial issues of gun control, such as the effectiveness of gun-free zones. I see the clear logic in not having kids or even college students having access to guns, but perhaps we should have more licensed, trained gun users to protect innocent children and college students alike from mass shootings. Giving guns to a bunch of 18-year-olds is a recipe for disaster, but having trained professionals protect them isn’t. This would be an ideal job for unemployed veterans who already have more than ample training in gun safety and proper use. Let’s not arm students and teachers. They have enough problems just focusing on education.

In order to own a gun, people should have to consent to a rigorous background check, provide any relevant information regarding mental health and be willing to submit to annual drug testing and psychological examinations. These measures won’t infringe on Second Amendment rights if a person is sound-minded enough to own a gun.

Lastly, the mental health system needs to be reformed in order to prevent gun violence. About 1 in 25, or 4.2 percent, of American adults live with a serious mental illness. Meanwhile, almost half of children (eight to 15 years old) and over 60 percent of adults with a mental illness did not receive mental health treatment within the past year. This is fairly concerning since “people with serious mental illness are 3 to 4 times more likely to be violent than those who aren’t,” according to Duke University professor Jeffrey Swanson. Mental health services need to be more readily available. People with serious mental health issues need to be in an environment where they can receive the help they need and not be a danger to themselves or others.

Congress needs to put laws into place that stop those who are a clear and present danger to others. I’m all for protecting the Second Amendment, but people will still be able to act in self-defense and stand up to theoretical government tyranny with common sense gun laws in place. We owe it to the victims to reduce the gun violence epidemic.

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