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Guns in America – Voices

“The problem runs much deeper than the methods used to perpetrate crimes.”
Boston, MA
I do not believe in banning firearms. From my perspective, the recent cause of the upsurge in violence is the failure of our medical system to diagnose and treat mental illness, the overwhelming influence of the internet and social media, the lack of law enforcement, and the lack of appropriate gun ownership requirements. Let’s look at just a few of the most recent events. The Tsarnaev brothers used a pressure cooker to bomb the Boston Marathon, the recent killings in Toronto were perpetrated by a man driving a rental van, the Russian government is allegedly using chemical weapons to poison its citizens, a member of my own community used a household knife to murder a young woman studying in our local library; just like a pressure cooker, a van, and a household knife, a gun is an inanimate object, just a piece of metal. The problem runs much deeper than the methods used to perpetrate crimes.

In common language, we would call a person who commits a crime crazy, a lunatic, a sociopath. I believe that most of the suspects are suffering from mental illness. Without going into the pros and cons of our healthcare system, I believe that it is very difficult to obtain appropriate treatment for mental health issues. We need to find a way to keep weapons out of the hands of mentally disturbed individuals.

I do believe that there should be very strict requirements attached to gun ownership. As a mother of a high-school senior, I have been helping my son complete college applications. To get into college, you have to provide a myriad of personal information. Numerous letters of recommendation describing the applicant’s character and achievements, parental work history, tax returns, test scores—it’s a daunting process just to apply to college, yet the laws are rather lax when it comes to gun ownership. There should be an intense background check through a national registry, not a local one. If there are any arrests or infractions, the person should be denied, no questions asked. There should be a waiting period, perhaps a requirement of recommendations from employers, clergy, community representatives, etc., vouching for the person’s character and mental stability. Will this happen? Doubtful. Yet, without stricter requirements and enforcements, the killing will continue.

We all know that the right to bear arms is protected by the second amendment, and it should be noted that there are legitimate uses for firearms that should not be denied to licensed, law-abiding citizens. Growing up in upstate New York, guns were very common, used for skeet shooting, target practice, and seasonal hunting. People respected the guns and understood their power. There was very little crime, and certainly no mass shootings.

Let’s talk about enforcement. We have a young man who recently went into a waffle house in Tennessee and started shooting. He killed four innocent people and wounded several others. It was discovered that he had a history of criminal behavior, one of the charges for trespassing near the White House. The charges were later dismissed after he completed community service. His license to carry a firearm was revoked and his weapons were confiscated. The authorities gave the weapons to the father, who later returned them to his son. Clearly this was a mistake on the part of the law enforcement, and frankly, I believe that the facilitators should be held responsible too. Many of the stories that we hear on the news confirm that there were warning signs that the perpetrator was mentally unstable, yet nothing was done until a disaster happened. The problem is not the gun, it is the lack of recognition and treatment for mentally disturbed individuals, and the failure of the criminal justice system to act in a law-abiding and reasonable manner.

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