Mental Health Control
Published: Friday, February 15, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 17, 2013 17:02
I would like to start off this piece with a bit of a disclosure: I am from Fairfield County, many of my friends from high school lived in Newtown, and a very close family friend of mine teaches first grade in Newtown (not at Sandy Hook). So, though I am not personally acquainted with the families of any victims, the atrocity that occurred there was a bit more than the latest tragedy airing on the news for me – I have connections to that town. Furthermore, I am not a gun owner, nor do I desire to be one. I feel that these are important things for you to know before I start discussing my feelings on “gun control.”
Ever since that horrible day, there has been a clamor within the Democratic Party to rush the passing of gun control legislation. While I do support better gun regulation (as in background checks), these new limits on what a law-abiding citizen can and can’t own are flawed at best. New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, recently signed into law a bill that made it illegal for anybody to possess a firearm with more than seven rounds in the clip and one in the chamber. However, the state legislature failed to include a provision that would exempt police officers from these new regulations. With the stroke of a pen, every cop in New York was a criminal until an amendment could be made.
The New York case is a perfect example of what happens when legislation comes from emotion instead of facts; mistakes are made and resources must (unnecessarily) be allocated to correct them. I would not have a single thing against this if the laws were designed to do anything beyond offer us the illusion of safety. However, there is little data to suggest that banning certain guns curbs violence.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was speaking on Meet the Press the weekend after the horror in Newtown when he said one of the most brilliant lines I have heard regarding the push for a reinstatement of a Federal “assault weapons” ban. He pointed out that when Columbine occurred the ban was in place and there were armed officers in the school. Clearly, neither helped. This begs the question: Why would we want legislation that has been proven to prevent the violence it seeks to curb? I personally believe that we should stop wasting our time on failed laws and find a new way to solve the problem of mass shootings.
The demographics could not be clearer: emotionally disturbed young men carry out mass shootings. These are people with mental health issues who are a threat to the public. For some reason, we don’t quarantine these people. We devote our energy and resources to getting rid of firearms (with error-ridden laws) and do relatively little to improve the mental health of those committing the crimes. My question is simple: Why?
Mental health issues still carry a stigma in America. If you’re sick with the flu, you have no problem telling the world that you went to the doctor to get a prescription. If you’re sick with depression, then that isn’t the case – most worry that they would be judged for admitting that they had to seek help. That, I think, is the key part of the solution for ridding ourselves of these heinous crimes. We don’t need a superficial ban on assault weapons (which, by the way, is a make-believe phrase), but we do need a mental healthcare system free of judgment and readily available to those in need. The past has shown us that arbitrarily designating aesthetic features as “assault” features does not work, so let’s try solving this problem at its root. Let’s stop the people who commit mass shootings by helping them achieve mental stability. That’s the conversation that we need to have if anything is to be done.