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The multi-faceted issues surrounding gun control

After more than two dozen people died in a mass shootout at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the Trump administration has stated that mental health is a key factor in mass shootings. Many experts say there’s little connection between a person’s mental illness and the likelihood of a mass shooting.

This is a common argument that isn’t backed up by the facts. Even though mental illness is often used to explain the actions of mass shooters, a significant majority of those who commit these crimes have no treatable mental illness. Of further note, and again running contrary to popular accounts, the vast majority of these shooters are able to obtain their guns legally. While the government might be able to slightly limit mass shooting via better mental health care, assuming that we could find and help those who become violent as a result of their illnesses, this is far from an effective solution. If we want to address mass gun violence, instead of focusing on one aspect of the issue we need to discuss the entire multi-faceted problem.

For example, one of the things so often brought up in that the United States is a mental health regulatory policy. This policy so often looks like a registry for mentally ill people in the United States. The registry would bar certain mentally ill people from owning guns.

If a mental health professional identifies someone who they believe to be unstable and shouldn’t possess a weapon, what could they do? Some might say that a registry must be used. A registry that holds a list of people who are unfit to possess a gun. The problem is that such a registry doesn’t exist and most gun rights advocates fight tooth and nail to prevent one. If a registry isn’t allowed, the mental health professional is almost powerless to prevent a probable disastrous gun incident. Unless mental health professionals are certain that it is an imminent threat, they can’t even warn people that a person might be dangerous. Of course, I can treat the person, but that is a long-term strategy.

There are even problems with the idea of a registry. There must be some reasonable way to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people who are judged to be a threat to themselves or others. But that in itself is hard to do. If you simply make a registry on all of the mentally ill people that would simply further stigmatize mental health, which will keep the mentally ill away from mental health professionals for fear of being further ostracized.

In order to move forward with this topic, a true discussion must be had. A discussion in which both sides of the argument could come together and sit down and come to a compromise.

Polk County civil activist Devon Seabold has hosted a number of discussions on guns in the United States in Dundee, Fla.

“Whenever this issue comes up I’m always conflicted..,” Seabold said. “There are a million different ways of describing the problem and many proposed solutions. I’ve seen countless case studies of other countries’ gun laws–all of which are compelling–but unfortunately, they all seem to conflict with one another. And none of them are perfect matches for our situation, either.”

In his meetings, Seabold hopes that people walk away with a yearning to discuss this topic with anyone that would listen. He acknowledges that while this conversation is a difficult one to have, sometimes Americans must become more accustomed to it. The alternative is ensuring that these tragedies will continue to happen.

“I think we should all be able to agree on one thing: we need more data. The more research we throw at the problem, the clearer it will become,” Seabold said.

Unfortunately, in the US, it’s effectively illegal to use government funds to research the causes of gun violence, and it has been for over 20 years.

2018 has only just begun and as of Feb. 27, there have already been 35 mass shootings in the United States. Without more data and more open discussion, we will always find ourselves in these moments after a mass shooting occurs. Trying to tackle a symptom or an offshoot of the larger issue is less effective than taking on the main problem head-on.

 

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