Opinion

There has to be a better solution to gun violence | Editorial

The level of discourse surrounding the recent school shooting in Newtown, Conn. has been loud and irrelevant. Many of the suggested solutions to the ever-growing problem of mass shootings were either asinine or just one sided.

Anyone who suggests that banning all guns in the United States is the answer does not understand the problem. Banning guns would take a constitutional amendment. Taking away existing guns, all 280 million, is not realistic either. People have the right to defend their homes and themselves from harm.

But contrary to what the National Riffle Association has to say, guns are part of the problem. On the same day as the Newtown shooting, a man in China walked into a school and stabbed 22 kids. It was a horrific act and the news coverage in this country was dwarfed by the events in Newtown. He didn’t have a gun and no one died.

Arming teachers is not a good idea either. The danger of a teacher misplacing their weapon or having it stolen is just too great. Plus, they would just become the first target.

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre suggested placing armed guards at every school. Columbine High School had two armed guards and it didn’t do any good.

Most high schools have some type of security. Many of them are armed. And while it is a way to make things incrementally safer, as long as the person knows how to use the weapon and is say, a retired police officer, it helps the issue of school shootings. But it would not have helped those in Colorado during the movie theater shooting. Placing an armed guard on every corner or expecting that a “good guy” with his own gun will be there every time is not the answer either.

One of the biggest issues that is getting lost in the debate is mental illness. Whether it is a school in Connecticut, a mall in Oregon, a theater in Colorado or a bar in Seattle, most of the shooters are deemed to have needed some kind of help with mental issues after the fact.

The NRA suggested a national database of people with mental issues. This is beyond ignorant of the mental health issues faced in this country.

The stigma of anyone who sees a “shrink” or is on antidepressants has to stop. Our society has to become more accepting of those with mental health issues and be able to identify and treat them. A national database would just perpetuate stereotypes and ignorance - plus it is not even feasible. Many people with mental health issues, who end up committing these acts, were undiagnosed. That is the biggest problem.

We need to have mental health care more accessible no matter the cost. It has become a national security issue, which is the first and foremost responsibility of the government.

Identifying people who need help and then supplying the help would only subtract one of the two issues. If we identify those at highest risk for committing these acts prior to the event we can do a better job of making sure the wrong people don’t get guns.

The gun industry in this country has made a lot of money, including the NRA. They have a right to that money. It is astounding that in the 237 years that this country has existed, gun manufacturers have not put money into making sure that a gun is tied to the person who purchased it.

Why is it that we have phones with Internet, music players that can hold 500,000 songs but we don’t have guns with fingerprint-identification locks built in? That concept would be irrelevant at this point with 280 million guns already in circulation.

Why can’t someone make trigger locks with fingerprint identification? There are fingerprint identification gun safes and there are gun locks that take a key. Most gun owners I have talked to do not like the keyed trigger locks. You have to find the key to use the gun. In the case of an intruder in the home, that extra time getting to the key could be the difference in being killed. You don’t have to search for your fingerprint.

Theoretically, if every gun owner was tied to their firearm through their fingerprint and we screened every person for mental illness who wanted to purchase a gun we should be safer. This is not a cure all. There are 280 million guns in the U.S. that would have to have these types of gun locks. They would not be cheap. You can’t feasibly make every gun owner purchase one, but it would be a start.

 

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