Yes, We Can do More to Stop Gun Violence


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The Republican arguments against gun control are pretty stupid, but they basically boil down to them saying no gun control idea will work. They make the case that gun control policy X would not have stopped mass-shooting Y. They make the case that there will always be bad people who do bad things. They make the argument that suits their need- to disprove that gun control policy X would work at all.

Amanda Marcotte of Rolling Stone writes a great piece taking on four of the right-wing arguments to do nothing about gun violence. I’m going to highlight one argument of her’s each day. Today, it’s that “But, Mental Health.”

3. “But, mental health!”
Opponents of gun control love bringing up the problem of inadequate mental health care after a shooting. This is strictly for deflection purposes, as there is no indication that Republicans will ever work on meaningful reform for our mental health systems – which, it’s true are woefully inadequate. It’s an issue that only matters to them in the immediate aftermath of a shooting – then it’s forgotten, until there’s another shooting. Rinse, repeat.

Also, the “mental health” gambit, in this context, is always vague. What exactly is the plan? Round up everyone with a mental health issue and put them under lock and key? That amounts to 1 in 5 Americans, the vast majority of whom have no violent tendencies. Will we have some kind of extensive mental health registry? A lot of Americans who struggle with mental health are undiagnosed, though, and putting them on a government list that restricts their rights is not a great inducement to get a diagnosis. There are a lot of shooters in this country, so we have some pretty good data on mass shooters. And that data shows there’s no reliable way to tell who is going to go off like this, and only 23 percent of shooters have a diagnosis. Even if all of those individuals got gold-star treatment, the system would only stop a few shooters.

It always seems like after a shooting, we hear about how disturbed the shooter was. The Columbine killers were “weird” after the shooting, and we found lots of stuff out about them. Before the shooting? They weren’t really standouts. The Virginia television shooter was a disgruntled employee, but not a killer before he killed his former colleagues on the air. The Oregon shooter didn’t tip off people before hand either, as far as we know right now. Most killers don’t advertise what they are doing before hand. The DC Sniper didn’t walk around in a shirt that says “DC Sniper.”

Even if we do things to block the mentally ill from getting guns, there are still ways to get your hands on a gun. The Newtown shooter didn’t buy his weapons, they belonged to his mother. We have interstate gun trafficking. We have a “black market” for guns. Most guns used criminally are bought or attained outside our normal market for purchasing a gun. Republicans and right-wingers use this as a rationalization for not doing more. They are wrong. This is why all legal gun sales should have a background check attached. It’s also a reason for us to regulate how gun owners keep their guns. It’s a good reason to ban interstate trafficking, ban all gun sales that don’t require a background check, and it’s a reason to have every gun under lock and key. It also points to the real problem here- there are too many guns, it’s too easy to buy one, and guns are on demand in our society.

You’re never going to catch every mentally ill person in our nation. You can’t. So you have to make it harder for them to attain a gun. We should improve our mental health system, for the sake of our people, but don’t confuse that with gun control.

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