Guns in America: An odyssey of lackluster legislation and broken mental health care

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, February 28th, 2018 at 5:39 PM

On Valentine’s Day 2018, Nikolas Cruz, 19, an expelled former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, pulled a fire alarm, causing students to rush into the hallways and ultimately into a deadly hail of bullets. 

Seventeen people were killed, including faculty, staff and students, with an additional 14 others injured in the latest school shooting to plague the United States. 

According to the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), a non-profit corporation formed in 2013 to study gun-related violence in the U.S., there have been 1,607 mass shootings, with at least 1,846 killed and nearly 6,500 wounded since 2012. 

A mass shooting is defined by the GVA as, “four or more shot and/or killed in a single event, at the same general time and location, not including the shooter.” For clarity’s sake, this is the criteria I will be using to define a mass shooting throughout this piece. 

If you have any sense of morality or sympathy, these numbers should have your stomach turning over on itself. As of 2011, the frequency of these events had increased nearly three-fold since 1982, from roughly once every 200 days to about once every 64 days, according to a study by Harvard’s School of Public Health. 

The Sandy Hook Elementary shootings in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, which claimed the lives of 20 students aged 6-7 years old, should’ve been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Of course it wasn’t, with no major gun control legislation following, so here we are again, asking what we can do. Let’s analyze that for a moment, because there’s a lot we can do.

To start things off, we must stop the lumbering behemoth that is lobbying in D.C. Although not awful in theory, the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) work in Washington essentially has become a form of legal bribery, which has the organization maintaining its grasp for years now. 

If you would like an example of this lobbying in action, look into the 1996 Dickey Amendment. The amendment, which was lobbied heavily for by the NRA and Republican Representative Jay Dickey, came after a 1993 study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that stated those with guns in the home had an increased risk of homicide in the home.

The amendment, a response to what the NRA saw as biased research, mandated that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the CDC may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” The $2.6 million that was going to be used for the research went elsewhere.

While not implicit, essentially the amendment has banned gun violence research by the best group available, leaving us looking at incomplete statistics for an issue that should be looked at in a deeper manner. 

So, what’s next? Well, if the CDC still isn’t allowed to study gun violence in the future, as it likely won’t be allowed to do so anytime soon, who do we turn to? For now, the only answer would seem to be resorting to third party groups such as GVA.

I want to set the record straight by saying this isn’t a “gun issue” or a “mental health issue,” but both, and furthermore, a culture issue.

What needs to be done as far as guns is not an outright ban. We did this before from 1994 to 2004 in regards to assault weapons, and it didn’t show very significant number changes. 

What we need is a more thorough background check system and as a people, we must work to change the culture revolving around guns. With no respect for a weapon, it isn’t hard to imagine someone shooting one without regard for what they’re aiming at. 

Also, without solid and conclusive research, it’d be quite hard to ban weapons without any proof it’s going to improve the situation.

Now with mental health, this is an entirely different issue and likely the most important one. It’s been studied in great depth, yet it is completely underfunded and underreported nationally. Bullying in schools runs rampant, mental health goes unchecked, and it’s not all too hard for a person with a clean record to pick up a rifle in most shops. 

We have a culture that wants something done, but doesn’t want to do anything about it because they’re too busy viewing only one issue at a time and denying all the others’ existence. It is a sad state of affairs when children who are attempting to push for change are being harassed and told they’re lying to people in order to force gun control.

Until we allow the CDC to study gun violence, implement improved background checks and apply the appropriate funding to mental health care in America, we will continue to lose lives. Inaction is not the answer to this, and if you want proof of that, check out the GVA’s website. 

Roman Sabella can be reached at

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