Ignoring gun violence not a solution

Macy Rice

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This year alone, there have been 406 mass shootings in America and the number is increasing. The deadliest of these being the Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1 where 59 people died and 441 were injured, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker (MST). For many of those around us, gun violence hits close to home, as number 71 on the MST list is the recent shooting in Newton, where four were killed.

There are many ways to deal with the horrific reality of gun violence, but ignorance should not be one. Many people do not want to discuss topics of gun violence because they claim “it makes them upset or uncomfortable,” as it should. If the idea of innocent lives being taken does not make you feel uncomfortable, there is an issue.

Instead of simply offering condolences to families that have been affected, real actions need to be taken. The issue starts with the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in 17 adult Americans and one in ten children live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder.

Those with mental illnesses are not always more likely to commit a violent act on a day-to-day basis. However, certain high-risk periods such as episodes of psychosis and the period surrounding inpatient hospitalization can significantly increase the risk, according to the American Mental Health Counselors Association.

Dramatic cuts to the funding of the mental health system have occurred over the past ten years. Kansas’ mental health system is currently suffering the ninth biggest cutback, as 12.4 percent of funding has been cut, according to CBS News.

It is now easier to obtain a gun than it is to receive mental health treatment. According to CNN, it is also easier to get a gun than to get cold medicine, as there is a limit on how much you can buy per month. There is currently no limit on how many guns one person can legally own at a time, as Steven Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, legally owned 43 guns at one time. There should not be a limit placed on how many guns one person can own at a time, as some simply collect firearms for display purposes, but purchasing a weapon should not be easier than purchasing an everyday product such as medicine.

Additionally, only five states have imposed waiting periods for the purchase of all firearms, according to Giffords Law Center. Waiting periods were created in order to allow gun purchasers to reconsider their intentions, as well as provide time for a thorough background check to be completed. According to a study conducted by Science magazine, in the states which currently have waiting periods implemented, it is estimated that 750 gun homicides are avoided each year.

Furthermore, the only requirements to purchase a gun in Kansas are that you must pass a simple background check to determine whether or not you have any felonies, and that you must be 18. According to the National Rifle Association (NRA), Kansas gun laws do not require owners to be licensed, have permits to carry or purchase, or register firearms.

In order to prevent gun violence, a culture of gun safety must be established. Purchasing a firearm should involve mandatory training and licensing which should not be a one-time occurrence. Owners should be required to regularly renew permits, similar to the requirements of renewing a driver’s license. The reason these renewals are necessary is because mental health can change and illnesses can develop over time. Mental health evaluations should be required at each renewal.

Instead of choosing to be ignorant when it comes to gun violence, we should educate ourselves. Major changes need to be made to the finances allocated towards mental health, as well as changes to the requirements of purchasing and owning firearms.