Dec 252012
Gun control Boaz Yiftach/freedigitalphotos

It may take more than gun control to stop firearms from getting into the wrong hands. Boaz Yiftach/freedigitalphotos

The controversial gun control topic has propelled into the spotlight, again. Your choices are pro-gun control, wanting to ban all firearms or leave things well enough alone.

The consensus is that most legal gun owners are responsible citizens. The key words here are ‘responsible legal owners.’ Putting a gun, rifle or assault weapon in the wrong hands can create havoc, as we well know.

The gun control debate catapulted after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14.

A lone shooter, Adam Lanza, gunned down 20 children and seven adults which brought the gun control issue back in the spotlight.

Lanza was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a disorder within the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). People incorrectly assumed this disorder was the cause of the mass killing. Most experts know homicidal/suicidal ideations are not characteristics of ASDs.

Therefore, once the ignorance was quickly corrected, fingers pointed in another direction.

Now, the focus shifted to restrictions on gun purchases (gun control). People are calling for universal background checks on purchases and tighter anti-trafficking laws. This should help to thwart firearms from getting in the wrong hands, maybe.

Even President Obama addressed the issue of gun control. He appointed V.P. Biden to head an inter-agency panel to develop sound gun control proposals. In opposition, the National Rifle Association (NRA) officials reiterated that they would continue to resist broad changes in gun laws.

Then some people agree with Piers Morgan’s opinion. They question the purpose of the Second Amendment altogether. The right to bear arms is a constitutional right, therefore not going away anytime soon.

While these efforts are commendable in theory, they appear to be missing an important aspect, which has nothing to do with the Second Amendment.

Gun Control and Mental Health

We know most people with ASDs are not dangerous. So, Lanza’s actions did not represent the population with ASDs. The majority of mental conditions are diagnosed as having depression or anxiety, neither of which is known to turn people into killers.

Also, we know that one-time background checks are not fool-proof. These checks cannot guarantee the mental condition of all gun owners after the time of purchase. People can develop a mental illness after buying a gun. The background checks are akin to a cross-sectional study, one specific point in time only.

So, we need to dig deeper. What else we can do to stop unstable people from having access to firearms? People who are mentally unstable (not necessarily having a known diagnosed mental illness) are the ones we have to worry about with firearms, being legal owners or not. We need to be aware of individuals at risk for homicidal/suicidal behaviors before they act out.

Mental Health Accountability

Indirect factors affecting gun control efforts could be the imposed rights of mentally ill persons, the high cost of health care and the stigma behind mental illnesses, among other variables.

Individuals with severe mental illness associated with psychoses usually are prescribed medications by their doctors. But the problem is being identified. Many victims are forgotten about or ignored from the stigma of having a mental illness. Then once identified, they have the right to refuse to take them, leaving them vulnerable to psychotic episodes.

Another factor could be the high cost of health care. This may stop individuals from a maintenance treatment program leaving a potentially dangerous, unmedicated person in the midst of our society.

Who is accountable for the mental health of an unstable individual when the individual cannot rationalize?

We can implement gun control by means of stricter laws, universal background checks or by banning all firearms, but that still won’t prevent weapons (of any kind) from getting into the wrong hands.

We can only hope that Biden is cognizant of all issues, including ‘wrong hands,’ when he conjures up a proposal.

Read more:

Gun control – Just Facts

U.S. Gun Laws by State (2012)

Assault Weapons Ban Talk Sparks Run on Gun Stores