After every mass shooting, gun control advocates are quick to blame avid supporters of the Second Amendment, specifically those who want little to no regulation of purchasing and/or hoarding guns and ammunition. Gun control advocates readily and steadily point their fingers, saying, if we had tighter regulations on who was able to purchase guns and ammunitions and how much any given person could purchase, then we wouldn’t have all this tragic and pointless loss of human life. And they have a point.
Few other weapons as easily accessible as guns can kill so many in such a short time. The Columbine High School massacre in April 1999 left 13 people dead, using semi-automatic weapons; the two shooters then committed suicide. The Beltway sniper attacks in October 2002 along the East Coast left 10 people dead, using a semi-automatic pistol and a rifle. The Virginia Tech massacre left 32 people dead, using two semi-automatic pistols. That killer then committed suicide. And most recently, the Colorado movie theater shooting left 12 people dead, including a 6-year-old girl, using an assault rifle, a shotgun and handguns during the attack. In light of the most recent tragedy, gun control advocates blame lawmakers for letting the ban on assault weapons expire, but even if such a ban still existed, killers might simply do with whatever guns they could get.
Those against stricter gun control always repeat the same adage: Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. And, in a sense, they are right. Without someone to pull the trigger, mass killings like Colorado wouldn’t happen. The real issue, however, lies in those who purchase guns and ammunition — and not just immediately leading up to these crimes. The main culprit being ignored may just be mental health.
In the four mass shootings over the last decade, something had been amiss with each individual. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold of the Columbine massacre both suffered from mental disorders. Klebold, according to mental health experts, was depressive and suicidal, blaming himself for all of his problems. Harris was diagnosed as a psychopath with “a messianic-grade superiority complex, out to punish the entire human race for its appalling inferiority.” Defense attorneys for John Allen Muhammad, the Beltway sniper, argued that mental health experts said Muhammad was suffering from schizophrenia and delusional and bizarre thinking. Some say he had post-traumatic stress disorder from serving in the Gulf War. Medical records of Cho Seung-Hui of Virginia Tech showed he made suicidal statements, and counselors noted he was “troubled.” Seung-Hui’s grandfather told ABC news that Cho was not a happy child. He was also treated for an anxiety disorder as a young adult. Details are still emerging on James Holmes’ actions in the Colorado movie theater shooting, but experts suspect he has underlying mental issues.
It’s unfortunate that the National Rifle Association is such a strong opponent of stricter regulations. It would seem justifiable that if someone is stocking up on guns and ammunitions, as Holmes did two months prior to the massacre — four guns and 6,000 rounds of ammunition — law enforcement should have the ability to track and investigate such suspicious activity. But the subject always goes back to the idea that less government is a better choice and, apparently, letting a few mass killings happen serves to protect everyone’s civil rights. So if the subject of more gun control is essentially moot, our next best option may be to focus on mental health, awareness and education.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 26.2 percent of the U.S. population suffers from mental health disorders, but that doesn’t mean more than a quarter of our population is homicidal. It does mean, however, that we need to be aware of those who may pose a threat and we need to stop ignoring them. Intervention may be our most practical method of prevention at this point. Of course we don’t have any readily identifiable method to achieve that. Law enforcement and mental health departments can’t help much. Therefore, it is our duty for our own safety and peace of mind to urge our lawmakers to focus on building our mental health system, rather than minimizing it.