Assessing Gun Violence: A Two Method Discussion

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Since its foundation, the United States has always placed emphasis on liberty and equality. Arguably, the United States is heavily known around the world for the culture it has built around freedom. To this day, one of the most prominent freedoms given to civilians is the right to bear arms. Included in the first 10 amendments of the United States’ constitution, also known as the Bill of Rights, the 2nd amendment states ”A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

” Because of its inclusion in the document regarded as the supreme law of the land, a large portion of the population argue that the second amendment protects their right to purchase, own, and carry weapons, including firearms.

However, because of the high amount of gun related crimes and gun violence, ranging from mere bullet wounds to tragedies including massacres at the hands of killers armed with guns, groups of people argue that the second amendment is outdated and no longer reflects the circumstances of present day America.

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As a result, an ongoing nationwide debate over the best method of preventing gun violence has arisen from the blood of innocent victims whose lives have been taken by firearms. Out of the plethora of methods suggested to control the amount of casualties caused by guns, 2 of the most prominent include tighter gun control policies and treating mental illness. Contemporary society requires that as a population citizens understand the cause of gun violence across the nation and in effect adopt a social or legislative policy whether that is in the form of gun control or recognizing early signs of violence and being proactive about mental health issues.

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While exploring the connections between mental health issues in the community and mass shootings, experts often reference gun laws. In contrast to the argument for more restrictive gun policies, the case for tackling gun violence through promoting mental health claims that gun sale legislation can be ineffective and even counterproductive. A quintessential gun policy passed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (“SAFE Act”) aimed to promote public safety by preventing criminals and the “dangerous and mentally ill” from accessing weapons through universal background checks. Without dismissing the fact that people with mental illness can be potentially dangerous, it is important to note that legislation that targets the mentally ill specifically does little to help those in need and inadvertently promotes the common misconception that people with mental health issues are violent, therefore increasing stigma, an already tremendous obstacle stopping many in need from seeking professional mental health treatment.

Furthermore, specialists warn of the possibility that laws targeting those suffering from mental illness may inhibit ongoing treatment. Much of the reactionary gun related legislation, such as New York’s SAFE Act, include stipulation that begin requiring mental health professionals to report patients to the state. Though seemingly preventative to gun violence at the hands of those suffering from mental health related issues, policies with this nature can unravel the trust necessary to effective treatment between a patient and their doctor. In fear that being reported to the state and being labeled as potentially dangerous might affect current or future employment, patients may refrain from disclosing feelings of anger, hostility, or resentment. Being unaware of such feelings in a patient ultimately makes it difficult or impossible for medical specialists to treat their patients as necessary.

Additionally, reporting rules already exist in the treatment process of a mentally ill individual, however, the option to report a patient as potentially dangerous is based on the specialist’s discretion. Having the option whether to report a patient to the state or not to essentially broadens a therapist’s method of treatment without loosening the sense confidentiality between them and their patient. In the end, enacting laws that makes it mandatory vs. permissive to report a patient create more hurdles between those in need of treatment and seeking help for mental illness.

In addition to the social stigma and treatment barriers they may cause, research has shown that background checks would not prevent major acts of gun violence as a large scale of mass murders have shown very little to no criminal past and/or have not been classified as potentially dangerous. For example, in the case of Adam Lanza, the man found guilty of murdering 20 children and 6 adults in Sandy Hook Elementary, was said to not be a risk to himself or others by the professionals who examined him. Moreover, the weapons and ammunition used in the killing spree were legally purchased by his mother.Through cases such as these it becomes apparent that although constricting gun purchases for the “dangerous mentally ill” may decrease accessibility to weapons, the probability of a potential suicide victim or mass shooter being unable to obtain a firearm would be marginally slim.

Fundamentally, advocates of preventing gun violence through mental health treatment seek to avert tragedies by facilitating treatment and early identification of disorders in individuals that may result harmful to themselves or others. Like most issues, the first step to treatment is identifying the problem at hand, however “identification of mental illness can be both more subde and more complex, even for those with a psych/mental health background”. As a solution, many professionals suggest allocating government funds to make mental health services more affordable/accessible and educating communities on mental illness. In addition, by training staff and coworkers in schools and workplaces to identify red flags indicating potential violence would ease problem management. Once identified, “he or she could overcome these issues with support and therapy”, thus preventing prospective violence.

Overall, this method of preventing homicide and suicide through the use of firearms treats the social issue as a symptom of a broken mental health care system and is largely centered around potential perpetrators compared to the more traditional method of assessing the problem as an issue in current gun legislature. In contrast with the previous method of prevention, imposing stricter gun control policies aims to correct day-to-day gun related crimes as well as mass shootings. As basis of its argument, the case for reducing gun violence through analyzes existing data about gun laws put into place and their effect on crime through statistics. Researchers then use data to form conclusions about the expected outcomes of proposed gun control laws.

Apart from restrictions on machine guns and fully automatic weapons , a database containing a list of individuals prohibited from purchasing firearms, and a law mandating that federally licensed dealers conduct a “Brady background check” to determine if a customer’s name is listed as a prohibited purchaser, there is no national law that fully prevents “bad” people from obtaining firearms. Moreover, because of the ambiguous definitions of who should be prohibited from acquiring firearms and issues regarding states sending records of clearly dangerous people, the background check database remains incomplete. Regardless, if the database were to be updated and contain no error, this would do very little to halt criminals from acquiring weapons because of the number of “private sales” that occur across the country. Because of this, experts claim that legislation needs to be passed to create more restrictions over the private sales of firearms.

Although many claim that because the current restrictions do little to prevent gun related crime adding more restrictions would not have any significant effect, studies conducted exhibit that even the process of obtaining a permit can have a positive effect on the drop in crime. In a study conducted on shall-issue states vs. may-issue states, data showed that,” carry permitting laws were significantly associated with 6.5% higher total homicide rates, 8.6% higher firearm-related homicide rates, and 10.6% higher handgun-specific homicide rates compared with may-issue states. In this study, may-issue vs shall issue refers to whether an individual shall receive or will receive a permit to carry a handgun after clearing a background check.

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Assessing Gun Violence: A Two Method Discussion. (2022, May 22). Retrieved from

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