Guns and Mental Health: Can Future “Sandy Hook” Tragedies Be Prevented?

DownloadedFileAs a parent, middle school teacher and American citizen, along with most of the planet, I feel emotionally rocked by the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut; however, I am not shocked. I fear I became numbed to shocking violence after the brutality committed at Columbine High School in 1999. I mistakenly thought there would be major changes to our gun laws along with a dramatic increase in funding for mental health.  In fact, every time there is some horrific gun-related catastrophe involving a mentally ill person, almost always a young man, I think— Well, maybe NOW Congress will act.  Since the shootings at Columbine, funding for mental health has decreased due to draconian cuts across the country, and gun ownership and violence involving guns continues to rise.  I do not know what, if anything, it will ultimately take for our politicians to make laws that at least limit the kinds of guns people can buy and own. I suppose that will not happen until senators and representatives at both the state and federal levels resist the influence of the NRA. 11 out of the 20 worst mass shootings around the world have occurred in the United States, an alarming statistic for even the staunchest opponent of gun control.  Despite the stigma of mental illness having eroded so much over the past twenty years, it has become more difficult for many Americans to receive mental health services.  Although I am profoundly sad and angry over yet another violent rampage that seems to play out with all too frequent regularity, I still remain hopeful Congress will do the right thing in addressing gun violence and the need for more mental health funding.  Aggressively addressing these two issues may not ultimately prevent tragedies like the shootings in Sandy Hook Elementary from occurring, but it would almost certainly save lives in the long run.

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