In the wake of the Florida school mass shooting, we find ourselves once again in mourning for the loss of innocent lives. The shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 dead. This was not the first, second, or third school shooting of 2018, but the 18th school shooting since January 1, 2018. That is one every 2.5 days. The recent Wall Street Journal article, “Florida School Shooting Renews Debate Over Gun Access and Mental Health” by Jacob Gershman, touches upon the call for greater restrictions on obtaining firearms for those with mental-health problems without violating civil-liberties or stigmatizing mental illness.
While federal law bans the sale of firearms to anyone who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective” by a lawful authority or involuntarily committed to a mental institution, this still leaves room for those with undiagnosed mental illnesses or under-diagnosed mental illnesses to purchase and obtain firearms. States have the power to enact various legislation regarding firearms that give authorities more legal channels to strip firearms from potentially dangerous owners or ban/confiscate guns, however, these State laws vary significantly State-to-State. Additionally, although it may seem obvious for those with mental or psychological illnesses to be prohibited from purchasing firearms, mental illnesses largely go untreated or are not overtly obvious, causing those who may be a risk to themselves or others to stay largely under the radar and still possess the ability to purchase firearms.
The article states that, “A 2004 study by the U.S. Secret Service and Department of Education, conducted after the attack at Columbine High School, surveyed “targeted school violence” and found that only one-third of perpetrators had ever received a mental-health evaluation and fewer than 20% had been diagnosed with mental-health or behavior disorder before the attack.” This survey is of note because it indicates how under-diagnosed and/or the lack of mental-health evaluations that are completed in specifically school-shooting perpetrators, demonstrating the difficulty on how to successfully put more restrictions on purchasing firearms on those with mental health issues when they largely go undiagnosed.
While this important to consider within the mental health community and potentially enhancing restrictions for those with diagnosed mental-illnesses or psychiatric problems, the larger issue at hand is the need to change policy on obtaining firearms, period. We need our elected officials to enact commonsense gun control. According to Everytown For Gun Safety, “Research shows—and cops will tell you—that common-sense public safety laws reduce gun violence and save lives.” There are more than 35,000 gun deaths in the US every year. This is something that needs to change. Visit Everytown to learn more about gun-safety and the common-sense laws and policies that can save lives.
- Therapy West Staff