Today’s shooting at a Florida high school confirms American is in the midst of a crisis. Is it loose gun laws, mental illness, or a combination? A former student went on a shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, leaving multiple fatalities while panicked faculty and students barricaded themselves in classrooms. The shooting happened near dismissal time for the students.
This American dilemma continues to plague citizens who are left fearfully concerned about the whereabouts of the next killing spree. This saga has hung in the balance for far too long. As long as the crisis remains unaddressed there will not be any place considered safe in the country. Concert venues, schools, clubs, and even places of worship have now become targets for terrorist-themed attacks.
Some blame the current state of affairs on mental health, while others uphold that it is no doubt a gun law issue. Is it really that black and white or could it be a gray area which is actually a combination of both? If opposing sides of the argument continue to live in the realm of “absolutes” concerning their belief, there is no hope for resolution.
After the recent massacre during a Las Vegas concert, a Texas church, and now another school shooting, the chatter around mental illness and loose gun laws have again begun to scream through the media and many social networking platforms. While some propose to do nothing in the wake of what seems to be a uniquely American epidemic of mass shootings, others refuse to accept another episode merely as the status quo.
Is this American crisis a result of loose gun laws or mental illness, or could it be a combination of both? There are valid arguments on both sides. There is also the question of what is and is not considered an act of terrorism. Regardless of the stories that people tell themselves, the reality is things are out of control and something needs to be done about the current reality surrounding the security of the citizens of this great nation.
There are no absolutes in this saga. There is a problem with loose gun laws and equally with mental health. Washington is missing the bigger picture by attempting to address gun laws as a standalone issue without addressing mental health. Without change, America will continue to witness an encore.
The problem for many is the government does not appear to be making mental health issues, never mind the epidemic of suicide, much of a priority outside of the gun debate. While it is true that the law requires background checks for guns sold by federally licensed firearm dealers (FFLs), Americans can buy firearms through “private sales” in more than 40 states without undergoing any type of screening at all.
One study estimated that private transactions in the United States account for at least 40 percent of all gun sales. There are also studies which suggest that every year, about 18.2 percent of the total adult population in the United States (42.5 million) suffer from some mental illness, enduring conditions such as depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
As opposed to abandoning strong opinions for a more balanced conversation, it seems society has collectively decided that an occasional massacre is okay. This is simply the price many are willing to pay for the freedom of their precious Second Amendment. Society is content to forfeit the lives of a few dozen victims a year as long as they can keep their guns. The people have spoken, in a cheering civics-class example of democracy in action!
The truth is, however, it is not that cut and dry. The American crisis is a gray area that mandates more dialogue on both sides. Yes, America’s federal firearms laws are weak and filled with loopholes, but mental illness is a definite issue that needs to be addressed so victims can receive the necessary treatment, which will afford them the opportunity of a normal life. The American crisis at hand is a combination of mental illness and gun laws. Unless the conversation finds balance, a resolution will not be established. Hence, leaving citizens, sane and insane, to suffer through more of the same. As it stands, the crisis continues.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
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