Mental Illness and Guns have Created a National Epidemic
by Mary Sanchez
Before day's end, 86 Americans who were alive yesterday will be dead from gun violence. One of us dies from a bullet every 17 minutes.
That statistic lends a certain futility to the anguished plea of
Martinez led more than 20,000 people chanting "Not one more!" at a memorial rally, and the slogan has since become a trending Twitter hashtag.
But in the three days between his son's death and the rally, more than 250 Americans died from bullets. Let me tell you about one.
Police had been called to his family's home after Sims fired shots, although he injured nobody. After a five-hour standoff with police, Sims emerged from the house brandishing a rifle and was shot down by police.
Sims' death might appear utterly unrelated to the mass murder in
I say "possibly" because there's a lot we don't know about Sims. What we do know is grimly familiar. He did two tours in
The circumstances of his death raise the question of whether suicide was a motive. An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide daily. Had the despondent Sims, a trained marksman, wanted to harm someone else, he could have done it. But he was the only one who died that Sunday.
What if, when Sims approached the VA for help, a trained counselor had asked him whether he had firearms at home? What if, based on how he answered that question, he could have qualified for immediate admission to the hospital? Would he be alive today?
What if the sheriff's deputies sent to visit
Would it not have made sense for the deputies to determine what kinds of guns and ammunition he had access to?
Yes, it would have. At the very least, it might have been one way to assess his susceptibility to commit deadly violence. We actually don't have good measures for predicting who will commit mass violence. That's a subject that needs to be studied more.
And yet it is the kind of reasonable inquiry that the
"Where is the leadership? Where is the friggin' politicians that will stand up and say, 'We need to do this. We're gonna do something,' " Martinez pleaded to
He's right. A few days before his son died, members of
Yes, each story of a gun-related death is complicated, with its own nuances. Solutions are not simple. But the recurring storylines cannot be ignored. In massacre after massacre, a severely troubled assailant is found to have acquired his guns and ammunition legally.
Solving this problem is not simply a matter of enforcing the laws "already on the books" more rigidly. We need to look deeply, scientifically, at our current gun laws and change them. And get ready, because the NRA will fight to the end to stop us.
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Article: Copyright © 2014, Tribune Content Agency
"Mental Illness and Guns have Created a National Epidemic "