Editorial: Gun control measures help ensure public safety


It is shocking how many mass shootings have occurred in the past year. The shootings listed below caught the attention of the media and the nation, inspiring discussion on regulating the sale of firearms in America:

• Newtown, Conn. — Adam Lanza killed his mother, 20 children and six adults at a nearby elementary school in December. He then committed suicide.

• Minneapolis, Minn. — In September, Andrew Engeldinger killed seven people, including himself, after learning he was fired.

• Oak Creek, Wis. — U.S. Army veteran Wade Michael Page killed seven people in a Sikh temple and died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound during a shootout with police.

• Aurora, Colo. — A man opened fire in a crowded movie theater during a showing of “The Dark Night Rises” in July, killing 12 and injuring 58 people.

• Seattle, Wash. — Ian Stawicki gunned down four people at a café, one person while stealing her car and then shot himself as police closed in during May.

• Oakland, Calif. — One L. Goh, who was declared incompetent to stand trial, shot seven people at Oikos University nursing school in April.

• Norcross, Ga. — Jeong Soo Paek shot two of his sisters and their husbands at a sauna before committing suicide in February.

The body count from these incidents alone, discounting other criminal and domestic violence, is 73. The year 2012 had the most mass shootings since 1982, according to the Mother Jones’ Investigation of Mass Shootings 1982-2012, the investigation that goes the farthest back in history compared to other lists of mass shootings found online.

A new plan for gun control inspired by these events, which was introduced by President Obama, involves three steps: an assault weapons ban, a 10-round cap on magazines and universal background checks on everyone seeking to buy a gun as well as an increased effort in mental health services to detect potentially violent patients. This plan has met fierce opposition by the National Rifle Association, politicians and some citizens who argue that such regulation infringes on Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

The Second Amendment, which argues for the necessity of a “well-regulated militia” to a free state, protects the people from an infringement on the right to keep and bear arms.

First, it is important to understand that this new regulatory effort doesn’t ban all guns, just assault weapons, which will still be allowed. An “assault weapon” is a semi-automatic firearm that possesses certain features similar to a military weapon, including guns like the AK-47 or a .22 caliber Ruger.

The 10-round cap simply limits the number of rounds that can be fired from magazines, instead of banning guns that require them entirely, and is another measure designed to prevent mass casualties if the weapon in question falls into the hands of an unsavory character.

Furthermore, the third step, which targets guns in the hands of those who are mentally unstable, would further prevent the problem of unstable individuals with access to deadly weapons.

This third step that is the crucial factor in why the measures should be supported. Because many of the examples above involve some mental instability, mandatory universal background checks for gun buyers is a common-sense measure that we wholeheartedly support.

It is obvious that something needs to be done about the increasingly problematic way that mentally ill or unstable people are able to obtain guns.

A push for stricter health care policies and more attentive rehab systems is the most plausible solution to the dozens of tragedies that seem to have become more frequent. In Obama’s plan for executive gun control actions, this includes funding to expand mental health programs for young people and clarifying the Affordable Care Act to allow doctors to ask patients about guns or weapons in their homes.

The government would also emphasize no federal law prohibits health care providers from reporting threats of violence to authorities. Obama’s plan also includes directives to clarify what health benefits and services can be covered by Medicaid.

Some of the perpetrators of the mass shootings listed above were affected by depression or schizophrenia. Five of the seven listed above committed suicide, also indicating mental disturbance.

We must not wait for someone’s deteriorated mental health to reveal itself in another mass shooting.

It is essential that these directives be applied to all citizens under government-run health care programs or else they are not pre-emptive at all. If mental health directives only target violent offenders, the damage has already been done. We need preventative care in order to stop these things before they happen.

While the new restrictions will not meet the approval of all, they are sensible measures aimed at compromise. It is clear from the number and scope of shootings in 2012 alone that some change in the way we buy and sell guns must occur to avoid these horrible tragedies.

For any changes to be possible, compromises must be made, starting with a united effort to balance the integrity of the second amendment with the rights of innocent people who must be protected. The Lariat supports the gun control measures mentioned above as a fair balance between the two interests.