Any decision in life is based on a series of trade-offs – there are no “perfect” solutions. I am not interested in pushing a moral argument on guns, but rather a pragmatic one. Guns are here to stay whether we like it or not. We have almost 400 million in the U.S. according to some estimates. I propose we start with what we all can agree on. Mental health reform and increased security. These reforms will provide the best short and long term results. Research director Grant Duwe out of the Minnesota Department of Corrections found in a study that “at least 59% of the 185 public mass shootings that took place in the United States from 1900 through 2017” were committed by people with mental illnesses. This was also the case for the past two shootings: Pittsburgh and more recently Thousand Oaks.
What should we do with people who have serious mental issues? Involuntary commitment is seen as an extreme last resort option, mostly because it is extremely difficult to get approved legally. People fear, and for good reason, that we are taking away their freedom.
However, policy is always a series of trade-offs. People with serious mental health conditions such as intense PTSD, schizophrenia or other serious mental disabilities can easily be a danger to themselves and others. If there are signs of this danger, law enforcement must be allowed to act. Mentally ill young people such as the Parkland Shooter had nearly 20 “red flags” that were not addressed. A red flag law allows for police to take firearms for a specified period of time from someone who is believed to be a danger. The judicial system still plays a large role, and serves as a buffer so that police cannot misuse this power.
A red flag system recently established in Florida post-parkland has already shown real world results. If we utilize involuntary commitment mass shootings will decrease. The standard that individuals must be “imminently” dangerous for involuntary commitment is far too strict to be useful.
In terms of security, we should consider having current or retired police or military officers to tighten security for schools, places of worship and other high risk areas. These areas are easy targets, and that is the best short term solution we have. The Parkland school only had one guard for the entire school, and Pittsburgh church had no guard at all. Conversely, a well trained NRA instructor in Texas stopped a mass shooter from taking more lives in a church with his firearm. He lived next door to the church. Imagine if the church had on scene security.
Unfortunately, other recent gun control solutions are simply not feasible. A misconception I have heard on campus is that Trump repealed Obama-era mental health regulations for gun ownership. This makes you think that mentally unstable individuals are buying guns. This is not the case, the policy used records of people who needed help with their finances to exclude around 75,000 people. Younger people with depression who have a family member help with disability finances would be stripped of their 2nd amendment rights. The legislation was a step in the right direction, but it did not solve the right problem. The key to successful legislation is simplicity and specificity.
Additionally, some have called for extreme mandatory gun buybacks to stop gun violence. However, the people committing the shootings will not give up their guns. Those laws will only hurt lawful people, and it is blatantly unconstitutional. It is clear that security, together with mental health reform, are the best solutions we have to alleviate our gun problems as quickly as possible.