U.S., South Carolina Must Do Better

As an Army veteran, I am also a responsible legal gun owner. While I do not want to take away one’s right to own a firearm, I do wish to see some sensible legislation aimed at reducing the carnage caused by guns.

Universal background checks are a key first step to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them. If it takes longer than three days to complete the check, the sale should not occur until the check is thoroughly completed. The repeated claims that are often made about “bad guys” always finding ways to have illegal guns are nonsense when one considers that proper legislation could stop much of it.

Now, President Trump wants to single out only people with mental illness. This is not the answer, and in fact, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only five percent of the 11,101 people who died as the result of homicides by gun between 2001 and 2010 were killed by someone with any mental health issues.

It is wrong for Trump to claim that the closure of mental health institutions several decades ago have led to the current crisis in which hundreds have been killed since the early 80s.

Trump said, “If you look at the 60s and 70s, so many of these institutions were closed, and the people were just allowed to go onto the streets. That was a terrible thing for our country.”

The recent mass shootings were not directly caused by mental illness. They were fueled by hateful, racist, and xenophobic rhetoric that has been spewed forth by the current President via Tweets and verbally at speeches.

I support the American Psychological Association’s (APA) denouncing of Trump’s efforts to tie the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio to mentally ill people and to the mental healthcare system. It is simply not true. The fear-mongering rhetoric is the real evident cause.

The only real benefit to society would be to increase access to decent and affordable mental health care. Hopefully, that will be the avenue to take, not simply imprisoning people in institutions. Today, the states that rank considerably well for having low numbers of mental illness and better accessibility to mental health caregivers, are Massachusetts, South Dakota, and Minnesota. South Carolina ranks 45th out of 51 states (with the District of Columbia being included). This puts SC in the group indicating higher prevalence of mental illness, yet lower rates of citizens having any access to care. South Carolina can do better – must do better than this! The only states fairing worse than SC are Tennessee, Idaho, Indiana, Arizona, Mississippi, and Nevada.

In conclusion, yes – we must increase access to mental health care while also enacting and enforcing better gun legislation. Gun violence will not end by simply locking a few citizens up. Sensible gun control and stricter background checks will be the most effective solution.