Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013 2:17:38 PM
A classroom is where I first heard about the tragic school shooting rampage that killed 20 children in Newtown. A chilling feeling overcame me as I glanced around at the white boards, desks, and chairs. It was all too real. These too were the last images that the innocent first graders saw before being gunned down. The recent shootings at movie theaters, malls, and an elementary school show that even the most innocent of places are no longer immune to violence. Although the victims will never be put back into the loving arms of their families, we have the responsibility to honor them by taking action on gun rights and mental health issues so that no one else has to die as a result of such senseless violence.
In my opinion the most effective way to prevent these tragedies involves a reasonable, two-pronged approach. First, the laws on gun ownership must be reconsidered. While gun ownership is a right established by the constitution, I believe there are certain practical limits to the types of guns that should be legally available for purchase. Do everyday citizens really need to possess high powered assault weapons that are manufactured for military purposes? How we determine who can purchase a gun is also important. More stringent and consistent background checks could be helpful in making sure guns do not end up in the wrong hands.
I am a firm believer that if someone wants a gun, they will figure out a way to obtain one. Therefore by just focusing on weapons only addresses part of the problem. I feel that mental illness plays an equal role in the shootings, and is what drives a person to commit such heinous acts. Mental health is currently a subject that everyone is aware of, but few are willing to discuss. There continues to be a stigma attached to mental illness in society, which makes people reluctant to openly discuss their mental health. We need to change our culture so that we feel as comfortable talking about our mental health as we do a broken leg or any other physical ailment. We need to change our health care system so that mental health services are more available to everyone. This could make it easier for a person to seek help before they get to the point of carrying out irreversible violence.
All the laws in the world will never completely erase the threat of tragedies such as Newtown occurring. However, by tightening gun laws and destigmatizing mental illness, great strides can be made to reduce the likelihood of tragedies and help everyone feel secure. History cannot be rewritten, but to quote Winston Churchill, “Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” All we can do is learn from our deficiencies and adjust, by honoring the victims of these tragedies and by becoming a safer society so that history does not repeat itself.