Guns, Mental Health, & Practical Solutions

MARCH 5, 2018

 

All American hearts broke when a mentally disturbed young man robbed 17 people, children and teachers, of their lives two weeks ago in Parkland, Florida. We all want this to the the last time America loses lives to a murderous madman. The fact that we all share that common desire is important to remember among the vitriol being hurled back and forth across party lines in the debates over gun laws, mental health treatment, and safety in our schools.

 

The majority of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students who are being highlighted in the media want to ban what they refer to as “assault rifles” or even ban guns altogether for civilians. I have also seen cries for eliminating high capacity magazines, and now even President Trump is advocating raising the age to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21.

 

Conservatives immediately turn the focus to mental health treatment because we argue that guns aren’t the problem – defective people are the problem. This is true, but mental health treatment, which is in desperate need of reform and improvement, needs to be only one aspect of a solution to this problem.

 

The core issue here is keeping people safe. We do that in several ways.

 

We keep guns out of the hands of felons and the emotionally or mentally disturbed. This is much easier said than done, and we should strive to do a better job identifying dangerous individuals and preventing them from acquiring firearms. Law enforcement was reportedly called out to Nicholas Cruz’ house 38 times, and the FBI was informed that he spoke of killing people at a school, but nothing was ever done to prevent his possession of firearms. It can be very difficult to identify dangerous individuals, and we need to be cautious of civil liberties and the potential to abuse any system we put into place.

 

Another area that bears scrutiny is the way social media affects our children’s emotional health. When I was in high school in the 90’s, a bully could only bother you until the final bell of the school day. Likewise, the anxiety of being judged by your peers and having to strive to be “cool” all the time was relieved when you went home. Now, children are constantly engaged in a 24 hour stream of social media in which they are never out of reach of a bully and feel that they are being judged by their posts or their lack of posts. They feel a pressure to present themselves online to gain their peers’ approval. There is no relief anymore.  It’s a recipe for major psychological issues.

 

Shootings overwhelmingly happen in “gun free zones.” There is a very simple reason for this. Mass shooters are inherently cowards, and they will not attempt their murderous acts in a place where there’s a chance someone will shoot back. When you disarm law abiding citizens by creating these gun free zones, you are providing reassurance to murderers that they will not have to watch their own back while killing innocents.

 

That brings us to the debate over arming teachers. There are certainly issues with this proposal, but there are also some very good aspects of it. No teacher should ever be forced to arm themselves if they do not wish to. Likewise, we should not authorize untrained educators to carry a firearm and hope they can hit their target when it matters most. There are issues about who will pay for training or the firearms themselves, where will the firearms be kept, and will it be known who is armed and who is not.

 

If it is known that certain teachers are eligible to receive training and possess a firearm in school, a potential school shooter is going to think twice before carrying out his or her deadly intentions.

 

The reason the framers of the Constitution felt that the right to keep and bear arms was fundamental was that those who would do violence to American citizens, be they petty criminals or tyrannical governments, should fear those citizens. If you ban guns, then you return us to a society where every American need fear anyone larger and stronger than they. Responsible gun ownership evens the odds between the would-be-rapist and the 90 pound college coed. I want that coed to have a gun.

 

I continue to be a proud member of Georgia Carry, an organization that has done a tremendous job of restoring Georgians’ right to bear arms. I also continue to support the National Rifle Association. The NRA has had nothing to do with any mass shooting. No mass shootings have been carried out by NRA members. I have never heard of any mass shooter being trained in any way by the NRA. Had they been, all they would have learned is about how to be safe and responsible with a firearm, because that is what the NRA promotes and teaches every day.

 

When I am elected to represent the 102nd State House District in the Georgia Legislature, Georgians can be assured I will stand up for the right of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families. I will also work across party lines to make our schools and neighborhoods safer through measures to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals and emotionally unstable individuals, and will be a champion for mental health.

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