Guns aren’t the problem

In light of recent events, many may find themselves thinking “what are we going to do about guns?” But what if guns aren’t the issue? If America could take the time to ask questions first and start shooting later, it might be possible to bring about the mental health reform the country desperately needs.

Attempting to solve the problem of mass shootings in America by making new gun laws is only a small part of the bigger picture. While new laws may inhibit the ability to obtain firearms, it certainly won’t solve the problem that caused the want for the gun in the first place. What needs to happen is an open discussion on mental health, and easier access to services and professionals that may be able to help those in need, the people that want to commit such violent acts.

In May of last year, the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a report of their investigation into federal programs that deal with and treat severe mental illness. According to congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA), author of the Helping Families in Metal Health Crisis Act and chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, reform must happen soon.

“Our investigative work revealed that those most in need of treatment — patients with serious mental illnesses such as persistent schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression — are the least likely to get the acute medical help they desperately need,” Murphy said when the report was released. “We revealed significant gaps in inpatient and outpatient care, confusing and outdated legal barriers to treatment, and outright failures in the current mental health system.”

As it stands, someone suffering from a serious mental illness in the U.S. is 10 times more likely to end up in prison than in a hospital, and there are more than 500,000 fewer beds in psychiatric hospitals now than in 1955. According to, over one million people kill themselves every year worldwide, with the ratio being roughly 16 suicides per 100,000 people in a population. For these reasons, it becomes immensely difficult for anyone even considering suicide or violent action to get help before they reach a breaking point. This has been seen in the shooters today, the shooters at Columbine, and will likely continue to be seen until the country stops trying to protect it’s non-threatened ideals and starts actively trying to protect its citizens.

On October 8 of this year, Murphy authored his opinion on the current situation in the Wall Street Journal, “We all know how this plays out in Congress: a moment of silence on the House floor and a fraternal feeling of melancholy when the flag over the Capitol is lowered to half-staff. But that moment of silence will not heal the hearts of those who lost a loved one, and it will not stop the next tragedy. Here and now we need action; we need real change.”

Though we may be on the way to some sort of open discussion, it is painfully obvious that the process is too slow to make any impact right now. The instances of mass shootings are becoming frighteningly more frequent and the American people are becoming more and more misguided. Gun law reform is good, but mental health reform is better. At this point, treating the symptoms is still killing the body. The disease of ignorance and fear is still running rampant, and it needs to be cured.