Letter: Improve mental health programs and background checks to control guns


January 28, 2013

Better background checks and mental health programs critical for gun control

There is no argument that America has a gun problem.

No matter how many studies, statistics or mass killings, there will always be individuals who find comfort and even patriotism in owning guns. Most have a primitive, juvenile, single-minded interpretation of the Second Amendment which, through many years of effort, a pro-gun lobby has managed to amend by simply never mentioning the preamble.  

We have allowed this interpretation to flourish and now find ourselves with millions of humans with millions of guns, slowly killing ourselves without any constitutional constraint. This paradigm will continue.

Just like the problem with illegal immigrants, we cannot go back to the beginning by sending millions back or taking back guns. The only option now is a dedicated effort by Americans to understand that owning even one gun creates huge responsibilities.

It is undeniable that, because of inadequate background data and timely availability, many guns are bought by humans with serious mental problems. Indeed, it could be said that nearly anyone driven to buy a gun has some level of paranoia, formed by a possible pre-conceived future event. This is why a national background data base is needed, available at any time in any state. 

Every state must be required  to provide mental health programs that respond in a timely fashion to requests from citizens for help. When individuals are identified by police or medical officials as needing possible mental help, action should be immediate.

In every state, the mental health programs are grossly inadequate and should comply to new national standards, with upgraded facilities, personnel, and follow up procedures. In addition, to decrease the gun glut, a national buy-back program offering generous rewards is needed. 

These proposals should be financed and maintained by a surcharge on future gun sales, specifically dedicated to the development and maintenance of the national background data base and buy- back program.

Also, just as tobacco companies were required to provide substantial funds by litigation, gun makers should also be tasked to provide funds to help control another true national health hazard.

But, to ensure that gun owners never forget the huge responsibility they are undertaking with a gun purchase, every gun show should be required, by law, to display prominently, a 10- by 12-foot collage of all 20 of the angelic faces that were mutilated in Newtown. 

Vince DePalmer


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