Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Tragedy of the Nebraska Mall Shooting - A Commentary

At a time that should be filled with the joy and warmth of holiday shopping for friends and loved ones, 8 Nebraska families are instead facing a terrible tragedy and have lost mothers, fathers, siblings, and close friends. Our hearts and prayers go out to these families in their time of need.

Could this incident have been prevented? It is hard to say, but I have no doubt that incidents such as the Westroads Mall shooting in a suburb of Omaha, Nebraska, the Virginia Tech massacre, and the tragic school shootings could have been prevented by a combination of better mental health services affordable for all and stricter gun control legislation.

What I don't understand is that we have strict licensing laws for driving an automobile, yet licensing laws for guns are very casual. Everyone agrees that it is important to have strict motor vehicle laws. In order to get a license to drive in most states, one has to pass a written test and take a 6 hour class before being issued a learner’s permit. In order to have the right to drive, the driver must pass a vigorous road test proving that he or she can handle the motor vehicle safely. No such requirement exists for gun ownership.

Why can’t the same standards apply to gun ownership? Shouldn’t potential gun owners have to take a required safety course? Shouldn’t a license and a very strict background check be required for all firearms, not just hand guns? Shouldn’t we make it more difficult for mentally ill or former felons to purchase guns? Should dangerous assault firearms, such as the SKS assault weapon used by the mall shooter, even be sold to the public? Surely this is no hunting rifle.

Instead, the NRA (National Rifle Association) and their Republican cronies fight every piece of gun legislation that is brought before the Congress. Even the Democrats run scared and have to show that they are macho and be photographed with hunting gear. At least as a woman, Hillary Clinton won’t have to demonstrate her hunting prowess as did Senator Kerry, when he was running for President in 2004, so that he would not offend the powerful lobbying arm of the NRA.

Those of us who are for strict gun licensing are not trying to take away the guns of hunters although in my personal opinion one can certainly choose a more constructive sport than shooting innocent animals. We are only trying to regulate the ownership of guns so that mentally ill punks like the Nebraska mall or the Virginia Tech shooter can't get their hands on deadly assault rifles.

It is time to stand up and demand sensible gun legislation. Adequate mental health treatment must be made available to all who need it regardless of their ability to pay. This is an educational issue as well. People need to learn the signs of serious mental illness so that they can intervene before tragedy strikes. The shooters in the incidents above all displayed signs of serious mental illness.


kab625 said...

You are so right. I really think this sort of tragedy is screaming that we as a society have serious symptoms, and if ignored for much longer, will become completely irreversible. It is a pity. The NRA is HUGELY powerful.
The mental health issue is also a tough one. But, look at some of the stuff that goes undetected. A good example is husbands that murder their wives. It's not easy when you lost your objectivity about a person's state of mental health, and perhaps that is what happening. Others, who can be objective don't want to get involved or are disempowered by the system.
It's sad...very sad.

Jennifer said...

Helene, I am right there with you. My husband hunts, but he is very responsible with his few guns, and we believe that if you shoot, you eat it. So, we only Deer hunt.And why do people feel it is needed for the gun shop owners to go to jail for selling the guns? If people want it to go that far, why don't the bar owners go to jail for selling the drinks that a person may drink and then drive home.....

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I think it is important to and necessary for gun legislation. Mental health sometimes is difficult to analyse because the behaviour of individual always evolving. In that scenario committing crime due to mental health issue is difficult to stop. I strongly feel Gun legislation can help to reduce such cases.

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