Holly Swanson: This is the Time to Act on Gun Violence
December 19, 2012 6:00 AM
by Holly Swanson
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Enough is enough.

We’ve said it before after other school shootings, but it’s time to act. We can no longer sit idly by and watch our children get murdered.

The Constitution allows for its citizens to own and operate guns, but it has been deemed flawed before. It was written in a different time when slave ownership was allowed and women had little rights. It has been fixed on both those cases. It is not outside the realm of reason to assume that the writers of the Constitution could not imagine the hand guns and semi-automatic rifles that we are dealing with today. They had muskets. It’s a completely different scenario and it needs to be addressed.

I have thought of little else since the shooting took place on Friday. I see four possible means with which to curb the violence.

Ethical journalism — stop glorifying the people who do this. Let’s not obsess over what they did in the hours before the shooting or what their last Facebook status was or what they wore to commit their crimes. The methodical details may be relevant to law enforcement, but it doesn’t need to be analyzed on the nightly news. Other potential shooters are watching the same coverage and are reveling in it.

There was a time when the media arrived at crime scenes only after the police. We've all seen images from past decades when throngs of reporters waited behind yellow police tape for information. News now travels so fast that the media hears about a crime at the same time that the police are notified. With this access comes the need for responsibility. There is no reason to put children on television and ask them how they felt. They were scared. There is nothing more to say.

Within a few hours of Friday’s attack, CNN.com’s second headline was about the shooter. It should have been about the victims.

Background checks — it is not enough to perform a background check on the person buying a gun. Most of the guns used in recent attacks were purchased legally, but they were used by someone other than the person it was registered to. We need to develop a system that checks the background of the people in the gun-buyer’s household. Under current laws, there is no way to know if a gun-owner lives with felons or an emotionally disturbed family member. At a bare minimum, background checks should be performed on everyone in the household. When guns are purchased, they need to be locked up so they can only be used by the person who owns them.

Registering firearms — we register our cars every year, but there is no system in place to keep track of weapons. I believe guns should be registered annually in a database that tracks how many weapons are owned in a household. If a household is stockpiling guns or has several semi-automatic weapons, a red flag should go up that allows law enforcement to check in with the gun owners. I see no reason why someone would need more than one or two guns. You can protect yourself just as well with 10 bullets as you can with 50. And, honestly, if someone breaks into your house so heavily armed that you need a semi-automatic to protect yourself, you don't stand a chance.

Mental health access — getting help for people with emotional problems needs to be a right for all citizens. It is currently very difficult to get a family member, especially someone over 18, committed to an institution that is equipped to handle their problems. Several years ago, I wrote an article about families who have adult children with mental illness. The two families I profiled were told that their children had to commit a punishable crime before they could be admitted against their will to a psychiatric facility. Of those two families, both have since lost their children — one to prison and one to suicide. These were families who knew they needed help but were unable to get it under current laws. There has to be a better way to get people the help they need.

Maybe none of these measures would have prevented the tragedy in Connecticut. But maybe they can prevent the next one. If nothing else, we owe it to our children to consider reasonable ways to protect them. There are those who will say this is a time to mourn, that it is not the time to talk about laws and access to firearms. But it is the time to act, before it happens again.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions of the authors expressed therein do not necessarily state or reflect those of StateCollege.com.

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