Gun Control in the United States

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In the year 2018 there have been 307 mass shootings around the United States. To put this into perspective, we are 312 days into the year, meaning the US has had nearly as many mass shootings as days in 2018, says Melia Robinson, Skye Gould and Samantha Lee from Business Insider. A more effective screening process for purchasing a weapon needs to be put in place to help prevent unsafe people from owning guns.

Federal agencies do not have full knowledge of who is getting a background check to obtain a firearm due to a large portion of the United States that is not voluntarily providing background check information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Reporting information to federal agencies is optional, federal law does not require states to submit information to NICS; participation is strictly voluntary (Giffords Law Center).

The way that the national and state firearm regulations are now needs to be addressed so that there is no longer a lack of background check information on a national basis. Information that would prohibit an unsafe person, even with a mental illness or disability, from purchasing a firearm is not voluntarily reported. A state does not have to report this information to make it known nationally and those documents will not be able to stop an unsafe person from passing a background check in another state if they choose to purchase elsewhere. These documents are not accessible because some states believe it is a privacy problem giving out a person's medical records. Providing this information to the NICS only gives out a person's name, date of birth and information about their mental state that is vague. No clinical information is given to the NICS, only enough information to identify the person and that person's problem that is preventing them from owning a firearm. Confidentiality still exists between a person and their health care professional.

Another reason this is a problem is if someone wants to purchase a firearm in another state, they are able to do so by providing dishonest information when filling out a background check. There are currently no laws preventing this from happening. Since the last elections in 2010, as a result of the 2010 midterm elections, the rise of the Tea Party, and the subsequent reapportionment of state legislative districts, the balance of power in a number of state legislatures significantly shifted to conservatives opposed to firearms regulation and federal authority. (William 885).

The year 2020 is the next time state legislative reapportionment will occur. There are currently four states that require a mental health screening along with their background checks and they are choosing not to report these documents to the NICS. Arkansas, Michigan, Ohio and Utah are the states that are participating in this and these states do not address disclosure to the NICS. Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, Missouri, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are not required to disclose to the NICS even though it is authorized.

Time periods for reporting mental health records range from immediately to one month. Some states are required to report mental health records upon order from a court or in a timely manner. There is too much leeway in the urgency of reporting these documents. Changes that need to be made in the United States are not able to happen until the year 2020. If we can implement a screening process that involves federal agencies having complete access to all background check information in the United States, there will be less room for individuals to slip through the cracks.

There of course have been an overwhelming amount of shootings that have been committed solely because of mental health of the assailant at the time of the incident. The United States has put mental health on the backburner in the recent years due to budget cuts and federal funding. In 2015, mental health care had taken an approximate $4.35 billion cut from their budgets. Reduction of these services could further link to more mass shootings with these ill persons readily having access to firearms.

The state legislatures need to start incorporating resources to be available to the mentally ill. Raising awareness and educating the public could significantly help to reduce the possibility of these violent crimes. With the negative stigma that goes along with mental health, these people need serious medical help and should not be ridiculed for such thing. Having such resources or education available community wide would greatly help the chance of recovery. Putting forth effort, resources, and public education towards mental illness could begin efforts to alleviate the negative connotation and begin to get help to those in need before another eruption involving gun violence happens.

Although mental healthcare is not a profitable branch of medicine, the bottom line is these people need help. The perpetrator receiving treatment in a timely and effective manner would help to prevent future violent crimes, whereas these behaviors and illnesses being ignored could lead to many more mass shootings. As a mother, it's dismaying to realize children are no longer safe anywhere, under parental supervision or not. Places once thought of as excitement, such as a movie theater, shopping mall, school, church, etc. have all become places of mass gun violence.

One step at time, the United States needs to start making strides to protect those children that will become our future.
With the amount of mass shootings going on around the United States we need to bind together and rally around making a safe place to live. Without trial and error there is no true way to know what could help impact safety around dangerous individuals getting their hands on firearms. There should be a desire to enforce stricter laws to prevent those who have mental illnesses, those who have perpetrated domestic or animal abuse, and individuals with drug or alcohol charges from purchasing a deadly weapon.

The gun violence restraining order (GVRO) has been trialed in California since 2014. California is the first state in the US to trial this new law and hopes to have more states follow their lead in the near future. This law gives the right to any spouse, whether by marriage or not, domestic partner, parent, child, any person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree, or any other person who regularly resides in the household (Frattaroli, Shannon) to file a GVRO after noting or observing behaviors in which potentially dangerous behaviors have been or are being exhibited. This complaint is filed through the civil justice system and a petition will be filled to remove these weapons from the charged person(s) by law enforcement.

There are also rules set in place on how someone can go through the motions and make the right steps into possibly receiving their firearms back with lengthy psychiatric help or anger management style courses. This is a temporary restraint and does not conclude the named individual has committed a crime. While this law is not bulletproof, it does give guidance to hose surrounding a potentially dangerous individual a place to make their claims and have them heard. It happens all too often after these mass shootings that the family/friends note the shooter had been displaying some odd or dangerous behaviors beforehand but they chose to look the other direction because there was nowhere to report to. If even a small percentage of those shooters could have been investigated, that would be a win for society.

The United States should adopt greater mental health screening to obtain a gun, just as other countries have done and have been successful. Many other countries around the globe have a mandatory mental health screening to be able to purchase a firearm. Found in the article written by Audrey Carlsen and Sahil Chinoy are the processes in which a citizen of a specific country must to do to obtain a firearm. If the United States were to follow the footsteps of some of these other countries, a great number of the mass shootings we have experienced may have been easily prevented. By looking at the different processes, many other countries have strict rules as to how to obtain a firearm, and that includes psychological tests and mental health screening.

In the US, the process is extremely easy and takes almost no time at all. All that is needed to purchase a gun, according to the article written by Carlsen and Chinoy, is to pass an instant background check. Most states do require an extended background check but even with that step the process is not nearly as extensive and thorough as a lot of other countries. One country that this article talks about is Japan, which has one of the longest gun-purchasing processes.

The second step in the process, again according to the article written by Carlsen and Chinoy, is to receive a note from your doctor that says that you are mentally fit to own a gun and have no signs of drug abuse. Japan makes sure that the person purchasing a firearm is in stable condition and shows no harm to themselves or others. The United States needs to make a change in how easily American's can buy or obtain guns, and one way to do this is by adding additional mental health screening to the requirements to purchase a gun.

Some people believe that mental illness has nothing to do with the mass shootings that we are experiencing as a country and that making the process to obtain a gun longer won't help. There are a lot of articles that talk about whether there is any correlation between mass shootings and mental illness, and a lot of these articles say that there are no connections between the two. People believe that the media blames mental illness to give citizens something to blame for these terrible incidents.

An article by Rachel Nuwer titled Is There a Link Between Mass Shootings and Mental Illness? talks about how many mass killers have mental illness. According to Nuwer's research, a 2004 study found that out of more than 60 mass murders, only 6% were mentally ill and the people that commit mass shootings account for less than 1% of the gun-related homicides. Nuwer uses a quote in her article from a professor and director of psychiatric and law program at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, Renee Binder. Binger says, When one of these horrible mass shootings occurs, people say Anyone who would do such a thing must be mentally ill'.

Binger then goes on to say that we need to be careful while using the term mentally ill because often the individual may have something wrong, but they aren't technically mentally ill. As all these ideas make sense and seem right, often, mental illnesses go undetected and undiagnosed, so it is difficult to say that mental illness does play a role or not. The United States still needs to ensure that everyone buying a gun, of any kind, are in the right mind and capable of handling a firearm in the right ways.

There are many solutions to this enormous problem we face in the US. These three following organizations explain ways to reduce or prevent gun violence. The Prevention Institute organization has 14 different ways they recommend the preventions of gun violence.

They divided them into four different subgroups including gun safety: reduce the imminent risk of lethality though sensible gun laws and a culture of safety, the underlying contributors to gun violence: systematically reduce risks and increase resilience in individuals, families, and communities, the prevention infrastructure: ensure effectiveness and sustainability of efforts, and lastly new frontiers: continue to learn, innovate, and increase impact through research and practice. This website has three phone numbers for contacting them. Their main office in Oakland, CA (510-444-7738), Los Angeles, CA (323294-4527), and one in Washington, D.C. (202-747-3496). They also added a list of 20 other organizations that talk about gun violence prevention that they found helpful.

Adopting other countries ways of gun control. The Dave Kopel organization explains the ways of Canada's gun laws. Canada for instance has a uniform federal firearms control system that, while stricter than the controls in the United States overall, is more lenient than some American jurisdictions. Back in 1974 there was an incident with two young boys that ran around with rifles in a public school, the Canadian government quickly responded with stricter gun control by passing a new law in 1977 that required all prospective gun purchasers to receive a police approval and have two-character references. They have a phone number (303-279-6536) and an email address ( for any comments or questions.

There has also been talk of having teachers being armed in schools for protection. The Action Network organization talks about the SB 383 bill. Part of the bill states that this bill would allow school personnel to have access to firearms in school safety zones if they receive authorization from the school board of directors, are licensed to carry a concealed firearm and have met certain training requirements in the use and handling of firearms.

This legislation will not mandate a school's participation but will give school boards the ability to establish policy and put in place protocols needed to enable personnel to exercise their ability to access a firearm on designated school property. (action network)This is an interesting way of preventing school shootings. However, school shootings are all that would protect against with this new bill. Statistically speaking school shooting are less likely to happen in comparison to other kinds of mass shootings. This website has an email address ( for the public to send their comments and questions to. These three organizations explain ways of preventing mass shootings.

With a more effective screening process preventing unsafe people from owning a firearm, mass shootings in the United States will hopefully come to an end. Adopting mental health screening as part of the background check requirements will help make gun control more effective in the United States. This approach on gun control and proof of other countries having success with a more in depth background check give us hope for change. More effective methods should be implemented and should stop being ignored. Our voice will not be heard unless we all can come together as a nation to make that voice louder. Any form of participation to make these changes is a step in the right direction for a safer country. These changes could help save the lives of many in the United States.

Works Cited

  1. Carlsen, Audrey, and Sahil Chinoy. How to Buy a Gun in 15 Countries. The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 Mar. 2018,
  2. Frattaroli, Shannon. Gun Violence Restraining Orders: Alternative or Adjunct to Mental Health-Based Restrictions on Firearms? Behavioral Sciences & the Law, vol. 33, no. 2/3, June 2015, pp. 290“307. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1002/bsl.2173.
  3. Prevention Institution Gun Violence Must Stop. Here's What We Can Do to Prevent More Deaths. Prevention Institute, 2018, olence-advocacy.
  4. Kopel, David. Canadian Gun Control: The Brady Bill Comes Due: The Printz Case and State Autonomy, 2018,
  5. Metzl, Johnathan M, and Kenneth T MacLeish. Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms. National Library of Medicine and Health, Feb. 2015,
  6. Nuwer, Rachel. Future - Is There a Link between Mass Shootings and Mental Illness? BBC News, BBC, 10 May 2018,
  7. Robinson, Melia, et al. There Have Been 307 Mass Shootings in the US so Far in 2018 - Here's the Full List. Business Insider, Business Insider, 8 Nov. 2018,
  8. Toohill, Kathleen. Mental Health Reporting. Edited by Brittany Neito and Kelly Drane, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence,
  9. Vizzard, William J. The Current And Future State Of Gun Policy In The United States. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 105. Issue 4 (Fall 2015): 879-904. Web. 18 November 2018.
  11. Wolf, Carolyn Reinach, and Jamie A. Rosen. Missing the Mark: Gun Control Is Not the Cure for What Ails the U.S. Mental Health System. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, vol. 104, no. 4, Fall 2015, pp. 851“878. EBSCOhost,

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Gun Control in the United States. (2019, Mar 19). Retrieved May 18, 2024 , from

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