New York mental health professionals must report when a person is likely to commit a crime that would endanger themselves or others. After this report is sent, those who own a gun will have their license suspended and police have the authority to remove the gun. This also goes for someone who may endanger their families. Under this act, a judge can issue an order of protection for the family, and if that person has a firearm they may use against their family, the judge will require the surrender of the gun (governor ny).
In Texas, there are few restrictions on gun purchases and other gun safety laws. Unlike New York, Texas does not limit the purchases of multiple weapons per month nor is there limits of the number of rounds a magazine can have. Texas also does not require background checks for private sales or guns sold at gun shows. Surprisingly, Texas does not require a license for someone to carry a rifle in public. The main state policies are similar to the federal laws. Anyone who have been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanors are banned from purchasing firearms. Like in California, those who purchase guns are to have their background checks ran through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, with the exception of those who already have a concealed carry license (the trace).
Overall, it is not only the duty of the federal government to enforce safety measures to prevent those who may struggle with mental health issues, but it is also the state’s responsibility. In places such as Texas, where guns may be more easily available, stricter regulations on gun purchases and specifically regulations pertaining to at risk mentally unstable people would not be a bad idea. If anything, it will prevent suicides or homicides with guns from happening.
When looking at current gun regulations, there are certain loopholes that display the need for more defined and stricter gun laws. For example, under the 1968 Gun Control Act, any person who has been convicted of committing a felony or has been issued a domestic violence protective order is banned from owning guns. Even with this law, felons are able to buy guns at places such as gun shows where gun sellers do not have to be licensed due to the gun vendor selling from their private collection without the intentions of making a profit. Since gun show sellers are not licensed, it allows for people who are banned from buying weapons under the Gun Control Act of 1968 to avoid background checks that would otherwise prevent them from purchasing the gun (The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence). To stop gun show loopholes, the Brady Law should be extended to include those who sell guns without a license.
In addition to this, federal law allows for people to purchase a gun “if the background check system does not return a decision in three business days” (New York Times 2018). In Binghamton, New York, Jiverly Wong obtained two pistols through a gun store after the background check did not come back in time. The following month, on April 3, 2009, Mr. Wong shot and killed 13 people. The necessity for faster and stricter background checks are important in stopping individuals who should not have weapons from obtaining them (New York Times 2018).
When it comes to ways to stop gun related violence, the first necessary step is to look at why people may become angry or upset about their lives. With the daily stressed of working, school, and many other responsibilities, it is necessary for people to be able to take breaks. The current federal policy regarding mental health leaves up to 12 weeks paid for mental health related issues under the Family Medical Leave Act (National Alliance on Mental Health). It is imperative that students be given similar breaks, if not more, as their brains develop because due to this, they are not fully able to control their emotions. In 2019, according to Washington Post, Utah added a mental health day as a valid excuse for being absent from school. Similarly, Oregon passed a law that also allows students to take days off from school due to mental health issues.
Creating a federal law that allows students to take a mental health break from school may decrease the risk of a school shooting from occurring. Furthermore, states could create their own system that tracks how many mental health days students are taking in order to access if they may be at risk for violent behaviors towards themselves or others. In places such as Connecticut, there was a law passed in 2015 for school districts to use attendance teams in order to track each students’ absences. There is also an organization called Attendance Works that helps school track the absences in these school districts (Barrett and Greene 2017).
Some limitations for this proposal would be finding a way to ensure each state in the U.S. would accurately track each students’ absence from school as well as their reasoning. This has been seen in the past with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Although it was available for each state to use, most states did not until there was an incentive for then to start running the background checks. According the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there incentives were grant opportunities for state and tribal entities. These grants were made possible through the FBI and other federal partners. In addition to this, the FBI made it easier for people to submit background checks through electronic submissions which reduced the costs of submitting the background checks in other means such as through paper or fax submissions (Lindquist 2017). By creating similar incentives through school funding and other private grants, a system to track absences would be possible without extreme efforts. Not only could grants be considered, but class parties or bonuses for the teacher who has the best records kept could be a way to positively enforce this record keeping. In fact, this idea has been brought up by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham. In March of 2019, Senator Graham introduced a bipartisan bill with Senator Richard Blumenthal that would create a program that provides grants to help states pass their own Red Flag Laws. The program grants are also used to pay mental health professionals to evaluate and counsel at-risk individuals before removing weapons from them. (Vasilogambros 2019).
Another limitation would be a decline in performance if a student is missing a large number of days per month and using the mental health excuse as a way to skip school (Fazel et al. 2014). Even if teachers keep records of how a student behaves and why they miss classes, the true nature of an absence may not be known. Some students may put on a façade in front of people to avoid been seen as weak while at home they are struggling with various issues. Due to this, skipping school with made up reasons may always be one downside of allowing mental health days. Teachers may endanger children if they involve family members, so there is not much else to do to prevent a mental health absence excuse from being abused.
This mental health day ties in with gun related violence due to the aggressions people build up over time. For example, in Aurora, Illinois, Gary Martin shot and killed 5 coworkers and injured six others. Before he acted out, the company fired him for violating multiple workplace rules the same day as his shooting occurred. He wanted to have his internship turned into a full-time position at the company. If he had possibly taken a mental health day and his supervisors were made aware of his feelings, they may have been able to work with him to give him the raise that he wanted or even given him a severance pay before firing him to lessen the amount of anger Mr. Martin had. (New York Times 2019).
To tie into this aggressive behavior, the U.S. government should encourage states to enforce Red Flag Laws at the state level, similarly to what they did to encourage the usage of the background check system. Red Flag Laws allow the local courts to grant local authorities the power to remove weapons from individuals who are seen as a danger to themselves or others. Currently 19 states have Red Flag Laws while 11 states have a Red Flag Law bill being proposed. This would mean those 11 states as well as the remaining 19 states would need to create laws of their own (Campbell, Mascia, and Yablon 2020). One strong example to support the need for Red Flag Laws would be the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooter Nikolas Cruz. Mr. Cruz had a long-documented record of misbehavior and threatening actions which, if the Red Flag Laws were being enforced in Florida, his legally obtained weapons would have been taken away thus preventing high school students and faculty from dying on Valentine’s day.
To start, Nikolas Cruz started school at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in January of 2016. Shortly after, On February 5, 2016, Cruz posted on social media about his plans to shoot up the school. In September of 2016, the Sheriff department received multiple reports about him hurting himself, and the Florida Department of Children and Families creates a medical neglect case on him as well as his intentions to buy a weapon. Two months later, his case is closed, and his threat is noted as low (Washington Post 2018).
In February of 2017, Nikolas Cruz follows through with his intentions and purchases an AR-15 from Sunrise Tactical Supply. That September, Cruz is interviewed by the FBI after leaving a YouTube comment about him going to become a professional school shooter.
On November 30, 2017, Broward County Sheriffs receive a mentioning how Cruz has weapons and they believe he may injure himself or become a school shooter. Then, a cousin of Cruz’s deceased mother requests for his weapons be taken away due to her death in November of 2017, but that does not occur. Once again, the FBI receives a tip about Cruz’s intentions to shoot up a school as well as his unusual behaviors. Lastly, on February 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz kills 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (Washington Post 2018).
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