Gun control and gun violence are words that have been embedded in the nation’s vocabulary since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy on Dec. 14, 2012.
The conversation on gun protection has initiated debates across the country, raising questions on how to prevent tragedies like the recent shooting in Newtown, Conn., or the Virginia Tech massacre on April 16, 2007.
President Obama announced a detailed proposal regarding gun policy earlier this month encompassing law enforcement, ammunition magazines, background checks and mental health.
According to a Virginia Center for Public Safety press release, family members of the Virginia Tech shooting supported some of his proposals regulating firearms.
Andrew Goddard — president of the Virginia Center for Public Safety and father of Colin Goddard, a student injured during the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre — “endorsed proposals to limit high capacity magazines and ban military-style assault weapons,” according to the press release.
However, in order to execute many of Obama’s propositions, his administration still needs Congressional approval. Nevertheless, Obama’s administration released 23 executive actions that will be taken immediately. Some of these actions include mandating an intricate background check system that would collect information from federal agencies, reviewing laws and acts that prohibits making health information private, and creating a report on the most effective use of gun safety technologies.
A key topic in many of these actions is mental health. Specifically, starting a national dialogue on the subject that would be led by the secretary of health and human services and secretary of education. Such a conversation would include discussing hiring school resource officers and connecting health care providers with law enforcement authorities.
The administration is not the first to initiate a dialogue regarding mental health. The Angel Fund, aimed at “creating an atmosphere of acceptance” in schools, has recently made its mission to assist young people struggling with mental issues.
The Angel Fund was founded in 2007, after the death of Tech student Reema Samaha, who was killed in the April 16th shooting. It originally began by focusing on mental health, campus safety and security, privacy laws, information sharing, and gun laws, according to its president, Lu Ann McNabb.
As years passed, the Angel Fund began to notice the issues young students were facing at school.
“If you look at the other young men who have committed these massacres, they all seem to have the same thing," McNabb said. "They all seem to have some type of mental health issue and many of them end up committing suicide."
McNabb and others in her community began to notice more problems students were struggling with.
“We had kids suffer from depression, social anxiety and alienation," she said. "So when we looked at all the mental health issues within our own community we decided that’s what we would focus on. So this past summer that’s what we did.”
The group found that in Fairfax County, Va., one-third of high school students were reported to have depression, some of whom had attempted suicide or had thoughts of suicide. They also noticed that students battling these issues had fewer resources at their disposal in community colleges.
“I think the commonwealth, prior to 2007, did not put enough resources into mental health funding," McNabb said. "They did increase the funding after the tragedy, but now we’re back to pre-2007 levels and we can’t do that."
The Angel Fund approached the situation by working with legislators, including Vice President Joe Biden, to implement mental health laws for universities.
Prior the unveiling of Obama's proposals, McNabb prepared a document on behalf of the Angel Fund, asking the administration to provide resources in community colleges for those dealing with mental illness, as well as addressing the lack of funding in the mental health system.
While the administration reviews those regulations, others have concerns regarding Obama’s gun legislation proposed to Congress.
“The legislation he proposed to Congress I completely disagree with," said Eric Smith, president of the Libertarian club. "The assault weapons ban and I’m not as adamantly against the background checks, but I do disagree with those as well.”
Smith is particularly against an assault weapons ban based on a previous ban issued in 1994. That year, Congress passed a federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, which according to the National Institute of Justice, temporarily decreased criminal use of banned guns. Smith also cited the less than 1 percent of crime that is committed with assault weapons in the U.S.
Smith believes better security and allowing people to be armed would be the best preventive measure.
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