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Gun Violence Must Never Be the ‘New Normal’

Mental-Health Checks in Firearms Purchases Need Reevaluation


Americans cannot allow gun violence to continue to happen in towns across the country at the frequency it is occurring and to the degree to which it’s now being considered the “new normal.” We must all support important legislation that will reduce the number of easily accessible firearms, especially military-style weaponry, on our streets. This is something that each of us can do today. Killing our fellow human beings is not an acceptable response to anger or resentment and will only be compounded by an easily accessible gun.

Mass shootings shock the nation into awareness. Yet, another horrific slaughter of innocents by gun violence keeps occurring. The American people must take action to prevent these tragedies from happening. And happen they do every day.

We can agree: There are too many gun deaths in America — averaging 87 per day = more than 30,000 yearly — making gun violence a public health menace.

We can also agree: Guns are here to stay. No one’s going to take your gun away. That’s a gun lobby fear tactic. Gun-violence-prevention organizations don’t talk about banning all guns. They talk about reasonable gun policies and work closely with law enforcement and elected officials.

And we can take action. If you have a gun in your home, perhaps it’s time to consider it not as a means for safety but a dangerous killing instrument — unwanted in your home. The Coalition Against Gun Violence, in collaboration with the Santa Barbara City Police Department is holding the first-ever gun buyback on the Central Coast on Saturday, June 14 8 a.m.-noon at the Earl Warren Showgrounds (see sbcoalition.org or call (805) 564-6803 for more information).

Across the nation doctors are speaking out against gun violence. A study published in the American Journal of Medicine indicates that gun ownership does not make a country safer. The report also found another factor in the level of gun violence: “Mentally ill people who are not in treatment, are more violent than the rest of the population.”

Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, responded to the Isla Vista tragedy:

“Neither current federal nor state policies adequately reduce access to firearms by individuals who are at an elevated risk of violence, whether due to mental illness, a history of violent crime, perpetration of domestic violence, or alcohol or drug abuse. Individuals at high risk of committing gun violence should be disqualified from purchasing and possessing firearms. Families in crisis need tools. A gun violence restraining order could help. Such a practice would allow people to petition the court to request that guns be temporarily removed from a family member or intimate partner who poses a credible risk of harm to self or others. Respondents to an order issued through such a process would be prohibited from buying guns and required to relinquish all firearms in their possession for the duration of the order.”

Most counties in California use a mental health treatment standard based on a person’s likelihood of being dangerous instead of using a more progressive “need for treatment” standard. California has a law regarding highly symptomatic individuals with severe mental illness that counties may choose to implement. Laura’s Law, operant in Nevada County, allows courts to compel individuals, with a past history of arrest, hospitalizations, threats, or attempts of serious violent behavior toward self or others, to get mental health treatment provided by the county as a condition for living in the community.

At the UCSB vigil Saturday night, we lit candles in solidarity for the pain and suffering felt by families and friends who lost loved ones, responding with strength and compassion to senseless violence. We are grateful for the millions who choose to respond to the vicissitudes of life not with hate and confrontation but with knowledge and understanding. This inspires in us a hope for the continuing growth of our community.

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