Mass shootings draw attention to gun restrictions, mental health care

By Ashley Elder, News staff writer

11/11/15

The rapid increase of school shootings, unique to the United States among industrialized nations, worries students and faculty and brings into question current gun control restrictions.

According to the FBI, between 2000 and 2013 there were 160 active shooter incidents. Of the victims, 486 were killed and 557 were wounded. Seventy percent of the shootings occurred in a commerce, business or educational environment.

Born in Detroit, chemistry student Sarah Esch said she learned of gun violence through her father’s first-hand experience at his job. Her dad worked at the post office in Royal Oak, Michigan, post office where there was a shooting.

“He said everyone knew that man and they all knew he was dangerous, yet he still managed to sneak in and kill people,” Esch said.

Clearly, we don’t deal correctly with people who could use mental health services, Esch said, whether they are dangerous to others or themselves.

“I think we need serious improvements to our mental health systems, especially in school where a stressful environment is inevitable,” Esch said. “We need to better identify when someone is struggling.”

Esch lived in Atlanta, so she said she is aware violence can occur anywhere, but statistics cause her to worry more about campus than where she works or hangs out because of the statistics.

As of Oct. 1, there have been 45 school shootings in the United States this year, according to Shooting Tracker.

“I’m not avoiding campus because I’m afraid,” Esch said, “just more aware, cautious and vigilant.”

Keith Cox, assistant professor of psychology, said it is startling how much education and training goes into driving, and how little training there is to carry a gun.

“There needs to be more funding for mental health in the United States,” Cox said. “There have been massive budget cuts since the ’70s.”

But it’s not just about mental health and it’s not about gun restrictions, Cox said. Other industrialized countries do not have these rates.

“We can’t think about the numerator without the denominator,” Cox said. “It’s not painting a full picture if we don’t, it’s not objective.”

Cox said more harm could come from overreacting.

“How many times did it not happen,” he said. “We are just as likely to have a shooting as anywhere else,” Cox said.

Cox said students shouldn’t worry when we go to school tomorrow, either.

“More students are probably killed driving to school than in school shootings,” Cox said.

The numbers have supported this claim for a long time. However, according to the Center for American Progress report, which cites data from the CDC, guns will kill more Americans under the age of 25 than cars in 2015. Gun homicides, suicides and accidents account for more deaths among young people ages 15 to 24 than any other cause of death except motor vehicle accidents according to the report.

“The senseless loss of human life is always a tragedy,” Cox said.

Rudy Beharrysingh, director of Parsons math lab, said he is astounded at the lack of governmental response to school shootings.

“If the slaughtering of innocent children is not enough for State and Federal legislatures to enact stricter gun controls, then nothing will budge our lawmakers,” Beharrysingh said.

Beharrysingh said the data shows nations that have strict gun control laws have fewer deaths from violent crime.  He has lived in London and Canada.

“Pointless cold-blooded killing is becoming so commonplace across American campuses that we are becoming numb to it. But, in reality, these mass shootings on college campuses and elsewhere are forms of domestic terrorism,” he said.

Data is not necessary, he said, just common sense.

“It is much harder to kill a bunch of people swinging a knife,” he said. “Arming everyone to the hilt just makes a more fearful and chaotic society. Remind me not to apply to a Texas school.”

In June, Texas lawmakers caused controversy when they passed a bill allowing concealed guns to be carried on public college campuses beginning in August 2016. Texas will be one of eight states, along with Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“In reality, weapons manufacturers are making out like bandits as we succumb to pro-gun lobbyists, while innocent victims and their families pay the price,” Beharrysingh said.

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