Letter: Background checks, tests needed for gun ownership


To the editor:

If the government can stop or at least slow down the selling of guns to mentally unstable people, the number of mass shootings might quite possibly decrease drastically.

And chances are that will increase understanding and positive views of people afflicted with mental illness. All too often, people dehumanize the mentally ill, who are all people, no matter how detrimental their illness might be.

According to two contributing scholars from the “American Journal of Public Health,” more than 60 percent of mass shooters “displayed symptoms including acute paranoia, delusions and depression before committing their crimes.” These same scholars also found that only a small percentage of mentally ill people are violent, and yet, mentally ill people as a whole are often misunderstood in American culture.

I believe that the United States government has a duty to help change negative stereotypes of the mentally ill. Mass shootings at the hands of a mentally ill person can destroy the understanding and reasoning of the masses.

The Second Amendment states that all people have the right to keep and bear arms. However, in order to stop the senseless violence of mass shootings, the United States must deny those rights to certain people who might be a danger to themselves or others.

“The American Journal of Psychiatry” published a study that exposed groups of people to different types of news stories regarding mass shootings.

They found that — compared to a control group exposed to no news stories — “respondents in all other groups reported less willingness to work closely with or live near a person with serious mental illness.” These scholars suggested a mass shooting story destroyed any trust or confidence in people with mental illness to be safe and harmless.

I believe for United States citizens to change the way they view the mentally ill, the government must change how easily obtainable guns are in America.

Deciding to own a firearm is a major life decision.

I believe that under the right reasoning, gun ownership is most definitely positive for the individual and for the safety of American rights as prescribed by our Founding Fathers.

However, like many important decisions, nothing is wrong with extensive tests on a would-be gun owner to determine why that person wants a gun.

Extensive background checks and tests will most likely help weed out mentally unstable people with bad intentions most likely acting on impulsive behavior.

People who pass the tests and earn the right to own a gun might even take pride that they were deemed worthy of owning a firearm.

I also personally believe that everyone applying for gun ownership should give up personal information and consent to a licensed psychiatrist contacting them if their tests show they could be mentally struggling.

Perhaps the American public should not change how they view people. Perhaps the more beneficial route would be to change how the Second Amendment can be properly interpreted to keep guns in the hands of the “right people.”

Trevor Barnhart