Composing a column while in “angst mode” is potentially a precarious strategy. Flood waters in South Carolina, where my other family members reside, are slowly receding, but the devastation awaits assessment.
Another mass school shooting rocked the country last week to begin October. Ironically timed with that tragedy was the Oct. 5 release of Patrick Kennedy’s book “A Common Struggle.” His memoir unabashedly addresses the “code of silence” when dealing with mental health issues that generationally impacted the Kennedys, and also serves as the “coping strategy” for most other American families.
The Umpqua Community College mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, where nine more innocent lives were lost, was orchestrated by another young gunman with obvious mental illness and an enabling parent who remained silent. According to ABC’s Nightline, this was the 45th school shooting of 2015.
When will this “same story, different day” cycle end? Probably never, unless several key components are addressed and altered, via both legislation and that ugly word called “funding.” Finding the money to stop the onslaught of school shootings requires an assessment of priorities and an opening of wallets.
The methodical plan of the Roseburg shooter was to kill his community college classmates, meet his own death via an ambush, and become famous for his grievous crime, as so many young men have before him. Unfortunately he succeeded with this trifecta.
The arsenal of weapons he stockpiled could have ended the lives of every Umpqua student on campus Oct. 1, not just those who professed being Christians as he executed them. Once again, the back stories of the victims are heartbreaking while the troubled history of the shooter is eerily similar to so many others: young white male, divorced parents, isolationist, minimal career or life aspirations, social media blogger of an anger-laden manifesto, a blaming of others for his shortcomings, untreated mental health issues, and a desire to “go out in glory.”
The list of victims covered the full spectrum of an 18-year-old’s fourth day of college, to the 67-year-old English professor who neared retirement. One of the victims, Lucas Eibel, was a quadruplet, a Ford Family Foundation scholar, and dedicated volunteer at the Saving Grace animal shelter. The other eight victims were equally as likeable and accomplished.
Currently a Milwaukee trial of retailer Badger Guns is testing the legality of the 2003 Tiahrt Amendment, which limits the liability of gun dealers when a firearm sold by a retailer is used to commit a crime. Two Milwaukee police officers were gravely injured in June 2009 by an underage purchaser who obtained the gun at Badger Guns, despite the clerk knowing that someone else of legal age was signing for the sale. The outcome of this trial could force gun retailers to become more responsible and mandate a revision or repeal of the Tiahrt Amendment.
In addition to possible reforms from the outcome of the ongoing Milwaukee trial, a few of my suggestions include:
1) Age 21 should be nationally mandated as the required minimum for gun purchases.
2) A questionnaire of the intended usage for the firearm provided by the retailer to the potential purchaser should be completed for every sale. This would include specific questions about any mental health issues suffered by the possible buyer.
3) A limitation as to the number of firearms a person can buy within a year. A unified gun registry for all states could be implemented to track how many guns a person has purchased in various locations, especially in multiple states. This would avoid potential stockpiling of weapons, all acquired within a short time. The Roseburg shooter had amassed his own arsenal without the supposed knowledge of his mother, with whom he resided.
4) If a person is admitted to a psychiatric facility, a check of the “National Firearms Registry” should occur and any guns owned by that patient could be located and removed from their residence, with no future purchases of weapons allowed for several years.
5) And finally, how about the requirement that no one can buy a gun alone from a retailer? Potentially this would end the vendetta-driven desires of a solo purchaser to buy a firearm and cause irreversible harm to others. Accountability by someone else and the requirement of the accompanying companion to counter-sign on the purchaser’s questionnaire, might allow “cooler heads” to prevail.
Mariann Main is a Delaware native and journalism graduate of The Ohio State University. She has a master’s degree in counseling from Georgia State University, and is licensed as a counselor in both Ohio and Georgia. She can be reached at MariannMain@gmail.com.