The tragic Washington Navy Yard shooting killed 13 people on September 16, 2013. Yet, why did “Slate,” an online magazine, report that 30 people died from gun violence that very day? In fact, “Slate” reported that more than 8,722 Americans have died from gun-related violence since December’s tragic Newtown, Connecticut shootings. But is this number accurate?

“Slate” admits that their tally of 8,722 Americans only includes gun-related deaths that were reported to the media. This omits the majority of suicides. In fact, guns are believed to account for up to 60-percent of suicides.

Mass killings generate media attention, attracting long-term notice instead of just a fleeting glance here and there. We all remember where we were when we heard about the horrific aftermath of Columbine and the Colorado Shooter, now identified as James Eagan Holmes, who claimed to be playing the role of the Joker that fateful night in an upscale movie theater.

Gun violence is a complicated issue. Our forefathers granted us the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment, ensuring that our nation would remain free from tyranny. However, is gun violence something that occurs because of the availability of guns or is it simply a convenient resource for the mentally ill? Are we simply ignoring these ill cries for help by sweeping mental illness under the carpet and not addressing this issue?

Treating mental illness is not simple, as any physician can attest. Treatment involves compassion and open-minded methods, not stigmatizing those that suffer from medically documented diseases. Violence can often mask childhood tragedies, which is often seen in serial rapists or murders.

While many people believe that universal background checks would be the appropriate means to an end with the mentally ill obtaining firearms, this isn’t a full-proof method. Often people that submit to tests do not suffer from mental illness and are law-abiding citizens. It’s criminals and people that suffer from delusions that obtain weapons through illegal means. While this is no means a catchall statement, it is largely true. I doubt it’s debatable whether someone who goes on a killing spree is in his/her right mind. Not from the legal standpoint, but from the basic moral human code of ethics. There is nothing normal about wanting to take the lives of innocent victims.  

While we aren’t experts for curbing gun violence, we do realize that mental health is a public issue, one that impacts us whether we walk to work, visit the grocery store or use public transportation. So perhaps instead of focusing on eliminating the rights of legal gun owners, the government should address mental health, tackling this subject head on.

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