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Mental health vs. gun control: The answer may be somewhere in the middle
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There have been several ideas from politicians, public health officials and media members about how to control guns. The answer may be somewhere in the middle. - photo by Herb Scribner
A lone gunman rocked the United States last week when he opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, killing seven people and injuring another 10, according to our report.

In the aftermath of the shooting, there were a number of solutions from media members, politicians and health commentators about how the country can avoid any mass shooting in the future.

Mass shootings, after all, have become somewhat commonplace in America. According to The Washington Post, theres been more mass shootings in the country than there have been days in the year (245 shootings by the 239th day of the year), meaning the country averages more than one shooting per day.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the high amount of shootings and gun violence are because of cultural decay in our society, according to his presidential campaign page.

These acts of evil are a direct result of cultural rot, and it is cultural rot that we have brought upon ourselves, and then we act like we are confounded and perplexed by what is happening here, he wrote.

Jindal specifically said that Americas movies, music and pop culture have created a society that supports violence, which is why people often act out that way.

If anyone is at all serious about changing any of this, they must address the root problems, and those are cultural decay, the glorification of evil, the devaluation of human life, the breakdown of the family and specifically the complete abdication of fathers, Jindal wrote.

Others say, though, that its a mental health problem. In fact, in the wake of the Umpqua shooting, Dr. Gary Slutkin, who has spent a bulk of his time researching tuberculosis and AIDS with the World Health Organization, said that violence is predictable and that it often spreads from one person to another, like bacteria, according to CNN.

Slutkin suggested to CNN that the medical community should look to expand its outreach networks so that they can identify potential violent Americans beforehand.

"I think we should be developing outreach networks that look at high-risk situations and high-risk people through all kinds of methods," Slutkin told CNN. "It could be as simple as word of mouth, through the dorms, postings on social media, and the Internet as a whole."

Others dont think that would be enough, though, and have advocated for more gun control, according to The Hill. In fact, Congress is pushing for a new gun-control proposal that will look to cut down how many people have access to guns through background checks.

The American public would support that, too. A 2015 survey found that almost 89 percent of Americans approve of requiring a background check for gun buyers. In fact, 84 percent of gun owners felt the same.

Still, not all congressmen are behind the idea of increased control, according to The Hill.

And, as violent crime rates have declined, so too has the support for gun control and background checks, according to NBC News.

So if its not culture, mental health or total gun control, how does America stop the mass shootings? The answer may be somewhere in the middle, like treating guns and gun control like a public health issue the same model we use to reduce deaths from other potentially dangerous things around us, from swimming pools to cigarettes. Were not going to eliminate guns in America, so we need to figure out how to coexist with them, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote in his Sunday column this week.

In fact, America may need to start treating guns like cars, Kristof wrote.

Though cars often cause deaths and accidents, American officials have done a lot to limit any potential violence by requiring drivers licenses, seatbelts, airbags, padded dashboards, safety glass and collapsible steering columns. And weve reduced the auto fatality rate by 95 percent, Kristoff wrote.

The same should be applied to guns, he said. Not controlling guns and taking them away from the people, but making sure theyre properly stored and are given to the right people.

We should also be investing in smart gun technology, such as weapons that fire only with a PIN or fingerprint, Kristof wrote. We should adopt microstamping that allows a bullet casing to be traced back to a particular gun. We can require liability insurance for guns, as we do for cars.

Thats why Kristof suggests instead of focusing on mental health or banning guns, American policymakers need to meet in the middle and limit potential gun violence with background checks and restraints.

The gun lobby argues that the problem isnt firearms; its crazy people, he wrote. Yes, Americas mental health system is a disgrace. But to me, it seems that were all crazy if we as a country cant take modest steps to reduce the carnage that leaves America resembling a battlefield.