Friday, April 16, 2021
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Increase funding for mental health services: Tragedy sparks flood of proposed legislation

Over 200 Americans are shot every day, 47 of them children and teens. Every day, 87 people die from gun violence, 33 of them murdered. Every day, eight children and teens die from gun violence. Every day, 183 people are shot, but survive their injuries.

Last week President Obama told the nation, “In the month since 20 precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook Elementary, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun – 900 in the past month. And every day we wait, the number will keep growing.”

The attention of several lawmakers has once again turned toward gun control. Historically, gun-control legislation comes to national prominence after a high-profile shooting. Many pro-gun-control organizations believe the United States should follow the lead of many European countries and adopt strict anti-gun laws.

“The rest of the industrialized world has laws on the books that keep troubled people away from guns,” said Paul Bendix, spokesman for the anti-gun group Million Mom March. “In troubled times, the first step is to get the guns away from troubled people.”

Stemming from the Sandy Hook Elementary tradegy, many bills have been introduced in Missouri regarding the use, possession and sale of firearms. From bills which would lower the age to purchase a handgun from 21 to 18, to House Bill 170, which would “outlaw federal law and therefore any federal agent and employee who “enforces or attempts to enforce” federal laws pertaining to firearms and ammunition.

There has been a fair share of pro-gun legislation filed but Representative Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis), a member of the Million Mom March, filed bills after President Obama’s announcement similar to what the President outlined as one of his 23 Executive Orders. Newman’s House Bill 187 would “require criminal background checks of all gun buyers.”

Forty percent of all gun sales can be completed without background checks because federal law doesn’t require firearm sales checks between private parties. The National Rifle Association has long been a fervent opponent of gun control legislation, demanding the enforcement of laws already on the books rather than the creation of new laws.

The NRA believes laws requiring trigger locks and gun licenses are not the answer to society’s problems.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has supported NRA-endorsed legislation in the past, such as House Bill 294, which lowered the concealed carry age to 21 and allowed a person to possess, manufacture, transport, repair, or sell a machine gun, short-barreled rifle or shotgun or firearm suppressor if he or she complies with federal law.

Needless to say, it will be an interesting year in the Missouri Legislature, with Republicans holding a veto-proof majority. Kudos to Newman for introducing her legislation.

I do tend to agree that background checks are necessary, but what about gun handling classes like the ones offered by the Conservation Department and being brought into schools?

I appreciated the power of a gun and my views on guns haven’t changed. It’s the mental health sector which we must make sure is adequately funded to provide care for those who need it most.

Regulating guns is not the issue.

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