Karla's Kolumn: Mental health must be part of the solution
August 22, 2019
Weeks after two mass shootings that left 32 innocent people dead in Texas and Ohio, people are still pointing fingers and finding someone or something to blame.
Just like with guns and gun control, when it comes to mental health and mass shootings there are several sides.
For me, I believe every shooter is mentally unhealthy. Does that mean every one of them has been specifically diagnosed with a mental illness? No. The reason I believe this is because no one who is mentally healthy would randomly kill innocent people.
As I mentioned last week, if you want to blame guns without considering the mental health of the people how do you explain the thousands and thousands of people who own guns and never shoot anyone?
If you are on the side of blaming violent video games or movies, how do you explain the thousands of people who play or watch and never commit an act of violence?
And how about people like me who own guns and thought the latest Halloween movie was perhaps the best since the original, who has watched nearly every Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and took a horror movie studies class senior at the University of Wyoming and has never committed a violent act or fired a weapon at anyone?
I can explain it with two words, mental health.
Mentalhealth.gov states, "Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood."
You see you can pick your motive - white supremacy/racism/immigration/border control/unknown, you can pick someone to blame, but as I said before, in the end, there is only one person to blame - the shooter. Period. End of story.
What we need is to get to the heart of the matter and what makes someone think that killing innocent people is the answer to their perceived ills. It doesn't matter what their perceived ill is, what matters is why, mentally, they feel that violence is the only answer. That's where mental health comes in.
If the shooter is full of hate, and mentally unhealthy, it does not matter the motive, it does not matter who is president, it does not matter what movies they watch, songs they listen to, games they play, they will find a motive to release their hate with violence.
Across the country many states are attempting to address mental health, including the Wyoming Legislature.
According to a Wyoming News Exchange/Wyoming Tribune Eagle article by Ramsey Scott, a bill to mandate Wyoming share disqualifying mental health information on potential firearms purchasers with the federal background check system is still alive for a potential 2020 vote.
The proposed legislation would mandate Wyoming report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System information on people whose mental health issues would disqualify them from owning a firearm. The proposed legislation would also create a legal process to reinstate rights for people in Wyoming who have been disqualified from owning a firearm for mental health reasons.
Under federal law, someone is barred from owning a firearm for several reasons, including if they've been involuntarily committed to a mental institution, or a court declared them a danger to themselves and others.
Currently, Wyoming is one of 11 states that does not have a process that mandates courts or law enforcement to share disqualifying mental health information to NICS. States like Alabama, Mississippi and Idaho all have some form of requirement to report mental health issues to NICS, while Montana, Utah and Nebraska are among those with no NICS requirements.
The Joint Judiciary Interim Committee worked the bill Friday and amended some of the language, including mandating the court hearing for a petition to reinstate gun rights would remain private.
The full story on the proposed legislation can be found on page 7 in this issue.
As we search for solutions I believe looking at mental health has to be at the core of that search. I don't know if this proposed legislation as it is currently written is the right answer for Wyoming but I do believe it is an important discussion to be having at this time.