Improving Gun Control or Mental Health Care: A Better Solution to The Endless School Shootings in The United States

Vanessa Theonia, Reporter


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The school shooting at STEM School Highland Ranch which took place in May 7th 2019 drew national attention. This event caused one killed and seven injured, and two people–Devon Erickson and Maya Mckinley, who goes by the name Alec–were formally charged with murder.

Based on the K-12 School Shooting Database, there were 94 incidents in 2018. It is only 5 months into 2019, yet there have been 30 incidents in the US alone. Numerous people have been speaking up for a better future and their focus often falls into one of these two categories: improving mental health care or gun control.

Jonathan Kadarisman, an Arapahoe school shooting survivor, recounted his story. “On December 13, 2013, I was sitting in Spanish class when the school security guard came in and told us we’re in a lockdown. He said school shooter to my teacher at the time. Me being so young at the time, could not believe what he said, and thought this was merely a drill that they took very seriously. Moments went on, during the lockdown, I and along with some of my classmates began to receive text messages from our parents saying we were really in a school shooting. At this point everything was so surreal and it just felt like a made up dream, that no way in the world our safe, friendly high school is being shot up. Long story short, SWAT team escorted us out the building with lure hands behind our heads ducking for cover and then we were moved to a church across the street where our parents could pick us up that night.”

“I would never expect that to come out of Arapahoe High school. Our school is so sheltered away in a very safe neighborhood and you almost will never believe anything like that will ever happen if you went there. But I guess that’s what makes these schools so vulnerable to this incidents,” he added.

After surviving this shooting, Kadarisman has been a strong believer of improving mental health.

“I say it’s more important to have better mental health than gun control. Without guns, people wouldn’t be safe and or wouldn’t have their rights to bear arms. I think it’s the industry itself [that is flawed]. People/companies are trying to make money of these guns, so anybody who can pass a background check and are over 18 years old, [for example] high school senior with no record are going to be sold guns. Anybody who has the intent to do violent things with guns are probably sick enough to act up in front of a gun vendor and act like they’re going hunting or that they are experts with guns. Essentially lying and making yourself look good in front gun shop owner to obtain the weapon.”

After a school shooting in Parkland that killed 17 students and staff members in February, President Donald Trump tweeted that there were “so many signs that the shooter was mentally disturbed.”

Alicia Kortes, a school psychologist, supported this argument. She believes that mental health care needs to be easily accessible and affordable in order to help create a healthy and safe society in areas like schools and community organizations.  By focusing on gun control, society, are missing the larger picture of making sure that communities are healthy.

Mental health problems are definitely one of the factors that lead to school shootings. They decrease one’s ability to cope with stress and get through pressure. A lot of school shooters have actually led stressful lives.

One of the examples is Nikolas Cruz, the perpetrator of the Parkland school shooting, was an orphan adopted by Roger and Lynda Cruz. His adopted father died when he was young and just a few months before the shooting, Lynda died due to complications from a flu.

In a 911 tape released by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Cruz talked about his mother’s death. “The thing is, I lost my mother a couple days ago. So like, I’m dealing with a bunch of things right now,” Cruz said. “I kind of got mad. And I started punching walls and stuff and a kid came at me and threw me on the ground. And he kicked me out of the house. There were numerous other red flags, yet they were ignored.

However, Patrick Joyce, a Psychologist in the North Clackamas School District, disagreed. “While I like to hear politicians talk about more mental health supports and there is an objective need for this, I don’t see it as an appropriate or effective solution to gun violence,” he said.

Joyce believes that the profile of individuals who commit mass violence is not a person who would be compliant with mental health services, were they available. These are not people who are simply off their medications or do not have access to medication. “They are individuals with antisocial characteristics who are unlikely to participate in mental health treatment at all, since mental health care is almost entirely voluntary”. This is worsen by the fact that the standard for civil commitment, which is the act of taking away the rights of mentally ill individual, is also high.

“Gun laws on the other hand are a variable that we can control.  We can change them and measure the outcomes. I suspect there are many changes we can make that would reduce the use of guns in acts of violence and I believe it’s where we should begin,” he concluded.

This can be aided with the community’s help. Kadarisman added, “People need to realize the obvious around them, If a kid seems odd at school or if someone has certain feelings about someone, tell another person.” He believes that this intuition can prevent the worst to happen.