Gun control laws proposed at state and national levels
- Jan. 23, 2013
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Editors note: Gun control is a hot topic in the country right now, and it impacts college students in many ways. Over the course of the semester, the Kansan will examine gun issues from a variety of angles.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last month that left 26 schoolchildren and adults dead, gun violence has become an issue both national and state officials are attempting to address. President Obama and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback have proposed measures to reduce gun violence. Here’s a brief look at what they’re proposing.
1. CLOSING BACKGROUND CHECK LOOPHOLES
The administration wants to close the “gun show loophole” by requiring all firearms dealers, not just federally licensed arms dealers, to run background checks on customers. Currently, private gun sellers are not required to run background checks. As a result, buyers in an estimated 40 percent of gun sales do not undergo background checks. The administration also hopes to remove legal barriers that prevent states from providing mental health information for use in background checks. States have voiced concerns that current health privacy protection laws prevent sharing such information for background checks.
2. BANNING MILITARY-STYLE ASSAULT WEAPONS AND HIGH-CAPACITY MAGAZINES
In addition to calling on Congress to “reinstate and strengthen the assault weapons ban,” the administration plans to increase efforts to enforce current gun laws. The assault weapons ban was originally passed in 1994 before it expired in 2004. The president has called for banning semi-automatic rifles, which were used in the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting last August, limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds and banning the possession of armor-piercing rounds. Health care providers are also encouraged to talk to their patients about gun safety and report threats of violence to law enforcement. Calling the 30,000 gun-related homicides and suicides a year a “public health crisis,” the administration plans to lift the freeze on gun research, allowing the Centers for Disease Control to begin investigating causes of and solutions to gun violence.
3. MAKING SCHOOLS SAFER
The administration plans to spend $150 million to fund 1,000 new school jobs for resource officers, school psychologists, social workers and counselors. In addition to developing school emergency plans, the administration proposed a $50 million initiative aimed at training school personnel to create “nurturing” school environments. Currently, 18,000 schools have instituted strategies for improving school climate, and the initiative hopes to increase this by 8,000 schools.
“Our goals are simple: fewer children dying from gun violence and fewer children living in fear,” said Arne Duncan, Obama’s education secretary. “Harder to realize are the policies, actions and value changes necessary to reach those goals.”
4. IMPROVING MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
The president proposed a state-based strategy aimed at 16- to 25-year-olds to deal with mental issues including drug addiction. Three quarters of all mental illnesses manifest in a person by age 24. Yet less than half of children and adults with a diagnosable mental illness receive treatment, according to the White House. Furthermore, the administration plans to reach an additional 750,000 young people through its proposed Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education). The Affordable Care Act and Medicaid are guaranteeing mental health coverage through insurance.
“We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care as easy as access to a gun,” Obama said.
In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback has said he wants to address gun violence by looking into the state’s mental health services, as opposed to changing guns law. The governor recently proposed shifting $10 million of state funding to regional mental health service hubs to address mentally at-risk Kansans. Additionally, the governor appointed a task force to examine and overhaul the Kansas mental health system.
“One of the things I want to look at is whether or not we’re providing sufficient mental health services,” Brownback said in a December interview with the Associated Press.
Marshall Schmidt is a graduate student majoring in biomedical engineering from Mount Hope. Read more from Marshall Schmidt.