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YOURS: Gun legislation is needed now

The Rapid City Journal - 2/22/2018

I keep hearing our politicians, who don't want to politicize another mass shooting of children, say the problem we have with assault weapons is people with mental illness having access to guns - not the semi-automatic weapons themselves.

As a primary-care physician in Rapid City, I know that many of my patients who own guns and live with a mental health disorder are sitting quietly, watching these statements, either hoping no one is really serious about taking guns away from people with mental health disorders or are in denial about the fact they have a mental health disorder. They and about 30 percent of all Americans have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

Some of the most common mental illness diagnoses as taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (the standard list used by all physicians) are: depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders (binge eating, bulimia or anorexia), obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, autism, personality disorder, addiction and internet gaming disorder. I wonder how many people reading this right now have been diagnosed with one of these mental "illnesses" and own a gun?

Based on Gallop and Pew research polling, approximately 40 percent of Americans live in households with guns and 30 percent of those Americans own guns. About 100 million people own guns in America. Therefore, about 30 million people who own guns have, at some point, been diagnosed with a mental illness.

So, what I think the president and the many politicians supporting him are saying is that 30 million gun owners should have their guns taken away because they have a mental illness. Because they keep preaching to us this is a mental illness problem, not a gun problem.

Currently, a majority of Americans polled are for a sensible ban on assault weapons, like the weapons used in mass shootings in the United States over and over again. Law enforcement leaders and constitutional scholars overwhelmingly agree that banning assault weapons does not infringe on the 2nd Amendment.

The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 was a watered-down law that allowed too many loopholes because of the compromises made in Congress due to pressure from the NRA. However, since the AWB ended, there has been an increase in mass shootings and deaths with assault weapons.

It seems logical in order to gain accurate data on whether banning these weapons and requiring lawful registration of currently owned assault weapons would lead to a decline in mass shootings we need to pass a law, give it 10 to 20 years and then measure the data, rather than remove guns from people with mental health disorders.

If it doesn't work, so be it. If it does work, we will have saved thousands of lives. Courage, not greed, is required from our nation's leaders.

My thoughts and prayers go out to those politicians that choose death over life, money over morality.


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