WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Obama’s list of New Year’s Resolutions must have included taking action on gun violence, as one of his first acts of his last year in office has been to roll out requests regarding the task at hand. “We know that we can’t stop every act of violence,” President Obama said in a press release. “But what if we tried to stop even one?” In the past decade, more than 100,000 people have died as a result of gun violence, and the White House says these crimes were committed by people “who never should have been able to purchase a gun in the first place”. The White House says these new measures have a 4 point plan that includes:
- Keeping guns out of the wrong hands through background checks
- Making our communities safer from gun violence
- Increasing mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system
- Shaping the future of gun safety technology
Increasing mental health care couldn’t come fast enough. But the issue of strengthening background checks has sparked heated debate, as many argue that gun violence is committed largely by illegal gun purchases, so tightening the restrictions on legal gun purchases seems ineffective. The White House says in the past decade more than 4 million Americans were victims of assaults, robberies, and other crimes involving a guns; and that more than 30,000 gun deaths occur in America each year. Over 20,000 children under 18 were killed by firearms in the last decades, while around that same number of Americans commit suicide with a firearm each year. 466 law enforcement officers were shot and killed by felons over the last decade. As the laws currently stand, a gun dealer can sell a gun to an individual after 3 days if a background check is not yet complete. But Vertava Health has long argued that the conversation in Washington shouldn’t be hindering legal gun owners, but rather increasing access to mental health in our country. Guns are everywhere, and they’re attainable. But if you treat the injury in someone’s mind, you have a better chance of silencing an attack. Here’s what the President’s plan consists of:
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is overhauling the background check system. The goal is to process background checks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and improve notification of local authorities when prohibited people attempt to buy a gun. The FBI will hire more than 230 additional examiners to assist.
- The President’s 2017 budget will include funding for 200 new ATF agents and investigators to help enforce the plan.
- ATF has established an Internet Investigation Center to track illegal online firearms trafficking and is dedicating $4 million and additional personnel to enhance the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network.
- The Administration is proposing a new $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care.
- The Social Security Administration has indicated that it will begin the rulemaking process to include information on the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm for mental health reasons.
- The Department of Health and Human Services is finalizing a rule to remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing states from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons.
It may spark debate, but in a nation where one in 4 adults (approximately 61.5 million Americans) experiences mental illness in a given year, and one in 17 (about 13.6 million) live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder, we are grateful when any leader recognizes the need for mental health care and addiction treatment. $500 million isn’t enough, but it’s a start.