One way to stem gun violence and more


In the wake of yet another horrific mass shooting, Democrats are again blaming Republicans and the gun lobby for stonewalling on background checks for gun buyers and bans on sales of assault weapons. But there is one policy solution to curb some gun violence that could get nonpartisan support.

A clear national mental health strategy with guidelines and enough funding that would allow states to target mental health issues where it is needed most.

Aside from extreme ideological and hate crimes, many of the mass shootings are committed by a perpetrator with a documented or large anecdotal history of mental illness.

In the case of 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, who allegedly shot his grandmother before killing 21 people at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, the Wall Street Journal reported he came from a broken family and unsettled classmates and co-workers with sometimes aggressive behavior and disturbing social media posts.

Mental illness has been connected to a good number of murders here in New York City. Among these was the death of Michelle Go, who was pushed in front of a subway train by a 61-year-old deranged man in January.

Besides violent crime, there is ample evidence that mental health issues are a major reason for homelessness.

According to a 2015 assessment by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 564,708 people were homeless on a given night in the United States. At a minimum, 140,000 — or 25% — of these people were seriously mentally ill, and 250,000 (45%) had any mental illness.

Suicide in the country is also a major and growing national public health issue. In 2020, there were 45,799 recorded suicides, up from 42,773 in 2014, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. This ranks the country as having one of the highest suicide rates among wealthy nations.

So what can be done?

For one, mental health must become a mandated part of physical health coverage. There are storefront urgent care facilities all over the city that have walk-in services for physical ailments, but few if any have services for somebody having an immediate mental crisis or to be evaluated for long-term ongoing mental issues.

And here’s a suggestion for funding: Put a federal tax on all firearm sales with the money targeted toward developing and implementing a national mental health strategy.

Coming up with such a strategy will not stop all the mass shootings and murders across the country. But it will surely help to prevent a good many and save lives.

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