Opinion: The problem isn’t guns, it’s the person

Opinion: The problem isn’t guns, it’s the person

Anne Buie


The summer of 2012 saw its fair share of tragic headlines and heated debates in response to recent events.

Shootings in Colorado, Wisconsin and Texas, all involved at least three deaths each—22 altogether—have sparked a constant, divided conversation on gun control in our nation and what our leaders should do about it.

I have no strong opinions on gun ownership or on banning weapons. I think we should have the right to own a gun. But it’s when people start keeping assault rifles and claiming that a concealed carry permit can help prevent mass shootings that I begin to disagree.

Mass shootings aren’t just about guns. Taking firearms out of the hands of Americans or making us all feel prepared to stop a rampage with our own personal handgun isn’t going to solve this problem. The issue lies not in the weapon, but in its holder—the shooter.

The Sikh Temple shooting in Milwaukee, Wis. showed us that an openly hateful, white supremacist, neo-Nazi Army discharge—Wade Michael Page—could barge into a temple of peaceful worshippers and unleash murderous, hateful hell.
But why did he do it? Is it because he owned a gun and it should be taken away?

Taking guns away won’t stop people like that. Sure, it sounds sensible and logical, but so did making certain substances illegal. There definitely isn’t any marijuana, cocaine or other harmful drugs on the streets since they were made illegal for recreational use, right?

The real problem with these mass shootings is inside the shooters’ heads. Page and the Aurora, Tucson and Virginia Tech murderers all have one thing in common: mental instability.

According to ABC News, all of these shooters but Page sought or were told to get mental health assistance of some sort through the college they attended—University of Colorado, Pima Community College and Virginia Tech, respectively.

The weeks before these shooters attacked, they showed clear signs of mental health problems. All someone had to do was act and reach out to help these people.

Even Page, who was discharged from the army while stationed at Fort Bragg for his unruly behavior, may have been a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder that resulted from his time in the army, according to The Huffington Post.

Disturbingly, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer cut funding to mental health programs that could have had the potential to keep these mass shootings from occurring, according to The New York Times.

Why, after a barrage of bullets let loose on the streets of Tucson, would the governor cut the programs that could help other unstable individuals that might snap like Jared Loughner, the Tucson shooter, did? The irresponsibility of that decision baffles me.

The Founding Fathers were right to give us a right to bear arms (although they probably didn’t imagine assault rifles), and owning a weapon is a Constitutional right. As a journalist, I believe that the rights in our Constitution—especially the right to free speech—are undeniable and essential. But an overwhelming majority of these shootings involve mentally unstable individuals exposed to hatred and violence.

I think that a national emphasis on mental health and stability might ease the gun control debates and even help end the violence. The weapon isn’t in our hands—it’s in our head.

Bragg, a junior journalism and public relations major from Lillington, is a senior Arts and Entertainment reporter.