Federal and state laws prohibit the mentally incapacitated from possessing firearms. But mental competence must be certified by courts, boards or commissions, and this is where things fall apart. Given the large numbers of people suffering from mental health issues in this country, it is impossible to keep guns out the hands of all of them.
To make matters worse, a number of states, including my home state of Georgia, have relaxed their handgun policies to the point that individuals do not have to have a license to carry a weapon either openly or concealed. World Population Review lists 21 states with the most lenient gun laws. In the face of rising gun violence, these states justify their policies by citing the Second Amendment.
We need a better understanding of this amendment, but we also must have a better solution to the rise of violent crime other than merely increasing police funding. Toward this end, it may be wise to take another look at some of the solutions proposed by the Black Lives Matter movement.
They advocate shifting some local-government resources to areas related to public safety but not policing per se. They and others suggest that communities need counselors, mediators and others who can help residents defuse conflict and resolve differences peacefully. Also, all of us, particularly young men, need a better understanding of the responsibilities of masculinity and of how to best protect our families. One cannot do that from inside a prison or, worse, from inside a coffin.
We must help young people, who are the ones most inclined to commit violent crimes, to obtain the skills to resolve conflicts peacefully and understand how sacred life is — theirs and others.
This will require shared responsibility from family, public officials and educators. To begin with, public officials should stop making it easier to obtain or carry a firearm. They need to bring back or keep intact gun registration laws and get rid of state-level policies like “stand your ground.”
Local officials need to stop prioritizing the funding of police operations as crime continues to climb. Some of this funding needs to go toward mental health professionals, mediators, structured programming in recreation and workforce investment. It will take guts to change the paradigm of funding police first, but in the end it will save lives and make our communities safer.
— Jabari Simama in What We Need To Do About Guns and the Tragedies They Bring