Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
On Wednesday, a gunman opened fire in a Florida high school, killing 17 people. This is the 17th school shooting since the beginning of 2018, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group. People across the country are once again outraged — users on social media have been circulating pictures and videos taken by students at the school during the shooting, forcing people to reckon with the violence of the event. Even student survivors of the attack have taken to social media and spoken with news outlets to advocate for increased gun control.
Doesn't this seem familiar? Virginia Tech was just over a decade ago. Sandy Hook in 2012. The Las Vegas shooting just a few months ago. These are just the most infamous ones, the ones synonymous with fear, outrage, terror. The ones that made the entire country hold its breath simultaneously. The ones that should have united us against a common threat.
With each new incident of gun violence, the conversation around gun control and mental illness rekindles. President Trump has already referred to Wednesday's suspected gunman as "mentally disturbed." The truth is, Trump shouldn't have to point out the fact — anyone with the motivation to shoot defenseless people, especially in a school, is mentally disturbed. There's nothing notable about what he said, nothing about the statement that makes Trump seem responsive to the growing fear of gun violence.
It certainly doesn't inspire faith in his ability to decrease gun violence, especially not on the heels of the Senate's repeal of an Obama-era regulation that made some people unable to purchase firearms if deemed mentally incapable of managing their financial affairs by the Social Security Administration.
In theory, it seems reasonable that a person unable to manage their own financial affairs shouldn't be given access to a weapon that can kill or cause irreparable harm to others. The problem with policies like this one are that they treat different types of mental illnesses — or even different patterns of behavior — as being potentially equal in harm.
Moreover, the criteria to be unable to manage one's own financial affairs may not necessarily be the same criteria that should bar someone from exercising their Second Amendment rights — at least, that's the argument Republican lawmakers took up against the regulation. But they may have a point in the opposite direction: inability to manage financial affairs may not cover enough of the pool of potential terrorists who would seek to do harm to others.
No matter your stance on gun control, you likely see the problems with the logical basis on which the regulation itself was built. This reflects a growing problem that is becoming more and more prevalent with each new mass shooting: Both sides are politicizing the issue of mental illness in regards to gun ownership in a way that hasn't constructively benefited anyone. There hasn't been any federal consideration of where we should draw the line on the types of mental illnesses that should exclude someone from purchasing a firearm. There's always discussion of background checks, but what about psychiatric checks or clearances?
Following these types of tragedies, there's always a call to action, as there should be. But having the same conversation about mental illness every time, while still doing nothing to add nuance to current regulation and target more specific demographics, is pointless. If Trump and Congress don't want to support Obama-era regulation, which at least attempts to address the issue of mental illness and firearms, then maybe they should legislate for the other key component of a mass shooting: the guns themselves. Of course, Trump and the Republican party won't be doing that anytime soon.
So, it's up to us to vote for local officials who will make a change. We need to prioritize progressive gun control legislation, and we urgently need to prevent further tragedies in an intelligent, targeted way.
Caitlin McCann is a sophomore communication major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.