Violence debate centers on gun control, mental illness - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Violence debate centers on gun control, mental illness


Recent mass shootings across the country—including here in Wisconsin—have shocked the country.

These events have re-ignited a heated debate about guns. How much of a role should guns play in society? And should access to them be limited?

In the wake of these mass shootings, President Barack Obama has called on Congress to pass a series of proposals in an effort to reduce gun violence.

"All of these things are only going to affect the law abiding, and not the mentally ill or those with a criminal intent," said Buster Bachhuber, director of the National Rifle Association in Wisconsin.

But what actually causes violence? Is it a lack of gun control, or the mental health of the person?

"The chief misconception is that people with mental illnesses are usually violent," said Dr. Gabriel Ticho, medical director at Northcentral Health Care in Wausau. "There are many contributing problems and factors that go into our homicide and violence rates in society."

Ticho said a recent study shows just about four percent of violent crimes are committed by the mentally ill.

"That means over 95% are committed by people without mental illnesses," said Ticho. He says it's vital to provide services to those suffering from mental illnesses, but implementing stricter gun laws is just as important.

"It is important to treat people with mental illness," he said. "That will have some impact on violence rates, but it's only a very small portion of that."

But members of the National Rifle Association disagree.

"The vast majority of all guns are never used in any crime," said Bachhuber. He says implementing stricter gun laws won't reduce violence.

"There's no bank robber that ever looked up in the statute book and said, Oh I can't rob a bank, I'd better get a job," said Bachhuber. He says the main focus should be encouraging states to make more mental health data available.

"When you are adjudicated mentally ill, that you are entered into the database. This is not happening across the country," he said.

The conversation continues on a national level. Since the president announced his proposals—which would ban assault weapons and high capacity magazine clips, and require background checks on virtually every gun sale—the U.S. Senate has met to discuss them. Even former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head more than two years ago, spoke at the first congressional hearing.

"Violence is a big problem," she said.

So far, no decisions have been made on the president's proposals. Lawmakers on both sides will meet again soon for another hearing as they push for what they think is the best solution.

A recent Gallup poll showed about 43 percent of Americans are satisfied with the country's current gun policies. Just over half of those polled reported feeling dissatisfied.

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