On Monday, the president met with law enforcement officials from the five communities where there have been mass shootings. One of those communities was mine where seven people died in a workplace shooting at Accent Signage, in Minneapolis, last September.
Oh, and Rich Stanek is a Republican.
Sheriff Stanek's point to the president was this. "Gun control alone will not solve the complex problem of guns and extreme violence. We have an access problem. Individuals with severe mental illness should never have access to guns.
This is from his piece in the Star and Tribune a two weeks ago.
Federal law already prohibits high-risk individuals from buying guns -- persons determined by a court to be "mentally ill and dangerous," felons, drug addicts, fugitives, illegal aliens, dishonorably discharged soldiers, those who have renounced U.S. citizenship, and domestic abusers all are disqualified from gun ownership.
The National Criminal Instant Background Check System (NICS) assists law enforcement in identifying the disqualified.
Trouble is, the system is woefully underdeveloped. A majority of relevant records have never been included in NICS; millions of names are missing from the federal database.
Since then, Congress passed the NICS Improvement Amendments Act to improve development and management of the NICS Index. But state participation still is voluntary, and only 12 states actively have engaged in an effort to submit mental-illness records.
Step One: Make state participation mandatory. This would have broad bipartisan support and have an immediate impact on gun violence. But how much of an impact and is it enough?
But even if we updated the NICS Index with every relevant record (and we should make every effort to do so), it still would not be enough. For a mentally ill person to become disqualified for gun ownership, there must first have been an act of violence, or an arrest leading to the extreme measure of a court hearing and decision.
In my view, this is far too late to provide meaningful care and treatment to those in need.
Multiple studies show a strong link between untreated mental illness and an increased risk of committing violent acts (when properly treated, even the severely mentally ill pose no greater threat than do those in the general population).
The parents of Andrew Engeldinger, the suspected killer at Accent Signage in Minneapolis last summer, said they tried to push their son to seek treatment for paranoia and delusions, but he was an adult and refused help.
This is the crux of the problem. If someone is an adult, we can't force them to seek care. As Stanek goes on to explain, we have an epidemic of mental illness in this country that has reached biblical proportions. Other countries have plenty of guns but they don't go around shooting each other at the rates that we do. Why?
It's not enough to say, "Well, it's our culture." Other countries have access to the same films and video games that we do. It's more than that and once you get into the details, the central cause that emerges is mental health.
We need a real strategy to address this unmet need for forensic psychiatric care and to prevent those with untreated mental illness from committing acts of violence. This must become a public-safety priority as well as a public-health priority.
More than anything, we must encourage individuals facing mental-health issues to seek treatment. We must "make it OK" for our family, friends and colleagues to seek treatment.
Exactly. And this would be why I will support Rich Stanek as long as he continues to run for office. We need more Rich Staneks around the country to embrace this mentality.