By Miriam Raftery
January 13, 2013 (Washington D.C.)—Vice President Joe Biden will meet today with representatives of Congress to discuss his task force’s proposals for reducing gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre. Options may range from limiting access to assault weapons to improving diagnosis and treatment of the mentally ill.
One intriguing possibility for the future is the use of “smart gun” technology. “A lot could change if, for example, every gun purchased could only be fired by the person who purchased it," Biden said Friday. "The technology exists, but it’s extremely expensive.”
Smart gun technology reads fingerprints of whoever tries to fire the weapon.
Another interesting technology by ShotSpotter uses acoustic sensors to pinpoint the location of gunfire, potentially enabling police to respond much faster.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has vowed to fight any effort to restrict ownership of guns, arguing that gun ownership is protected under the Second Amendment of the Constitution. The NRA has argued for armed guards on education campuses.
An armed police officer at Granite Hills High School did stop a shooter from killing anyone—but not before he wounded several people. Armed security guards are also costly in an era of education spending cuts across the nation.
Since 1982, the U.S. has had at least 61 mass murders with firearms. Mother Jones magazine has tracked those shooting sprees and found that in the majority, killers obtained their weapons legally.
The U.S. had 15 of the 25 worst mass shootings in the past 50 years worldwide. Moreover the rate appears to be accelerating; 11 of the deadliest shootings in our nation’s nearly 247-year history have happened in the past five years.
States with stricter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths. Those restrictions include bans on assault weapons, trigger lock mandates, and requirements for safe gun storage.
Despite these facts, the majority of Americans oppose gun control laws, according to repeated Gallup polls. With Republicans in charge of Congress, any effort to enact gun control legislation is apt to meet with stiff resistance.
Another area of concern is the proliferation of psychiatric drugs, some of which can cause homicidal and suicidal tendencies. At least 11 school shooters were under the influence of psychiatric drugs—including the Columbine High School killings and locally, the Granite Hills High School shootings. There may be more, but medical privacy laws prohibit the public from knowing the medical histories of most suspects, unless drug usage is revealed as evidence in court or voluntarily by family members.
In addition, since the Reagan-era shut down of mental health inpatient facilities, even families who seek out help for potentially violent individuals often find very limited options; often the answer parents seeking help for emotionally troubled teens is to call the police.