2013 ERC Scholarship Essay Program $1,000 Recipient
Chelsea Bateman, Woodinville (Woodinville High School)

New Town, Aurora, Tucson; all cities that have been devastated by tragic incidents of mass violence in recent years. The stories made national headlines. However, mass violence is not limited to the improper use of guns. On April 9, 2013, Dylan Quick went on a rampage at a Texas community college. With a knife, he wounded 14 people. Authorities indicated that Dylan had fantasized about stabbing people since early childhood. The gun control debate in government has eclipsed one of the core issues. The inadequacies in the mental health system have caused many preventable acts of violence worldwide.

Doris Fuller, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center spoke at Brown University, coincidently the same day as Dylan Quick’s attack. Fuller stated “individuals with severe mental illness under the control of homicidal delusions always have found ways to harm others and themselves and always will, regardless of whether they have guns.” Further she stated, “men in China with psychiatric symptoms killed or wounded 40 school children in the last three months of 2012 alone, using knives, an axe, a machete, or a box cutter.”

Last week, the US Senate saw the defeat of a variety of gun control legislation, including the “Universal Background Check. “ Unfortunately, some of the legislation that failed was crafted to provide necessary improvements to our existing National Instant Background Check System (NICS).

Currently, twenty three states submit little to no information on mental health adjudications to NICS. The most infamous and tragic example of the flawed system was the April 16, 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre. Seung-Hui Cho had been diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder and received therapy and special education support throughout both middle and high school. Virginia Tech was not aware of his condition because of standing federal privacy laws that prevented pertinent information in his school records from being transferred. In 2005, Cho was accused of stalking two female students. Subsequently, a Virginia Special Justice declared him mentally ill and ordered treatment. Cho’s mental condition was not flagged in the NICS system, and resulted in his purchase of firearms that he used to kill 32 people and injure 17.

Flawed legislation such as the Universal Background Check would only worsen the situation. This bill would only add millions of responsible gun owners to the database without addressing the fundamental problems of the existing NICS system. Congress should support the NICS Reporting Improvement Act introduced by Senators Graham, R-S.C. and Begich D-Alaska. This bill helps fix NICS by clarifying the definition of who is a danger to themselves or others, and should not have access to firearms.

Congress needs to fix what is broken, not build on top on what is already flawed. Congress needs to disregard the media hysteria and stop the political posturing. Rather, they should closely scrutinize the deficiencies in both the mental health and NICS systems. Further legislation should be collaborative, bi-partisan solutions that stop mass violence of all types, while preserving second amendment rights of responsible gun owners.

Works Cited