Summer of violence fuels gun control vs mental health debate


It's been - what seems to be - a summer of high profile shootings: Military recruiting centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a Louisiana movie theater, a historic Charleston church, and a Texas sheriff's deputy - who was laid to rest Friday.

According to Arkadi Gerney, a senior vice president at the progressive-leaning Center for American Progress and gun control advocate, "Every day around the country, 33 Americans are murdered with guns. "

For Andy Parker, the father of Alison Parker - who was murdered by her former coworker while on live television along with cameraman Adam Ward - the answer is gun control.

In an interview with CNN earlier this week, he said, "I hate to say that we're the fresh face of gun violence, but if we have to be, at least I think we can affect the change."

Parker even announced Thursday that he is dropping out of his local county supervisors race to work on that change, according to WDBJ - the station his daughter worked for.

But many lawmakers and experts also point out the need for better mental health care in the U.S.

"We need to do a lot, lot better job in terms of mental health in this country," Democratic Senator and Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders said in an interview with CNN's State of the Union on Sunday.

"Every single time we have a crisis event that occurs, we see that there were warning signs that were overlooked," said Paul Gionfriddo, President and CEO at Mental Health America.

But even though Gionfriddo points out that there needs to be early, comprehensive mental health screenings in order to help change lives, he also points out that the majority of those suffering from mental illness are not violent.

"The issues about mental illness are different and we need to stay focused on those and not just have them tied together as they so frequently are, with these events that are violent events," he said.

Gionfriddo has been working with Congress on getting comprehensive health care. He points to Rep. Tim Murphy's (R-Pa.) Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act - which was re-introduced in the House of Representatives over the summer - as well as similar bills in the U.S. Senate.

Unlike efforts at gun control legislation, mental health legislation has bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. But some of those lawmakers, along with experts like Gerney, say that addressing mental health care alone isn't enough.

"We should look at the mental health system, but trying to deal with the gun problem without actually talking about guns makes no sense," said Gerney.

Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) points to expanded background check laws saying the U.S. needs "to have rules about who can obtain a weapon, especially, especially if someone has a mental health issue."

With large and polarizing battles coming up over the Iran nuclear deal and federal spending when Congress comes back from recess next week, it's unknown if lawmakers will have the chance to act on those issues before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke about the violence over the summer - including that against law enforcement officers - during a speech in Washington, D.C., earlier this week - saying it "must end." The Department of Justice is holding a summit later this month with law enforcement officials to talk about solutions to the violence.

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