University Of Maryland Shooting: We Need to Focus On Mental Health, Not More Gun Control Laws


On Tuesday morning, just off the University of Maryland, College Park campus, a murder-suicide occurred involving a firearm, which highlights why the discussion of gun control should not be centered around adding draconian laws that would affect law-abiding citizens, but on addressing our mental health system.

At 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, 23-year-old graduate student Dayvon Green reportedly set fire to his residence, waited for his roommates to exit the house, pulled out a 9mm handgun, and started shooting. Once he was done shooting, he turned the gun on himself and took his own life. The incident resulted in two dead, including the shooter, and one wounded.

Investigators do not have a motive for the murder-suicide, but there are confirmed reports that the shooter, Green, was diagnosed as schizophrenic and was being treated with medication for more than a year. Investigators also found on the scene a rifle, baseball bat, and machete in a backpack in Green's possession.

Reports show that Green obtained his firearms legally in April of last year from a gun store just outside of Baltimore. The store owner said that Green, just like any other firearms purchaser, was subject to a background investigation before obtaining the firearms.

It's worth noting that Maryland law requires a 7-day waiting period in addition to registration for regulated firearms which includes the handgun that Green used in this incident.

So one may ask how Green was able to obtain his firearms despite being diagnosed as schizophrenic? After all, Green did have to go through a background check, just like any other regulated firearm purchase in Maryland. The answer is the fundamental failing in mental health reporting.

Back in 2007, the NICS Improvement Act was passed in response to the Virginia Tech shootings. In that case, if the shooter's mental health records had been available to NICS, then the shooter would not have been able to purchase his handguns.

And yet, despite the passage of this legislation, Jared Loughner, who was also mentally ill, was able to legally purchase his handgun that he used to carry out his mass shootingin Tucson, Ariz., in January 2011, and James Holmes was able to legally purchase his firearms to carry out the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo. last summer.

In the case of Dayvon Green, who was diagnosed as mentally ill and on medication, he should have been denied the purchase of his firearms through that same NICS process, but he wasn't. From 1999 to present day, the state of Maryland has only submitted 58 mental health records to the NICS database.

Currently Maryland legislators are offering an assortment of new gun control laws, which are meeting fierce opposition from local gun rights groups. Even Maryland's local Fraternal Order of Police has come out against the legislation. The problem with Maryland's gun control laws is not that we do not have enough of them, as Maryland has some of the strictest in the nation, it is the fact that our government and institutions are failing at executing them.

This University of Maryland shooting should draw attention to the fact that we already have gun control laws on the books that should have prevented situations such as this.

If we truly want fruitful dialogue on how to reduce gun violence, gun control advocates need to be honest and recgonize that we need to address the laws that are already in place instead of adding more laws that would hurt law-abiding gun owners.