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Sandy Hook: Mental health, not gun control, is the answer to mass shootings

In the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., a cry has gone up for gun control and ways to keep guns from people with mental illness. What we really need is to address the causes of these shootings – issues of mental health and social isolation.

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By 4:30 p.m. on the Friday of the Newtown, Conn., shooting, the Internet was awash with calls for action from pundits and citizens to prevent similar tragedies from recurring. These calls centered on gun control – an unfortunate, but not surprising, reaction that, despite its best intentions, steers the conversation away from meaningful reforms in the United States by merely restricting gun rights.

Ultimately, a firearm is a mere tool – an inanimate piece of metal incapable of action without human intervention. Any real solution attempting to prevent future mass shootings must focus less on the gun, and more on what factors drive people to pick up that gun and engage in indiscriminate killing. In particular, preventing future mass shootings requires a frank look at underlying, and often unaddressed, mental illness and social isolation in America.

Even in the 21st century, stigma surrounding mental and emotional health persists. It is an uncomfortable topic that consequently receives little public discussion. Even in the wake of Newtown, one line of questioning asks: “How can we keep guns out of the hands of those with mental illness"? What we should be asking, however, is what avenues are available to help those individuals, and to what extent society is responsible for assisting them.

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