Could a mass shoot­ing hap­pen here?

La Semana - - FRONT PAGE / PORTADA - ANAL­Y­SIS BY WIL­LIAM R. WYNN | TULSA, OK

In the wake of the hor­rific shoot­ing at the First Bap­tist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas that left 26 dead, in­clud­ing many chil­dren, com­mu­ni­ties across the United States are ask­ing the un­think­able ques­tion: could this hap­pen here?

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Two ma­jor as­pects of Amer­i­can so­ci­ety are be­ing blamed for the shoot­ing, or at least for con­tribut­ing to such a tragedy not be­ing pre­vented. On the right, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and oth­ers claim the men­tal health sys­tem failed to stop David Pa­trick Kel­ley, the trou­bled 26-year-old who en­tered the peaceful church on Sun­day and opened fire on ter­ri­fied parish­ioners, shoot­ing cry­ing chil­dren point blank and spray­ing the con­gre­ga­tion with bul­lets.

On the left, crit­ics of the na­tion’s lax gun laws say that Kel­ley should never have had ac­cess to weapons in the first place, es­pe­cially given his court mar­tial in 2012 when he was con­victed of two charges of as­sault­ing his wife and child.

The re­al­ity lies some­where in be­tween. It is un­de­ni­able that U.S. gun laws, par­tic­u­larly those in states like Texas and Ok­la­homa, make it very easy for any­one to ob­tain guns, even high pow­ered semi-au­to­mat­ics that are eas­ily con­verted into full auto as in the case of the Las Ve­gas mass shoot­ing just weeks ear­lier.

It is also true that the state of men­tal health care in the U.S. is pa­thetic, with many peo­ple who suf­fer from se­ri­ous psy­chi­atric con­di­tions left home­less and un­cared for, ex­cept when they com­mit crimes and be­come part of the ex­plod­ing prison pop­u­la­tion.

So, re­turn­ing to the cen­tral ques­tion, could a shoot­ing like the one in south­ern Texas hap­pen here in Ok­la­homa? There are two con­di­tions that cer­tainly would make this pos­si­ble.

Ok­la­homa has sim­i­lar gun laws to Texas; in fact, Ok­la­homa may be one of the eas­i­est places out­side of a war zone to get your hands on a gun. Kel­ley bought many of his at a Texas Wal­Mart, where – due to an al­leged re­port­ing foul up on the part of the Air Force – his prior con­vic­tion didn’t turn up dur­ing a back­ground check. But had he gone to a gun show like those held fre­quently at Tulsa’s Expo Square, a back­ground check would not likely have been per­formed any­way.

Sec­ond, Ok­la­homa’s men­tal health care sys­tem is among the worst in the na­tion, be­ing vir­tu­ally non-ex­is­tent. This is es­pe­cially true for those with limited fi­nan­cial re­sources, and will get even worse if planned changes to the Af­ford­able Care Act re­move the re­quire­ment for in­sur­ers to cover men­tal health.

How­ever, just be­cause a mass shoot­ing could hap­pen here doesn’t meant that it will. Ran­dom acts of vi­o­lence are just that – ran­dom, and un­pre­dictable. Still, with two ar­eas where vast im­prove­ment is clearly needed, per­haps next year’s state leg­is­la­ture will rise above their in­ces­sant squab­bling and tackle some se­ri­ous, life and death is­sues for a change. (La Se­m­ana)

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