Could a mass shooting happen here?
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?
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)