Mental Health and Gun Control Discussion

By: Litsa Pappas Email
By: Litsa Pappas Email

HARRISONBURG -- A local interfaith group met at Eastern Mennonite University on Thursday to talk about guns and violence. Members of the group said something needs to be done to prevent tragedies from happening. Dwayne Martin led that discussion about guns at EMU.

"It's about understanding mental illness and people that have a propensity for violence, and stopping the violence before it happens," said Martin.

It's something he's familiar with since he used to be a Harrisonburg police officer.

"So in this particular topic, when I say 'gun control' I don't mean to exempt people from having guns, but rather have checks and balances in place so we can prevent guns being sold to people who shouldn't have them."

Now, Martin works at a local mental health center. He said after the tragic shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., he hopes people will see why the mentally ill need more support and restrictions when it comes to using a gun.

"Well currently, people with mental health illnesses, if they haven't committed a felony, or they haven't been committed to a hospital for psychiatric reasons, their ability to go out and buy a gun, regardless of their current condition, is just like you or I, we can go to the gun store and buy one."

Many others at the forum agreed that certain people should be restricted from using guns. Charles Churchman was one of them. He's a Korean War veteran and owns a couple guns. He said people should be able to protect themselves, but laws need to be changed to keep people safe.

"I think assault weapons should definitely be banned because there's no reason for having them, certainly not for hunting," said Churchman.

Martin said he has guns himself and loves to go hunting, so he thinks owning guns is just fine. He just hopes leaders find ways to prevent violent and unstable people from getting them.

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