The town hall meeting held by Rep. Mike Thompson in Vallejo Jan. 9 to obtain citizen concerns for “reducing gun violence” produced strong consensus. The City Hall auditorium was packed and the people wanted to be heard. Though the meeting was scheduled for 1½ hours, it was continued for an extra hour to accommodate the citizens who wanted to speak.
Suggestions were made for armed volunteer teachers, armed security guards, weapon permits, buyer background checks and gun limits, but approximately 90 percent of the comments focused on the overwhelming need to treat mental health issues. The common thread is that every killer has been identifiable as a problem in advance. The history of government gun control is well-documented that it does not solve the problem. The assault weapons ban of the U.S. was allowed to expire a few years ago because all evidence proved it failed.
The tight gun controls of New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., were recognized for allowing the nation’s higher murder rates. Australia was cited because crime increased as much as 40 percent in some areas after the government confiscated all privately owned weapons.
The growth of the mental health problems was dated back to the late 1960s and unintended consequences of government actions. The Comprehensive Mental Health bill in 1964 and the Medicare and Medicaid Acts in 1966 led to a reduction of the use of existing mental health hospitals. Those state-run hospitals had operated produce farms and dairies to minimize operating costs and to give the patients productive and healthful labor. A 1972 federal court ruling requiring direct pay for the patients’ labor insured the demise of those hospitals. Mental hospital patient population plummeted from 500,000 in 1960 to 100,000 in 1986.
If the attendees of that meeting had their way, federal direction would be to improve care for the mentally ill population and constitutional gun rights would not be touched. Will Rep. Thompson be able to convey that message to Vice President Joe Biden?