As a gun-owning Army veteran, I believe that the Constitution of the United States guarantees every American the right to bear arms. Focusing on safe, responsible gun ownership should be our focus as we respect citizens' constitutional rights.
One of the unfortunate aspects of this debate is that the overwhelming majority of responsible Hoosier gun owners feel vilified in times like these. Hoosiers that practice safe gun ownership—using their guns for sport and for home defense—are being attacked as viciously as the deranged individuals that commit these atrocities. The vast majority of Hoosiers have done no wrong and have committed no crime. They have merely exercised their Constitutional right to bear arms.
That said, those affected by the tragedies our country has faced are tired of hearing mere condolences. They want action, and these extremely complex and emotionally-charged issues cannot be solved by Republicans or Democrats alone. Issues like this one require the complete cooperation of both parties, as this affects all of us.
Given these recent tragedies, now is not a time to step away from this challenge. I believe there is a way to protect the American public—especially our children—by reviewing, revising, and enacting sensible gun laws (such as expanding and enhancing our background check programs), while still preserving our 2nd Amendment rights.
This cannot end with a simple review of our gun laws, however. We need to undertake an education campaign that works with our communities to arm them with the information necessary to identify the warning signs of individuals who may be on the verge of committing these atrocities. We need to work to destigmatize mental illness and treat it for what it is—a disease. We need to work with our medical communities to provide them with the resources necessary to effectively treat people with mental illness. We need to work with our schools to ensure they are safe places for our kids to grow physically and mentally. Our teachers, guidance counselors, and administrators need to receive continual education to recognize and respond to at-risk groups within the student population. We need to effectively deal with bullying, and help foster a school community that seeks to reduce the chances for individual students to become isolated and radicalized in their thinking.
This complex issue requires a societal approach that includes so much more than gun laws. Elected leaders should not be hesitant to tackle this problem. We must do something now—the future of our country and the safety of our children demand action.