In the 146 days that have passed since the start of 2022, there have been nearly 200 mass shootings, 27 of which occurred at schools. Just this week, there were three shootings on minority communities, the most recent being the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas that took the lives of two educators and 19 children.
In keeping with the rest of the nation, instances of gun violence are unfortunately common within the Berkeley community. In 2020, Berkeley had 41 confirmed instances of gunfire, leading to multiple fatalities, with one victim being a UC Berkeley student. There have already been 20 confirmed shootings this year, leading to numerous injuries. This past semester, campus was forced to go into lockdown after receiving a shooting threat.
For years now, legislators around the country have been working to improve gun laws; yet deaths by gun violence continue to increase at an alarming rate. This has raised the question of whether diverting some of our attention to alternative solutions, rather than wholehearted reliance on gun control laws, is necessary.
According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Stanford University’s school of medicine, many mass shooters in the United States suffered from untreated mental illnesses at the time of their crime. This discovery highlights the importance of following America’s gun violence issue to its root — by addressing mental health problems early on and providing adequate support and resources throughout a person’s life.
Currently, average American cities have reported allocating 20% to 45% of their discretionary funds to the police in the name of preventing such violence. However, if even a fraction of this large sum of money is allocated to preventing the violence from occurring in the first place, such well-funded police forces would not be as necessary. That money could instead be directed towards implementing proper mental health programs and protocols at schools, where every person, regardless of social background or financial status, is expected to attend and can gain easy, effective access.
Of course, this is not to say that mental health is the sole trigger for these heinous crimes. It is important to acknowledge, however, that it has been a contributor to many of the cases because even despite this understanding, the necessary resources and programs to alleviate such issues are incredibly underfunded or outright non-existent at many California K-12 schools so far.
UC Berkeley, among other well-funded high education institutions, has some programs and organizations in place to address student needs, including 24/7 counseling and psychological services and general resources for coping with trauma and grief. While this creates a foundation, campus should create resources more specific to trauma and grief in reaction to national-scale events such as gun violence.
It is only with the proper mental health support in each period surrounding gun violence — before, during and after such events — that we can hope to find some alleviation of the current epidemic.