The great gun divide

As evidence of Seung-Hui Cho’s mental illness and past surface, Virginia is looking to take action in a new way.

The state is debating whether those who are deemed mentally ill should be forced into treatment. According to, “Six months before the shootings, a group of mental health experts in the state began debating whether the state should force the mentally ill into treatment even if they are not an ‘imminent threat’ to themselves or others.”

Federal law currently states that anyone who has been judged a danger to himself or others is prohibited from buying a gun. Because Cho was never committed to a hospital, the judge’s order was never put into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a database of people who can’t purchase guns. Virginia’s Commission on Mental Health Reform has a self-imposed deadline of October to make recommendations for a new law.

This divide of the gun control debate is bringing a new controversy centerstage as America tries to figure out how to prevent school shootings and the like. It begs the questions: Should the states prevent a mentally ill individual from owning a gun? Do they have the right?

If you look at this specific case, Cho should never have been allowed to buy the guns that killed 32 Virginia Tech students two weeks ago.

This is because he was mentally ill to a level that in December 2005 he had been deemed an “imminent danger to himself.”

According to, Cho was sold the weapons through a loophole in the federal law that anyone found to be a danger to himself or others because of a mental illness should not be allowed to purchase firearms.

A judge found Cho to be an imminent threat to himself, and he was recommended to undergo outpatient treatment. He wasn’t committed, and his appearance before the judge and his mental evaluation never showed up in the background check.

The way to fix the loophole is simple: As soon as Cho was evaluated as mentally ill, his information should have been entered into the database, and he should have been denied the firearms.

The Second Amendment guarantees every American the right to bear arms. Taking away someone’s right, whichever right it is, is not and should not be an easy decision to make. It goes against the intentions of the Bill of Rights. However, in this case, it’s a necessary evil.

When a judge finds someone to be a danger to him or herself and to others, it’s not a split-second decision. There are evaluations with psychologists who have spent years studying and practicing in the field. Someone found to be dangerous, as Cho was, should not be allowed to possess a weapon with the potential for such great destruction.

This is not a perfect solution-we know that. There needs to be more progress within the psychiatric community in its ability to treat those in need, and there needs to be greater compassion, understanding and acceptance for people with mental illnesses. Society’s education of these mental illnesses needs to be more than face value. Working toward these goals is the solution. But, for now, there needs to be improvement in gun control regarding the mentally ill.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board. Rachel Abbey did not contribute to this editorial.