Government Dropped the Ball on ANOTHER Mass Shooting
Earlier this month a horrific tragedy unfolded at an outlet mall in Allen, Texas, where a gunman armed with an AR-15 rifle opened fire on innocent shoppers, killing eight people and injuring several others. The shooter, who was killed by police outside the mall, was a 33-year-old man who served briefly in the US Army but was removed due to concerns about his mental health.
This incident raises serious questions about how our government has failed us by failing to address the mental health concerns of Garcia and many other veterans who struggle with psychological issues after serving our country. According to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, veterans were responsible for 10% of all domestic terrorist attacks and plots between 2015 and 2021. Moreover, veterans and active-duty members of the military currently make up roughly 25% of active militia members, some of whom have extremist ties.
Garcia was discharged from the Army in 2008 with an “uncharacterized” discharge for a mental health condition, which means he was neither honorably nor dishonorably discharged. This type of discharge does not prevent someone from owning firearms legally, as only those with dishonorable discharges are federally banned from doing so. Garcia was able to purchase an AR-15 rifle, which he used to carry out his deadly rampage at the mall.
Garcia clearly needed help for his mental health issues, but he didn’t receive it from the government that he once served. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been plagued by scandals and inefficiencies for years, failing to provide adequate care and support for millions of veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other mental health problems. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the VA failed to meet its own timeliness goals for completing mental health evaluations and initiating treatment for veterans in fiscal year 2019. The report also found that the VA did not have reliable data on how many veterans received mental health care or how effective it was.
The VA’s failure to address the mental health needs of veterans like Garcia has not only harmed them, but also put the public at risk of violence. The Texas mall shooting is not an isolated incident, but part of a disturbing pattern of mass shootings perpetrated by veterans with mental health issues. In 2017, Esteban Santiago, a veteran who served in Iraq and suffered from PTSD, opened fire at the Fort Lauderdale airport, killing five people and wounding six others. In 2019, Ian David Long, a veteran who served in Afghanistan and had PTSD, opened fire at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California, killing 12 people and injuring 18 others.
I’m a huge proponent for gun rights and ownership, but we’re only lying to ourselves if we don’t think that there is some room for improving upon our process of who has weapons. It’s a fine line to walk. We don’t want to infringe upon the rights of Americans, but at the same time we also don’t want crazy people having guns because they do things like this. These tragedies could have been prevented if our government had taken the mental health concerns of veterans seriously and provided them with the care and support they deserved. Instead of ignoring or stigmatizing them, we need to recognize them as heroes who sacrificed their lives for our country and treat them with respect and compassion. We need to reform the VA and ensure that it has enough resources and staff to provide timely and effective mental health care for veterans. We need to enact common-sense gun laws that prevent people with mental health issues from accessing firearms that can be used to harm themselves or others. We need to do more to combat extremism and radicalization among veterans and military personnel who may be vulnerable to manipulation by hate groups.
We owe it to our veterans and to ourselves to do better. We can’t afford to let another mass shooting happen again.