Taking a cold, hard look at mass killings

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As a parent, I am terrified of the idea that my daughter’s life, or any child’s life, could be in danger at school. I’m heartbroken for the parents who lost children, students who lost friends, and the entire community of Parkland.

As a responsible gun owner, my instincts tell me that this shooter in Florida is exactly who I expect a background check to prevent from purchasing a gun. But as a scientist, and person asking to shape our nation’s policies, I can’t rely on my emotions and instincts alone to make informed decisions.

Mass killings are a national problem and Congress absolutely has a role to play in understanding and working to prevent these atrocities. We can begin with stricter enforcement of existing federal laws and Congress should sufficiently fund Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research into the contributing causes and motivations of mass killings and how our laws and policies are working (or not) to prevent them.

Events over the last couple days are stunning and saddening. But we should not forget that there are many deaths occurring close to home without headlines. The majority of gun deaths in our country are from suicide, and we have among the worst rates of suicide here in Montana. Congress must defend the gains we’ve made in mental-health-care access and work to expand preventive and acute mental-health-care services for all Americans. We can and should be working to ensure that no American’s mental state would lead them to take their own or another person’s life.

Grant Kier, a Missoula engineer and former land trust director, is running for the Democratic nomination for Montana’s lone U.S. House seat.

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