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Wolf Stirs Gun Debate With Shootings Report

Access to guns, mental health covered in Virginia rep's report by the National Science Foundation — topics he says need to stay part of the conversation.

Days after President Barack Obama spoke in his  State of the Union address for people to call on Congress and the country to act on gun control, U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th) has released a report that examines driving forces behind mass shootings, including violent media and mental health issues — topics absent from the president's address, Wolf said.

The 41-page report, “Youth Violence: What We Need to Know,” includes several studies compiled by an advisory committee to the National Science Foundation (NSF). It will come before a U.S. House subcommittee later this spring.

Among the study's findings: exposure to violent media is a significant risk factor in shootings, but also "one of the easiest risk factors to change,” the report says. Its suggestions: a universal rating system, or, more warning labels, among others.

Another study in the report indicated shooters are generally "at the early onset of severe mental illness," or are in its full thrust, but often it goes undetected or untreated.

Wolf says he recently asked Attorney General Eric Holder improve the background check system nationwide and also create a national center for campus public safety. The last request came from the Virginia-based VTV Family Outreach Foundation, "a group made up of families and victims of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech." 

Yet another part of the report suggested the three main factors — access to guns, mental instability and violent media — could be linked.

For the full report, click here.

In a statement that accompanied the report, Wolf took issue with Obama’s State of the Union address for failing to touch on some of these issues.

In his speech, Obama called for stricter gun control laws, saying such legislation needed to be voted on and approved after the tragedies Americans have had to endure, including the December shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Obama called for Congress to vote on “common sense reform,” mentioning mandated background checks and laws that would prevent buying guns for resale to criminals.

But Wolf wanted to see the President go further.

“While I recognize the potential constitutional issues involved in tackling media violence, mental health parity and gun control, I am disappointed that mental health issues and media violence were left out of the president’s address,” Wolf said in his statement.

Reactions from local Virginians to Obama's remarks, and gun control, have been split. Some thought the address was a successful call to action but others heard something closer to a campaign speech, with ideas for programs but no way to pay for them.

In Virginia, gun control legislation has had an uphill battle during the 2013 session of the state's General Assembly.

Of the 26 bills relating to regulating firearms introduced this session, only eight remain alive — three of them, from Gov. Bob McDonnell’s School Safety Task Force, are expected to pass the General Assembly before the end of the session.

  • SB 1376 would provide civil immunity to anybody who reports what he or she believe to be a “credible danger of serious bodily injury or death” on school grounds. The bill passed the Senate on Wednesday and will be heard Friday by the House.
  • SB 1377 would increase the penalty for carrying a firearm or explosive device onto school property with intent to commit a violent felony. The full Senate was scheduled to hear the bill Thursday.
  • SB 1378 would increase the penalties for any person who sells or purchases a gun for anyone they know is legally prohibited from owning a gun. Depending on the offense, the bill would impose mandatory prison terms of one, five and 10 years.
Maryanne February 17, 2013 at 08:27 PM
In all the cases of mass shootings none of these suggestions would have prevented the outcome. Columbine had trained and armed Sheriffs deputies, Aurora's shooter was already receiving mental health services, a man with a concealed weapon could not prevent the Gabby Giffords shooting or he would have hit innocents in the meli,Va Tech's shooter was known to be ill, but not in treatment and Sandy Hook's got his gun from his mother who obtained it legally. It is really good to consider contributing factors but it is the gun, rapid firing automatic weapons that did the killing. Those poor little children. Savagely killed with 11 and more bullets each. How inhuman that we hide behind the second amendment. It is the gun that actually kills, not the illness, not the video games. It is the bullets and the lethal weapon shooting them.
Roger Lowen February 18, 2013 at 12:49 PM
Your report in Patch seems to indicate that Rep. Wolf is now in favor of Pres. Obama's proposal to improve background checks on gun purchases. His support, if indeed we can interpret the report to indicate that, would be welcome by all caring Virginians. Since the turn of the century in 2000, fully one third of a million - yes, that is million - Americans have died from gun violence. The total number shot, many of whom have been severely disabled and maintained at public expense, is over one million. This exceeds major war casaulties and is clearly unacceptable. The key to reducing these atrocities is to reduce the availability of guns - as is the case in other industrialized and advanced countries in the world. Reduction in violent media and improved mental health facilities would help but the key is in stricter gun control. Roger
DGeorge February 18, 2013 at 03:57 PM
Roger, one third of a million? Is that 330,00? Whats wrong with saying that? How about a percentage of a trillion, that would even sound bigger. In that same time period, 2000 to the present, 30 million people defended themselves from violent crime using a firearm. Not a percentage but an actual 30million. Improve background checks? We are not enforcing violations of current background checks. Holder says he doesn't have the time to do it. The key to reducing gun violence is not to confiscate guns from law abiding citizens but to make those that commit crimes using a firearm serve MANDATORY 10 year sentences. That would include possessing an illegal firearm. Take a look at crime in Great Briton and see what a gun ban will buy you.

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