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Young Peoples Concrete Policy Recommendations to Address Gun Violence Prevention in America

GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION TASK FORCE:


An Initiative of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network

January 2013

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. VIII. IX.

OVERVIEW FIREARMS & AMMUNITION REGULATIONS BACKGROUND CHECKS: TRADE OF FIREARMS & AMMUNITION EXTENDING MENTAL HEALTH CARE ACCESS, COVERAGE AND INITIATIVES MISAPPROPRIATED BLAME: IMPACT OF VIDEO GAMES ROLE OF MEDIA AND PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT CONCLUSIONS APPENDIX: TIMELINE OF KEY EVENTS TASK FORCE MEMBERS

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OVERVIEW
When history reflects upon a generation, it is gentle with mistakes but unforgiving of apathy. The general excuses of politics poor timing, greater challenges to face, deals struck at the 11th hour give way to the realization that, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so gracefully articulated, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.1 In light of the shocking events of 2012, in which American fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters buried too many of their own, the Millennial generation has banded together to demand that the current, convoluted regulation of firearms should not undermine the welfare and longevity of our own citizens. We recognize that the nation is currently stricken with a public health epidemic that claims 30,000 lives annually on street corners, in schoolyards, and in private homes.2 Furthermore, we refuse to call these deaths including those at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut tragedies, since tragedies are unpreventable. Gun violence in America is not a tragedy; it is a failure in which human fear and isolation erode community and optimism. In a fundamental way, we must recognize that having more guns does not lead to better self-protection; more guns lead to more gun violence. Protecting communities from gun violence proliferation does not make us less American, but rather, it makes us more American. Composed of members of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, a national, studentdriven progressive policy organization, this task force assessed the current understanding of gun violence prevention in this nation. The current legal landscape is wrought with loopholes, particularly with regards to background checks in the purchasing of firearms, and exceedingly lenient in the appropriation of firearms in non-military settings. Additionally, the task force examined societal factors that produce gun violence, including violence in video games, limited access to mental health care services, a culture of violence, and the role of the media. In order to address these fundamental flaws, this task force, comprised of young people from across the country, offers a series of concrete policy recommendations, from specific policy proposals regarding ammunition and progressive city-led programs to urgent calls for sincere shifts in cultural paradigms. Moreover, it strives to set aside the politically charged blame game and emphasizes community unity on a national scale in order to devise sensible, holistic approaches to gun violence prevention. Millennials cannot afford to bury any more of their children or their peers because of an irresponsible society. From this moment onward, members of the Millennial generation commit to the goal of planned obsolescence of the term gun violence. With solemn intention and yet unshaken optimism, we put forward the following recommendations and commentaries for immediate review. Now it is time to implement these ideas to curb gun violence in America.

Speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1963. Waters, R. "Gun Violence: The Public Health Issue Politicians Want to Ignore." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 24 July 2012. Web. 8 Jan. 2013.
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FIREARMS & AMMUNITION REGULATIONS


The discussion surrounding the renewal of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 is misguided; the conversation should not be about whether this piece of legislation should be renewed, but rather what changes should be made to the act before renewal to close its loopholes and make it more effective at preventing gun violence. The act, which expired in 2004, put into place a variety of restrictions on the possession of assault weapons (AWs) and weapons with large capacity ammunition feeding devices (also known as large capacity magazines, or LCMs). The act defined a weapon as a banned assault weapon if it were semiautomatic and had an ability to accept a detachable (interchangeable) magazine, and had two of the following features: a folding or telescoping stock, a pistol grip that protruded conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon, a bayonet mount, a muzzle flash suppressor or threaded barrel to accommodate one, or a grenade launcher.3

Krouse, W. Congressional Research Service. Gun Control Legislation. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2012.
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According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, these restrictions prohibited the manufacture, sale, and use of 118 models and variations of firearm.4 However, as William Krouse of the Congressional Research Service explained in a 2012 report on gun control legislation, semiautomatic assault weapons that were legally owned prior to the ban were not restricted and remained available for transfer under applicable federal and state law.5 Congress must renew the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 with some modifications. Recommendation #1: The ban should limit all firearms that are semiautomatic and have an ability to accept interchangeable magazines. Opponents of gun control argue that the 1994 ban did little to thwart gun violence while it was in place, due to what they argue was a misplaced focus on assault weapons. While it is true that the use of AWs and LCMs in gun crimes in general before the 1994 ban was minimal, according to a 2004 University of Pennsylvania study of the bans effects by Christopher Koper, AWs or other semiautomatics with LCMs were involved in 6, or 40%, of 15 mass shooting incidents occurring between 1984 and 1993 in which six or more persons were killed or a total of 12 or more were wounded.6 That percentage has increased following the bans expiration in 2004. The perpetrators of the three deadliest massacres in 2012 the Aurora shooting, the Sikh temple shooting, and the Newtown shooting all used assault weapons with large capacity magazines that would have been prohibited under the ban.7 The gunman in the 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona also used what would have been an illegal firearm under the 1994 law.8 Opponents argue that while the guns used in these mass shootings would have been illegal if the ban was still in place, the gunmen could have bought very similar and almost equally deadly versions of their weapons legally. This argument has merit, and it exposes one of the main flaws in the original ban that must be fixed before re-implementation. Because the act only deemed assault weapons illegal if they were able to accept large capacity magazines and if they had two or more military features, gun manufacturers could easily alter their models to make them legal. For example, as Krouse explains, immediately following the ban, Colt modified the design of its rifle (sporterized it), and the post-ban version of the Colt AR-15 did not meet the features test and was legal.9 Koper likewise noted the ability of gun manufacturers to sidestep the ban: relatively cosmetic changes, such as removing a flash hider or bayonet mount, are sufficient to transform a banned weapon into a legal substitute, and a number of manufacturers now produce modified, legal versions of some of the banned guns.10 Before the laws renewal, this gaping loophole must be closed. To avoid enabling gun manufacturers to make easy changes to what should be banned weapons, the
Koper, C.. An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004. 5 Krouse, 97. 6 Koper, 19. 7 Follman, M., Aronsen, G., Pan D. "A Guide to Mass Shootings in America." Mother Jones. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map (accessed December 25, 2012). 8 Follman. 9 Krouse, 45. 10 Koper, 15.
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new legislation should eliminate the clause limiting the ban to assault weapons that have two or more of the features listed above (bayonet, grenade launcher, etc.) In other words, the ban should limit all firearms that are semiautomatic and have an ability to accept interchangeable magazines. Recommendation #2: The ban should include all firearms that could have magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and the magazines that have that capability. Advocates for more lenient gun control laws also question the efficacy of limiting large capacity magazines (LCMs) in preventing gun violence. However, not only do some studies show that semiautomatics equipped with LCMs result in more shots fired, more persons hit, and more wounds inflicted per victim than do attacks with other firearms,11 witness and survivor accounts of recent mass shootings also suggest the danger of large capacity magazines. In Tucson, three bystanders, one of whom was wounded, managed to subdue the shooter as he attempted to reload his second 30-plus round magazine.12 Before the bystanders could deter him, the shooter was able to fire 31 consecutive shots. If he had been carrying a gun with only 10 rounds, the number of fatalities and injuries might have been far fewer. While it is obvious that restricting large capacity magazines would not rid the United States of all gun violence, it is clear that the criminal use of firearms with 30, 50, or 100 rounds has resulted in unnecessary destruction and death. It will continue to do so if immediate action is not taken. The original ban on firearms with magazines that hold more than 10 rounds must be renewed. However, unlike in the original ban, this limitation should apply to all ammunition feeding devices that hold more than 10 rounds, not just most. The manufacture, transfer, and possession of high capacity magazines must be also be prohibited. Recommendation #3: Ban military-grade ammunition. Military-grade ammunition is an especially lethal type of ammunition, and it has no place in the hands of ordinary citizens. A San Francisco surgeon recently noted the particular destructiveness of such ammunition in the San Francisco Examiner: When [military-grade ammunition] strike[s] a victim, its like a bomb going offit really is a battle against life or death. Some have overwhelming mortal wounds, and I cannot save them. As in many other major cities, the lethality of street violence in San Francisco is in part due to the prevalence of military grade ammunition. San Franciscos mayor, Edwin Lee, is proposing this type of ban on a local level, but it would be far more effective as federal law. The new ban should make the manufacture, transfer, and possession of military-grade ammunition illegal.

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Koper, 8. Krouse, 11.

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Recommendation #4: Implement local buyback programs for prohibited weapons and eliminate the grandfathering-in of prohibited weapons, magazines, and bullets. The availability of dangerous assault weapons and magazines that were grandfathered-in during the 1994 ban must also be addressed. The new legislation should not include such an exception. Instead, buyback programs specifically for these firearms should be put into place, which will allow local and federal government agencies to work together in removing guns from the street. A recent article in The New York Times about the guns-for-groceries program in Los Angeles demonstrates the efficacy of buyback programs. Assault weapons earned a $200 [Ralphs grocery store] card the last buyback netted about 1,700 guns.13 Australias comprehensive gun reform, which was implemented after a deadly mass shooting in 1996, is also indicative of the possible benefits of a gun buyback program. Under the National Firearm Agreement, guns that were no longer legal were subject to a government buyback its effect was to reduce Australias firearms stock by around one-fifth, more than 650,000 firearms.14 A comprehensive study by Andrew Leigh of Australian National University and Christine Neill of Wilfred Laurier University on the effect of the buyback over time and across Australian states provides evidence that reduced access to firearms lowers firearm death rates and may lower overall death by suicide and homicide.15 The figure below illustrates the decline in homicide rates by firearm following the 1996 ban, a drop that amounts to 59 percent by 2006.16 If these numbers are not convincing enough, note that in the 18 years before the gun law reforms, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia.17 There have been none since.

The New York Times (New York City), "California: Gun-Buyback Program Moved Up," December 26, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/27/us/california-gun-buyback-program-moved-up.html (accessed December 26, 2012). 14 Leigh, A., Neill, C.. Gun Buybacks Save Lives? Evidence from Panel Data. American Law and Economics Association. Oxford University Press, 2010. 15 Leigh, 3. 16 Leigh, 517. 17 Chapman, S., Alpers, P., Agho, K., Jones, M. "Australias 1996 gun law reforms: faster falls in firearm deaths, firearm suicides, and a decade without mass shootings." Injury Prevention 12 (2006): 365-372.
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Unlike Americas original ban, the manufacture, sale, and use of all firearms that are semiautomatic and have an ability to accept interchangeable magazines should be illegal in the United States, regardless of the original date of manufacture or purchase. The same should go for large capacity magazines and military-grade ammunition. Pragmatic firearms regulation legislation is the foundation upon which all other gun violence prevention initiatives rest. Legalization of militaristic weapons and ammunition into civilian hands undermines the extent to which other initiatives may succeed.

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January 2013

BACKGROUND CHECKS: TRADE OF FIREARMS & AMMUNITION

Following the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, the Obama administration announced a push for stricter gun laws, an absolute ban on the sale of assault rifles, universal background checks, and a limit on magazine capacity. The NRA issued a press release in response, ascribing the shooting and others like it to a violent culture propagated by modern, explicit entertainment, and recommended that armed guards be placed at schools as a measure of deterrence. The chasm across which both sides of the gun control debate are now arguing, has grown so wide that a consensus cannot even be reached on which problem they are trying to address. Gun rights advocates have come to view the debate as a zero-sum game where any movement toward increased gun regulation is poisonous not only to this nations long history of proud gun ownership but to public safety the latter a product of their theory that an increase in per capita gun ownership and concealed weapons in places like schools and malls would either deter someone from attempting a mass shooting or put an end to it relatively quickly. Decreasing gun-related violence in the U.S., however, doesnt necessarily require an increase or a ban on firearms. Instead, the creation of a comprehensive framework for background checks in all types of firearm transactions must be the first step. Shoring up the protocol for gun purchase background checks could prevent those with histories of violence or mental illness from gaining access to guns. Recommendation #1: Develop a national gun registry and require background checks for purchase of firearms. The current background check protocol is riddled with gaps and loopholes. Most evident is the private sales exemption that allows any gun sales under non-Federal Firearms Licensees (non-FFLs) an exemption from the regulations enumerated in the Brady Act of 1993. This means that close to 40 percent of all gun sales in the United States are conducted without background checks.18 If every gun transfer is legally documented, background checks can be performed on anyone who legally obtains a gun. Additionally, anyone who attempts to privately sell a weapon without a proper background check and without filing the subsequent paperwork can be traced if the weapon is used in a crime. Universal background checks are opposed officially by the NRA, but the provision polls well among the groups members, with 74 percent of NRA members and 87 percent of non-NRA members supporting it. Despite this, only California, Rhode Island, Washington D.C., and Chicago currently have local laws requiring background checks for the purchase of every assault weapon or a handgun. This should be a nationally mandated standard that registers every gun in this country, just as we do with our cars. The background checks run for purchases with an FFL are done using three federal databases: the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), which traces fugitives and persons subject to protective and restraining orders, the Interstate Identification Index,
Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Why Brady Background Checks Should Be Required for All Gun Sales. Rep. N.p.: n.p., 2009. Print.
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which holds state criminal history records, and the NICS Index, which holds records of those prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm. None of the FBI-run investigations make use of independent state databases for criminal records or mental stability. Currently, states have the option to run the background checks themselves or pass the responsibility to the FBI for no charge. The majority of states choose to have the FBI run the background checks, although some states have taken on the responsibility themselves. (A smaller group of states run the checks themselves only in the case of handgun sales.) If states were mandated to run these checks themselves, an even greater wealth of databases containing state records of mental health and violence could be used to help ensure the safe and legal use of these firearms. Recommendation #2: Extend the waiting period for investigating parties to complete thorough background searches. When a background check is run, there are three possible outcomes: the investigating party, be it the state or the FBI, can either approve or deny the transaction based on the eligibility guidelines of the Gun Control Act of 1968,or instruct that the transaction is still pending for further investigation. If the investigating party doesnt inform the FFL of any of these three options after three days, however, theres a default proceed, meaning the transfer can be made and the investigation will be completed at a later date. According to FBI records, default proceed transactions are eight times as likely to involve someone who cant legally possess a firearm than a typical approval.19 A few states have extended the waiting period, some by up to 30 days, to allow the investigating party more time to complete the background search. Mandating this extension nationally can lead to safer gun ownership. These proposals arent controversial; 69 percent of NRA members and 88 percent of nonNRA members support closing the private sales loophole, and 78 percent of NRA members and 88 percent of non-NRA members support mandating that gun owners report lost or stolen guns.20 The Second Amendment protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms as a well-regulated militia is essential to the security of a free state, but that right is dependent on its being well-regulated. These three recommendations do just that: regulate the sale of weapons without infringing on the gun-owning rights of law-abiding citizens.

"Mayors Against Illegal Guns - Data from the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System." Data from the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, 2013. Web. 05 Jan. 2013.
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Mayors Against Illegal Guns. New Poll of NRA Member by Frank Luntz Shows Strong Support for CommonSense Gun Laws, Exposing Significant Divide Between Rank-and-File Members and NRA Leadership. Rep. N.p.: n.p., 2012. Print.
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EXTENDING MENTAL HEALTH CARE ACCESS, COVERAGE & INITIATIVES


In the aftermath of recent events in which mentally ill perpetrators committed mass violence, it is crucial that we, as a nation, investigate the issue of access to adequate and affordable mental health care. The term mental illness encapsulates an extremely wide range of disorders, many of them largely unrelated. Still, it will be used as a best-fit term to incorporate anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia, and others, which if left untreated can lead an individual to inflict harm upon oneself and others. According to the World Health Organization, mental illness is the leading cause of disability in the United States.21 It is important to consider that the vast majority of people living with mental illness are nonviolent. Nevertheless, a perpetrator suffering from untreated or undertreated mental illness has characterized several mass shootings in recent years. Below are three recommendations to improve the state of mental health care in America, aimed at preventing tragedies and ensuring every citizen can receive the medical care he or she needs. Recommendation #1: Expand on-campus psychotherapy in higher education institutions. As more and more Americans attend college every year, the need for sufficient and accessible mental health care at places of higher learning is markedly growing. When students suffer from mental illness, their success inside and outside the classroom is hindered. Concerns of suicide and violent crime rates for college-aged students point to a need for the reexamination of health policy surrounding university therapy programs. While many universities include the cost of university-provided psychotherapy in student fees, there is often a cap on the number of sessions. According to a 2010 national survey, roughly 50 percent of colleges and universities cap the number of sessions students can schedule. University psychologists acknowledge that many students need additional sessions and often refer them to psychologists in the area. Still, studies of mental illness show that changing treatment methods and settings mid-therapy can negatively affect the patient by creating distrust and discontinuity.22 Students seeking extra sessions are likely those with the greatest need of treatment, and switching psychologists to continue therapy may be detrimental to their mental health and counterproductive to treatment.23 On-campus services are far more convenient for students than off-campus services, which often require commuting. To address these issues, universities should establish a fee-for-service program for students who seek on-campus treatment beyond the session cap. The revenue generated from paid
National Institute of Mental Health. The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America January 5, 2013. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-inamerica/index.shtml#WHOReportBurden (accessed January 5, 2013). 22 Meyer, Mortimer M., Tolman, R. S. 1963. The Reactions of Patients to Enforced Changes in Therapists. Journal of Clinical Psychology 19, no. 2: 241-243. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost. 23 Meyer, Mortimer M., Tolman, R. S. 1963. The Reactions of Patients to Enforced Changes in Therapists. Journal of Clinical Psychology 19, no. 2: 241-243. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost.
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psychotherapy sessions would defray the cost of increasing the number of paid hours per week or hiring the additional staff necessary to accommodate students seeking longer-term care. Many universities require students to have health insurance, which would also make these sessions more affordable for students. For example, student fees could cover eight sessions, at which point students could pursue additional sessions at the market rate depending on the area. A single session might cost around $100, and the student co-pay might be $50. The full cost of the session is revenue that university counseling and wellness services can use to expand services, quality, and capacity. An alternative option is to increase the cap of sessions covered by student fees. However, a hard cap is inflexible and an increase in fully funded sessions would likely lead to a significant increase in student fees amidst increased tuition and university budget cuts on a national scale. A combination of a cap increase and a fee-for-service program may be appropriate, but a cap increase alone would not be sufficient or financially sustainable. It is unlikely that demand for on-campus mental health services would increase uncontrollably, such that university counseling and wellness services could not meet student demand, since many students would not seek treatment indefinitely. Even when psychotherapy is unlimited and free, the national estimate is that a typical adult schedules 11 sessions.24 Therefore, making additional on-campus sessions available reflects a more holistic and comprehensive approach to student mental health. Expanding university mental health services to include a fee-for-service program is key to providing the psychological care that many students need. Such a program should be implemented gradually, gauging how staffing, hours, and services should change to adequately accommodate students seeking care beyond the current session cap. The program can be adapted to each institution, based on university-specific data on student demand and costs. To encourage widespread adoption, this approach to on-campus psychological care could be incentivized and supported financially by state and federal governments. Importantly, a fee-for-service program, supplemented by already-established student health fees, is a financially sustainable solution to the problem of limited and insufficient mental health services at many institutions of higher learning. Recommendation #2: Improve and expand insurance coverage of mental illness and addiction. With regard to insurance, parity signifies that an insurer must provide coverage of mental and physical health equally, without extra fees or restrictions for mental health services. For instance, an insurance plan may cover up to 75 percent of a visit to a general physician but only 40 percent of a visit to a psychologist. It is well known that physical health and mental health are linked, and insurance should reflect this relationship. The issue of parity between medical-surgical and mental health benefits dates back to the presidency of John F. Kennedy and was supported during the Clinton administration.25 While recent progress has been made under the Obama administration to close loopholes in parity, more must be done to
Manning, W G., Wells, K B., Duan, N., Newhouse, JP. Ware, JE. How Cost Sharing Affects the Use of Ambulatory Mental Health Services. The Journal of the American Medical Association.1986; 256(14): 1930-1934. 25 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Obama Administration Issues Rules Requiring Parity in Treatment of Mental, Substance Use Disorders. January 3, 2011. http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2010pres/01/20100129a.html (accessed January 5, 2013).
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close the gap in coverage and protect citizens suffering from mental illness. The Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) expanded on the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 to address disparities in coverage between medical-surgical and mental health benefits. In effect, group plans that include mental health and substance use disorder benefits can no longer demand higher patient costs compared to general medical and surgical benefits. Implementation and rulemaking for the law extended into July 2010. While this marks significant progress in lowering institutional barriers to citizens receiving necessary mental health care, there is much room for improvement. There are four main issues that remain unresolved by MHPAEA. First, parity means little if the insurance plans coverage is minimal. Second, many psychiatrists and psychologists do not accept insurance at all, though no data exists on the extent of this problem.26 Third, employers are not required to provide a mental health benefit, although an estimated 85 percent of employers currently provide the benefit.27 Lastly, MHPAEA does not apply to individual plans, nor does it cover group plans for employers with fewer than 50 employees. Several policy changes are necessary to expand coverage, increase parity, and render mental health care more accessible and affordable. Policy solutions include establishing a minimum level of mental health coverage, applying mental health parity laws to individual plans and group plans of employers with fewer than 50 employees, and mandating that private mental health practices accept a minimum amount of third-party payment. The Affordable Care Act made strides in expanding basic and minimum levels of coverage, which increased access to mental health care when parity regulations took effect. The second concern has not yet been comprehensively addressed. Many mental health professionals do not accept any form of insurance, and this policy forces the patient to file individual claims with the insurer. Often, the insurer will classify the psychiatrist or psychologist as out-of-network and will reimburse little to nothing. Psychiatrists in private practice use this policy to have greater control in setting their own fee (as opposed to the Usual and Customary fee set by the insurer) and in collecting payments. Citizens with insurance that severely restricts which mental health professionals are in-network or those without the means to front the money for each session will be hard-pressed to access sufficient mental health care. An effort to increase cooperation and interchange between mental health professionals and insurers can be initiated by legislation that requires certain mental health providers to accept a minimum level of insurance and work with insurers directly. To tackle the third issue, positive tax incentives and monetary penalties should be considered to encourage employers to offer mental health and addiction benefits. Existing parity laws will effectively establish a reasonable level of mental health coverage in this scenario. With regard to the lack of parity in small group and individual plans, new legislation should be proposed to address loopholes for employers with fewer than 50
Lieber, R. Walking the Tightrope on Mental Health Coverage. The New York Times. December 21, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/22/your-money/walking-the-tightrope-on-mental-health-coverage.html (accessed January 5, 2013). 27 Lieber, R. Walking the Tightrope on Mental Health Coverage. The New York Times. December 21, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/22/your-money/walking-the-tightrope-on-mental-health-coverage.html (accessed January 5, 2013).
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employees in addition to individual plans. Across-the-board parity will greatly expand access to mental health services. Nevertheless, these policy fixes would likely be met with opposition. Challengers may argue that additional requirements will burden employers and will drive employers to drop or reduce health insurance coverage. This concern is mitigated by the fact that just 2 percent of employers dropped coverage of mental health and substance abuse following implementation of MHPAEA.28 Legislators must push for expanded parity to eliminate the institutional shift of burden onto citizens suffering from mental illness. Recommendation #3: Pass and expand the Mental Health First Aid and Higher Education Act. Mental Health First Aid is a training program to promote mental health literacy, response training, de-stigmatization of mental illness, and access to mental health care. The training was developed in 2001 and has been integrated into programs in over a dozen countries. Additionally, research has supported the positive impact of the program. One study found that Mental Health First Aid trainees have greater confidence in providing help to others, greater likelihood of advising people to seek professional help, improved concordance with health professionals about treatments, and decreased stigmatizing attitudes. The study also found that the program improved the mental health of the trainees themselves.29 In 2012, the Mental Health First Aid and Higher Education Act was introduced to carry out a 5-year demonstration program to fund mental health first aid training programs at 10 institutions of higher education to improve student mental health.30 The bill intended to provide training to safely de-escalate crisis situations, recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness, and refer at-risk individuals to mental health services. The latter objective was intended both to help avoid costly mental health care down the road and to assist the student in pursuing a degree. Training is especially important for school personnel including faculty members, dormitory resident advisers, academic advisers, on-campus counselors, and disciplinary committees who are in a position to more easily recognize signs of mental illness. However, the bill was referred to committee and hit a dead end. Mental Health First Aid programs effectively educate citizens, and this education will break down cultural barriers and minimize the stigma associated with accessing mental health care. It is critical that the bill be re-introduced, perhaps with a larger scope than a five-year demonstration program at a strictly limited number of universities. Grants could be made available for universities and high schools that wish to implement the training program or integrate it into their curricula.

U.S. Government Accountability Office. Mental Health and Substance Use: Employers' Insurance Coverage Maintained or Enhanced Since Parity Act, but Effect of Coverage on Enrollees Varied. November 30, 2011. http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-63 (accessed January 6, 2013). 29 National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. Mental Health First Aid USA: FAQs 2009. http://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/cs/faqs (accessed January 6, 2013). 30 Congress.gov. H.R. 5996 Mental Health First Aid Higher Education Act of 2012. June 21, 2012. http://beta.congress.gov/bill/112th-congress/house-bill/5996/text (accessed January 6, 2013).
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Still, implementing a large-scale Mental Health First Aid campaign could prove costly. Investing in staff capable of teaching Mental Health First Aid would provide a more sustainable method of providing training to both staff and students. At a minimum, emphasizing mental health education in curricula is a less attractive but likely less expensive alternative. Mental Health First Aid is but one preventive program that can effectively increase mental health literacy and early intervention while decreasing stigma and cultural barriers. Funding and resources should be allocated to unroll Mental Health First Aid and to develop and investigate additional programs with like objectives. Mental health is a crucial component of policy addressing mass violence prevention. Moreover, institutional barriers to access of mental health services must be removed to ensure this objective. Legislation should be used to expand mental health care at our universities, to increase parity in health insurance, and to improve mental health literacy and education. These policy solutions are necessary to guarantee citizens the health care they need and to prevent tragedies.

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MISAPPROPRIATED BLAME: IMPACT OF VIDEO GAMES


During the NRAs press conference, held after the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, CEO Wayne LaPierre pointed to violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse as playing a significant role in the disturbed mindset of shooters like Adam Lanza.31 This argument is nothing new an obsession with violent video games has become part of the standard media depiction of a mass shooter. News coverage in the aftermath of the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings emphasized that the perpetrators were frequent players of violent video games, a claim which turned out to be false in the case of the Virginia Tech shooter.32 Despite the frequency with which this argument is pushed forward, however, evidence suggests a total absence of correlation. Rates of youth violence have declined as sales of video games have steadily increased.33 The Netherlands, South Korea, and France all spend more money per capita on video games than America does, and yet have far lower levels of gun homicide, let alone mass shootings. A Secret Service study conducted after Columbine concluded that there was no profile of a typical school shooter, and dismissed the argument that violent culture is linked to mass shooting. This study found that while almost 95 percent of young men, the demographic that includes almost all mass shooters, played violent video games, only 59 percent of mass shooters displayed any interest in any violent media, a broad term that encompasses violent movies and militant political tracts like Mein Kampf as well as video games, and only 12 percent of mass shooters played violent video games.34 If policymakers focus on regulating violent video games as a means of preventing mass shootings, they will be neglecting real action in order to pander to inaccurate public perceptions and will be acting in direct opposition to Supreme Court precedent, which has declared video game violence to be a protected form of artistic expression.35 While the cultural value of video game violence is debatable, what is proven is that this violence does not lead to mass shootings. Using it as a scapegoat to avoid meaningful action is simply unacceptable given the weight of the available evidence.

Daily News. Full text of remarks from National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre on gun control debate one week after Newtown school shooting tragedy. December 21, 2012. (accessed January 3, 2013). 32 Ferguson, C J. The School Shooting/Violent Video Game Link: Casual Link or Moral Panic? Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling. 2008. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. (accessed January 3, 2013). 33 Ferguson. 34 Griffiths, M. D. and Hunt, N. (1995), Computer game playing in adolescence: Prevalence and demographic indicators. J. Community. Appl. Soc. Psychol., 5: 189193. doi: 10.1002/casp.2450050307; Vossekuil, B., Fein, R., Reddy, M., Borum, R., & Modzeleski, W., The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program and U.S. Secret Service, National Threat Assessment Center, Washington, D.C., 2002. 35 564 U.S. No. 08-1448. (2011). June 27, 2011.
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ROLE OF MEDIA & PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT


At the NRAs press conference on December 21st, CEO Wayne LaPierre told Americans that the solution to the United States penchant for gun violence involved heightened school security efforts and directly challenging mass medias wall-to-wall coverage of criminals, which leads to copycat violence. To LaPierre, the medias treatment of mass shootings as veritable feeding frenzies combined with the myriad of violent video games available for purchase are indicative of a society that sanctions grisly homicides and terrorist attacks. Setting aside the NRAs use of this observation as a justification for extreme school policing, there is something of value in its dramatization of the United States gun violence: an understanding of the medias role in Americas culture of structural violence, the sort of continued violence perpetuated by educational, governmental, and social institutions in the United States year after year, in community after community. This analysis is far from an attempt to forget, ignore, or demean the suffering of Newtown, Connecticut. Rather, it is an attempt to place the violence of this past December within a larger societal context that connects with trends in modern policing and social policy. The culture of structural violence at work in the United States is multidimensional and difficult to define. In sum, it concerns the sustained marginalization of specific social groups from work, housing, and full participation in society through violent, institutional, or sociohistorical means. For an example, structural violence could describe the policies that have led one-third of black men between 18 and 25 to be incarcerated or on parole in the United States.36 In an international context, structural violence could describe the ongoing Palestinian refugee crisis in Lebanon, Jordan, and around the world which has impacted five million UN-registered refugees.37 Within the scope of this document, American structural violence will be viewed as all structures propagating inequalities of violence distribution and the prevalence of overall gun violence in our communities. Empowering media, academic, elected, and civil society leaders to expose and work to combat structural violence seems like the transformative change needed, then, to redefine Americas relationship to violence and the strength of its communities. It seems unlikely that the current paradigm will change drastically over the next several years. Indeed, it appears that Americans are more than content to focus their attention on individual acts of violence rather than a sustained analysis of the root causes of violence in society, including poverty, homelessness, lack of affordable health care and access to preventative medicine, and discrimination in the workplace. What concerned Americans can do today to move society incrementally toward a sustainable change in representations of violence is to hold media and public officials to a higher standard of reporting and debate. A more suitable policy for addressing structural violence would call into question the visible and invisible sources of systemic oppression in society. While this could take many forms, inciting discussions in the national media and in the debates of elected officials over how to promote mediation, compromise, and more meaningful alternatives to incarceration are the

Davis, A Y. Are Prisons Obsolete? an Open Media Book. New York: Seven Stories, 2010. Print. "About UNRWA." United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East. UNWRA, n.d. Web. 28 Dec. 2012.
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beginnings of any sustainable conversation. Several recommendations that could move us toward this state of affairs are outlined below: Recommendation #1: Reclaim the public voice. It is unrealistic for Americans to assume that every piece of information they get from media outlets is unfiltered, objective truth. Rather than engage in discussions of the relative bias of different anchors or corporations, Americans must push for increased funding of public programs that can afford to take on long, meaty stories that teach rather than entertain. These documentaries, mini-series, and extended reports would be the proper location for discussions of structural violence that could be distributed widely and serve to inform a public debate. Recommendation #2: Frame the debate for gun control as a campaign against violence. Violence takes many forms. This moment of public discourse on gun control is a prime moment for American society to dive into a conversation about what we feel violence encompasses and how we work to legislate security for all rather than simply the ability to not be shot. The emphasis of this framework should be on prevention rather than reaction. Gun violence should not be viewed or acted upon as a cause of societal disruption, but as a symptom of societal disruption and governmental failure. Not only would this give voters an expanded view of what conditions encourage and perpetuate gun violence, it would also open up the discussion to the realm of alternative solutions of conflict resolution beyond the necessary regulation of firearms and ammunition. Recommendation #3: Direct our concerns toward victims and healing. The complaint that the media directs its coverage of gun violence against the perpetrator is a valid concern. In the immediate aftermath of the recent shooting in Connecticut, we did not see an effort to report on the individuals victimized by the attacks to the same degree as we learned intimate details about the killer, his family, and the ways that he was or was not drawn to such a violent crime. We ought to attempt to refocus this coverage in order to amplify communities efforts to heal, debate, and move toward healthier relationships.

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CONCLUSIONS
This task force recognizes that the perspectives presented are not indicative of the entirety of the Millennial generation. Instead, these recommendations represent the nuanced yet common-sense approach epitomized by progressive Millennials and young people. While no one solution is favored, the task forces recommendations clearly emphasize that the freedom of the gun owner should not supersede the freedom of another person to live without fear. Furthermore, the recommendations included in this document are practical, implementable, and viable in the current political climate, and are essential to resolving the epidemic of gun violence in the United States. While the stringent regulation of firearms and the trade and ownership of such products is necessary to building safer communities, consideration of mental health, media, and cultural factors should augment any policy overhauls. This report acknowledges that there are abstract battles yet to be fought in regard to the perpetuation of a culture of violence, particularly in disadvantaged communities, but there is room for prompt and powerful action by Congress and other legislators. Measures such as banning semi-assault weapons, requiring background checks in all sales of firearms, and insuring greater access to mental health care are necessary, foundational moves in establishing public safety. The preventable violence of the mass killing spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School shocked our nation. Unfortunately, it was not an isolated incident, as the earlier 2012 mass shootings in movie theaters and nail salons demonstrated. The horrifying events of Sandy Hook need not to be replicated in any other community. By taking comprehensive and confident steps toward firearms regulation, improved mental health care, and cultural discourse on this subject, the United States can drastically reduce if not eliminate gun violence.

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APPENDIX: TIMELINE OF KEY EVENTS

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TASK FORCE MEMBERS


The following individuals participated in the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Networks task force, developing concrete policy recommendations to curb gun violence in the United States:

Jamira Burley, Temple University Ryan Dahrouge, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Grant Heskamp, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Brian Jencunas, Wheaton College Adam Jutha, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Erik Lampmann, University of Richmond Hannah Locke, Goucher College Elizabeth Schroeder, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Support from: Taylor Jo Isenberg, Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network New York City Office Tim Price, Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network New York City Office Alan Smith, Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network New York City Office

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