KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Although the city of Lewiston, Maine is over 1,000 miles away from East Tennessee, any mass shooting ignites talks of public safety.
Wednesday night’s mass shooting in Maine marks the country’s 565th this year. Gun laws are back to being talked about along with the role mental health plays in these incidents.
“The challenge that we face in 2023 is that we have a mental health crisis like we have never experienced in our country,” State Representative Jason Zachary said.
There are some laws already in place in Tennessee that prevent certain people from owning guns.
“In Tennessee, if that had happened and you were mentally adjudicated defective or you’re involuntarily committed, you aren’t allowed to possess a firearm,” Zachary said. “It’s important that the laws we have on the books are enforced because many people in Tennessee don’t realize we have those laws in the books today. So, if you are mentally adjudicated defective or you’re involuntarily committed you cannot possess a weapon.”
One thing WATE legal analyst Greg Isaacs has noticed is how much more effort is being poured into mental health.
“That’s what we are seeing is a trend, not to limit firearms but to focus on understanding mental health and how it factors into situations like this,” Isaacs said.
While there are laws saying you can’t own a firearm after being committed, one representative said more can be done to make sure everyone is safe and guns are stored in a safe manner.
“We need a law that says ‘you have to store your gun safely and if you don’t there can be penalties,” State Representative Gloria Johnson said. “Red Flag laws are a great way to temporarily remove guns when someone is in crisis. Universal background checks and including anything that is a mental health flag.”
In Tennessee alone this year, there have been three mass shootings. While mental health is being looked at harder, Johnson said we still need to look at the issue of guns.
Before the pandemic, 18% of Tennesseans suffered from mental health problems. According to the Department of Mental Health, that number has risen to 30%. That’s why Zachary said it’s important to reach out to those around you.
If you or someone you know needs help, don’t hesitate to reach out to the National Crisis Hotline by calling or texting 988.