Controlling Gun Violence: Obstacles to an Effective Policy

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The more effective means of controlling the distribution of assault weapons, Winkler argues, is to improve the reporting of mental health data to the federal government, which oversees background checks.

"The biggest problem is that reporting by states of mental health rulings is voluntary, so very few states provide comprehensive data on mental health rulings to the federal government," Winkler said.

"Another problem with mental health reporting is that it's only adjudicated instances of mental health illness -- a court has to say you are mentally unfit," he said. "That's going to capture a very small percentage of the mentally ill people who are a danger to themselves and others."

But improving the reporting of mental health data is a difficult legal task in and of itself. There is an inherent difficulty in expanding existing laws in a manner that would not infringe on privacy rights.

White House press secretary Jay Carney stressed earlier this week that President Obama does not view gun control as the sole solution to the problem of gun violence in America.

The administration has not provided any specifics on other solutions the president is considering, but given the many problems in effectively controlling firearms, we should expect additional proposals, not related to gun control, to come from Washington in the coming weeks and months.

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