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Rep. Louise Slaughter Headshot

Unfit to Stand Trial, Yet Fit to Have a Gun

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Earlier today, Jared Loughner, a troubled young man who is accused of shooting 20 innocent people, including my colleague, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was found unfit to stand trial for his actions.

Mr. Loughner's mental and emotional troubles have been well documented and were well known among classmates, professors and acquaintances well before Mr. Loughner opened fire on that fateful January day. Yet, despite the belief that Mr. Loughner could be a danger to himself and others, our federal laws, and our mental health system, were unable to live up to the commonsense belief that those who are mentally ill should not be able to purchase and own a gun.

Unfortunately, our nation's gun lobby and their allies in Congress refuse to have an open and honest conversation about how to protect the rights of responsible gun owners, while being equally vigilant in protecting the rights of all Americans to assemble in peace.

Congress could start by considering proposed legislation that would prohibit those on the "no fly" list from buying a gun -- something they are currently allowed to do. I've cosponsored this bipartisan legislation along with 24 colleagues (both Republicans and Democrats), yet we are still waiting for a vote on this bill.

Ultimately, our nation requires a mix of improved mental health services, improved information sharing among authorities, and a stricter control of the sale and possession of guns. Yet if we can't even debate gun control legislation in our halls of Congress, then we will never be able to ensure that our children can go to school, to church or to the local grocery store and return safely home.

Today's finding is the starkest sign yet that our nation's gun laws are broken and need to be fixed. When our nation's laws allow a troubled individual to purchase a gun, but can't hold that same person responsible for their actions, then it is clearer than ever that we need to act.

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