Examining Newtown: Battle Brews on Guns, Mental Health

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All mass shooting tragedies spark gun debates -- who should have guns and what types.

But the tragedy in Newtown coming on the heels of too many others with young victims is sparking a debate neither the White House nor Congress expected.

President Obama has promised to use the power of his office to push for a ban on the sale of assault rifles. Legislation is expected to be introduced in Congress next month.

"It will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation, and the possession -- not retroactively but prospectively and it will ban the same for the big clips, drums, or strips of bullets," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said.

Please join us in praying for the families and parents in Connecticut who have lost their children and loved ones. Share your prayers on CBN's on Pray for Newtown, special page.

The president also wants to close the so-called gun show loophole that allows the private sale of guns without background checks on buyers.

Meanwhile, new polling suggests the national mood on guns may be shifting. A CBS survey taken after the Newtown shootings reveals an 18-point increase in support for stricter gun laws compared to a poll from April.

Gun control advocates are seizing the moment, protesting outside the National Rifle Association headquarters and applying pressure on Capitol Hill.

"Every year in America 100,000 Americans are shot," Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said.

It's a statistic Virginia Tech shooting survivor Colin Goddard is intimately acquainted with.

"I was shot four times on the morning of April 16, 2007 at Virginia Tech. I survived. I'm here for the 32 who didn't," he said.

The other wrinkle in both the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook massacres: shooters with histories of mental health problems.

"I think we absolutely should talk about the intersection of a lethal weapon and it relates to mental health," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Nev., said.

Five years after Virginia Tech massacre, 20 states still don't require a potential gun buyers' mental health history to go to the national background check system.

According to doctors, 34 percent of Americans will have a significant mental health issue this year. Over the course of their lives that number will rise to 61 percent.

And for many Americans, especially in rural areas, adequate care is a challenge.

"Just the number of people who struggle with anxiety and depression alone are enough to say we need to do a better job in the mental health system. We need to be better at identifying people," Family therapist Dr. Linda Mintle said.

Dr. Mintle said it's hard to predict which patients will act out on violence impulses.

On Tuesday, the NRA finally broke its silence.

"Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer, and a full investigation of the facts before commenting," The NRA said in a statement. "The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."

Some state leaders, like Texas Gov. Rick Perry, suggested school districts be allowed to decide whether teachers can carry concealed handguns.

It's a complex issue expected to get the full federal treatment in the New Year.

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CBN News
Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.