Firearms have always been a part of this country′s existence. Without them, the United States of America might not exist at all. They are a tool that has been used throughout history in order for people to protect themselves and the things that they own. But there are days like this past Friday, when 26 people, 20 of which were children, were killed in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, which shine light on a gun control debate that has been going on in the United States almost as long as firearms have been in existence.

Sadly, incidents such as the one that happened in Connecticut are far too common in our country. From the Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007 to the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999, we have seen plenty of incidents when the wrong people get their hands on firearms and use them to commit terrible crimes. But should we be worried about our state laws that allow these types of weapons to be purchased with ease? Or should we be working on a way to get those who are mentally unstable the help that they need in order to live a happy life?

Rules and regulations on how to obtain a firearm vary from state to state. In the state of New York, a handgun can be purchased by someone who is 21 years of age or older and has a valid registration and license. However, you can be 18 years old and purchase a shotgun or rifle; and neither firearm requires registration or a license in order to be purchased. A background check is performed at the time of purchase in order to make sure there are no outstanding warrants or past crimes which can prevent the person from owning a firearm. New York has the most strict gun control policies in the country.

In states like Alaska and Connecticut, neither shotguns nor rifles require a permit in order to be purchased. Handguns are the only firearm in Connecticut that requires a state permit. Alaska even allows anyone to openly carry a firearm without any form of documentation.

But what about the people that commit these crimes? Of course, background checks are performed, but many of the people that would perform such a terrible act on innocent people were never diagnosed with any mental illnesses. After the deinstitutionalization of mental institutions in the 20th century, many people are not being diagnosed for their problems, and are not receiving the help that they need in order to live a normal life. The transition from government-run mental hospitals to community-based alternatives are also preventing many people from receiving the amount of medical attention that they need.

President Obama has been trying to renew a ban on assault weapons in the United States. And after the massacre in Connecticut, it seems as though we will succeed in removing unnecessary firepower from free distribution. In the end, we need to take a step back and look at our country′s firearm laws to make sure they are as strong as possible for preventing weapons from getting in the hands of the wrong people. We also need to look at those who would do such a terrible thing, and make sure that they are receiving the help they deserve.

Hopefully, in our lifetime, we come to a conclusion that takes unnecessary weaponry off the streets, and also helps those who are in need of proper treatment.