Ivan Lopez, a 34-year-old Iraq war veteran, went on a shooting spree on April 2 at Fort Hood in Texas. He had a psychological history of depression and anxiety, and was recently being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder. On Wednesday, Lopez used his .45 caliber handgun at the same Killeen post where the 2009 shooting occurred. He killed three people, wounded 16 and then took his own life.

Authorities say that at this time the cause for his rampage is still unclear. On that morning, Lopez went to the post’s personnel office to request a leave form. He was asked to return at a later time because there were none available. Lopez returned and opened fire in the office. The army came out with a statement saying, “We believe that the immediate precipitating factor was more likely an escalating argument,” referring to the disagreement in the office over the form.

The harsh reality is that Lopez, a war hero, soldier, son, brother, husband and father, had a psychological issue that ultimately drove him to his rampage at Fort Hood.  However, many are now looking to Congress for answers as to why someone with any mental instability on their medical records would have access to weaponry in the first place. In most cases, soldiers living on military bases are not supposed to be armed while on post. On the contrary, they are also granted the same rights that any citizen of the United States has from the second amendment—the right to bear arms. Commanders can ask soldiers who are at a psychological medical risk to hand over personal firearms. Why, then, was this not requested of Lopez?

    In an interview with Fox News, former General Jack Keane explained that there is no direct correlation between soldiers who suffer from PTSD and misconduct. In other words, they do not commit any more of these acts of violence than the general public who do not suffer from PTSD. However, PTSD was not the only psychological disorder on Lopez’s doctor’s radar. He had a history of depression and anxiety, which some of his family members connected with the recent loss of his close relatives. Lopez’s family, specifically his father, came out with a statement saying they were all “astonished and saddened” and that his son was “not in the right mind.”

Lopez was also prescribed Ambien—a sedative—to help with insomnia. Some side effects of Ambien include suicidal thoughts or actions, and change in behavior. According to CNN.com, Lopez’s psychiatrist said that when he examined Lopez last month there was, “no record of any sign of likely violence.” These “mood swings” caused by Ambien are often sudden; and, considering Lopez left no suicide note and had no prior major warning signs of angst, I feel this medication should be investigated further. Very few articles reporting on the incident mention the proposal that perhaps something he was prescribed triggered his rampage.

    Congress is now faced with the difficult question of where to draw the line when it comes to who is and who is not mentally stable enough to hold their own firearms. Is there a particular disorder that needs to be diagnosed before any weapons are taken from them? If so, what behaviors are considered “most dangerous”?  In his interview, Keane asked, “How do we identify a person who has behavioral characteristics that would potentially lead to violence?” If, in fact, there was a way to diagnose someone on a non-biased spectrum based on their threat to others, would we have to remove them from their homes as well, considering the other everyday objects that could be used as weapons? In the recent Pennsylvania high school stabbing, the attacker took knives from his kitchen and used them to brutally hurt his classmates. How can we regulate such a common household item?

    Recently, when incidents such as this one occurs, reports place their focus more on the weapon used, rather than the individual. The importance of a psychological background check desperately needs to be emphasized. Family background checks and psychological tests need to be routine when a United States citizen requests to exercise his or her second amendment rights. I believe that every citizen of this country has the right to exercise what is written in the Constitution, but with caution. Even in Texas where most people own a gun and has it on their person most times, there are strict rules practiced.  For example, before entering your workplace, you are required to check your firearm at the door.

    Unfortunately, military officials make it clear that we may never know the real reason why Lopez snapped. However, this tragic incident might have been prevented if his mental health status was more closely monitored.

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