More mental hospital beds are important. Professor Steven P. Segal’s 2011 study demonstrated that you can reduce murder rates simply by making more psychiatric beds available.
Making it easier to involuntarily commit people with serious mental illness problems matters even more: 27% of the state-to-state variation in murder rates can be explained by this difference alone.
Fixing the broken system for reporting of involuntary commitments would help a lot. Most states are still not reporting involuntary commitments to the national background check system, or are reporting so few that they might as well not bother. Someone who is involuntarily committed in, say, California can no longer pass the background check system there – but this person can simply move to another state. The national background check system will not know about that involuntary commitment in California.
Unfortunately, some of the most fiercely anti-gun states — like Massachusetts and California — are dragging their feet on a reporting requirement. This matters, because people with serious paranoia problems seem to move around a lot.
What was the last success the gun control movement had at the national level? Reforms to the current background check system relative to mental illness passed in 2007 after Virginia Tech, with the support of the NRA.
If the gun control movement really wants to do something about these tragedies, why do they keep banging their head against the wall with proposals that cannot seem to pass even with a monstrous, heart-wrenching tragedy like Newtown in play?
They should focus on the core problem here: people with serious mental illness who need hospitalization, even if it is involuntary.