Roundtable: Mental health must be part of gun discussion

(CBS News) Just two days after a gunman killed 27 people - 20 of them children - in Newtown, Conn., participants in a roundtable discussion on CBS News' "Face the Nation" said that the nation's discussion about gun control must also include talk about mental health services.

"I do think we have to talk about the culture of violence, and mental health, and resourcing mental health in a way that de-stigmatize[s] it and educate young people, especially, the violence that guns can produce but the mental health issues that surround some of these horrific incidents," James Peterson, professor at LeHigh University said.

"The mental health community needs to step up in a kind of way and figure out a way to keep the guns of the hands of people they know to be dangerous," The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg said. "We have a terrible problem. The vector is easy access to guns and dangerously mentally ill people."

Dan Gross with the Brady Campaign, a pro-gun control advocacy group, agrees that gun licensing requirements must be more stringent. "Forty percent of all gun sales in our country don't require any background checks whatsoever," he said. "It has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. It has nothing to be with law-abiding citizens owning guns."

David Frum, writer for The Daily Beast and a former George W. Bush speechwriter, said the American people, not the president, should lead any potential debate over gun control. "The president's role here will not be helpful. The more this becomes an issue of conventional politics the more it is doomed to failure," he said, adding that "the more presidential leadership, the less successful."

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Gross, with the Brady Campaign, disagreed. He said the president has an important role to play.

"The overwhelming majority of Americans who support sensible laws were very heartened to hear the president come out and inspired to hear him come out and say we need meaningful action," he said.

Goldberg said the most prominent gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, has successfully scared people about the president's position on guns: "[T]he president is fairly moderate on the issue, despite what the NRA says. The NRA says he will take your guns."

Representatives from the NRA declined requests to appear on the program.

"I have the sneaking suspicion that we'll be back to business-as-usual, in part because the NRA's power is huge," Goldberg added.

"This nation wants change. We want to have a sensible conversation, and the only place that sensible conversation isn't happening is in the halls of Congress," Gross said.

The Brady Campaign is sponsoring family members of victims from other mass shootings - Columbine, Virginia Tech and Aurora - to Washington, D.C., Tuesday to lobby Congress in favor of stricter gun laws.

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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