Chief: We need to have discussion about mental health and guns

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ATLANTA - The shootings in Aurora, Colo., Sandy Hook Elementary, the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. -- they all have one thing in common. The person accused of the crimes had mental health issues, according to police.

DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander has a Ph.D. in psychology.

Less than six months after he took over as chief, his department handled a case that could have ended as tragically as the infamous mass shootings that have been in the news the past few years.

The chief said Michael Brandon Hill walked into McNair Discovery Academy, in DeKalb, with an AK-47. He fired shots, but no one was injured. Police say Hill told them he was off his medications.

"Citizens in this country have the Second Amendment right to own and bear arms; that's not the issue for me. The issue is who's getting ahold of these weapons," Alexander said.

A recent Gallup Poll showed 48 percent of Americans blamed the mental health system for mass shootings. That was even higher than the 46 percent who blamed easy access to guns.

Bonnie Kate Pourciau has reason to be wary of guns. She was a victim in the Aurora, Colo., shooting. Yet she said she is a firm believer in the right to bear arms.

"We hunt and use guns and have them for protection and things like that, and I think that's important, and I know what it boils down to is it's the person holding the gun that does it," said Poreau.

Alexander said he doesn't know the answer to how to deal with the mental health component of the gun debate. But he does know what will happen if Americans don't start having serious discussions about it.

"It's not a matter of if it's going to happen, it's a matter when, and that's the sad part. But we've got to get our arms around this. We've got to start having conversations," Alexander said.