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I May Be Coming for Your Guns

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Just keep your pants on, and your weapons holstered. Hear me out.

I favor gun ownership, I do. I grew up in a family of proud recreational and subsistence hunters, in a state where gun ownership was accepted and expected, and all kids took gun safety classes at public schools in the 4th grade. Somewhere I’ve got the iron-on patch to prove it.

So I favor gun ownership. Personally, I do think wanting to own a semiautomatic or automatic weapon for fun is ridiculous, especially when factoring in the scary “what if’s” of it falling into the wrong hands, but that is my highly subjective opinion. I also think effective gun legislation is a good thing for all of us.

But I would give up every possible gun law, every background check and every restriction on large capacity magazines if all related effort and resources on both sides could be dedicated to treatment and prevention of mental illness. Because the gun lobby is right (yep, I went there, probably the ONLY time in my life). There will always be criminals who kill each other and the occasional innocent bystander in the act of living their criminal lives. And those criminals will always find a way around a background check or reasonable waiting period. And if they can’t find a gun, they’ll find something else.

The nature of the human condition pretty much guarantees that there will always be domestic violence, angry flares between spouses or friends, and coldly calculated murders of one person by another for money or power. If there are no guns handy, other weapons will be and have been found since the beginning of time. Club, blade, poison, shovel – if determined, people will kill people.

But here is what we DON’T have to accept. We don’t have to accept young men with empty eyes and mental illness untreated and/or unrecognized by family and friends, allowed to ferment in an ugly, lonely brew of paranoia and anger.

Far too many times in recent months and years, we have looked at the newspaper photos, and heard a disturbingly similar set of quotes from family and friends. There were warning signs, they were worried, they never thought he would go that far.

Why aren’t we more heartbroken by these shattered souls? Why do we continue in blind partisan arguments about gun control while tacitly accepting that the shooters are beyond saving? Why is it still so ridiculously difficult for families to access prompt, effective and complete treatment for loved ones with serious mental illness?

If we won’t help these boys, if we can’t commit to recognizing them and helping them, then I am coming for your guns.

If we cannot change our societal approach to these lost young men, I am going to fight to take away their weapons of mass murder. If in the process I trample on your “right” to have your toys, or to buy more toys on a weekend trip to a gun show, so be it.

Because if we don’t, these lost boys will kill as many people as they can. If we will not fight to make them better, I WILL fight to limit the damages. Because people may kill people, but really big guns let them kill more people, and that’s not ok.

Do you hear me? That. Is. Not. OK.

If we cannot look the next victim’s mother or son or girlfriend or little brother in the eye and tell them we did everything in our power to treat the shooter, then we BETTER be able to say we made it as difficult as possible for them to wield high capacity weapons.

If a person is determined to run you over with a car, you do not make it easy for him to get an SUV or a tank.

If Adam Lanza had only had a handgun, he would have been able to kill far fewer six- and seven-year-olds at Sandy Hook.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it isn’t just about the guns. If Jared Loughner’s parents had been more educated on mental illness, on its treatment and the fact that there was help and hope for their son, maybe he would have been diagnosed and treated BEFORE shooting Gabrielle Giffords and nearly 20 others.

It’s also about how we MUST break the stigma of living with and treating mental illness:
  • We must prioritize it as a public health issue, not a private shame.
  • We must change the way we parent in our communities, so when families are struggling with kids with mental illness, we reach out to them in love, not judgment.
  • We must be willing to see mental illness in our own children, and treat them.
  • We must fund treatment for those who need it.
  • We must fund supportive housing to make it possible for them to stay stable once they are treated.

They are His children and they deserve our best, before they can do their worst.

When we’ve done all that, then you can have your guns, as many and as big as you want.
Note: I drafted this post six months ago, frustrated by reports that both Adam Lanza’s mother and Jared Loughner’s parents seemed aware of their son’s issues, but for whatever reasons were unable or unwilling to get them help. I was driven imagining the loss and heartbreak of both victims’ and shooters’ family, but I was never sure when to post these thoughts so as not to exploit any particular event or victims. In that six-month period, through last Monday’s shooting in the Washington DC Navy Yards, there have been 13 separate mass shootings, resulting in the senseless loss of 65 lives. While I don’t know how many of those shooters were mentally ill, I believe that all of them were to some degree. It seems that in America, there is no “good” time to post this.
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5 responses »

  1. Tara this is a Very hard topic, guns I am happy to say are left to the farmers and the professional gun clubs in Australia. Having said that if someone wants one I am sure it is easy to get with the right amount of money and contacts on the black market. Mental health is a tough one too, some folks just don’t get how sick their child or family member is until after this sort of thing happens. There are no simple answers but there needs to be some action to save innocent lives.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment! It does seem like saving lives would make it worth finding the solutions, even when they aren’t easy. I think part of the answer must be helping people see there is help earlier, yes?

      Reply
      • I agree Tara I have a child with special needs I try to help him with the things he cannot cope with, if i can’t I go through the professionals and take their advice. It has been my saviour. Many people don’t do this in fear of the phobias built around psychologists etc I would be lost without mine.

  2. New health care regulations require that health insurance policies include mental health coverage – a step in the right direction!

    Reply

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