Yesterday afternoon I was listening to a talk radio program and one of the on-air personalities made a comment that I found to be very simplistic and, at the same time, inflammatory. So, I guess it’s time I stick my neck out there and get involved with some controversy.
First, let me say that I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican (and no, that doesn’t mean I am with the Tea Party, or any of the other smaller parties). I am simply an unaffiliated voter. So, how would I classify my political views and what has been my political influence? Well, I am the biological offspring of a Democrat and a Republican. There are two places in the world that I would consider Home: western Colorado and Portland, Oregon. Having spent most of my time in a small town I would say that I am more strongly influenced by my experiences here. And so, I would consider myself a conservative with liberal tendencies (though some of my very conservative friends might call me a liberal with conservative tendencies…either way). I prefer to vote according to the issues and what I personally feel is important, I don’t agree that any one political party or group of people know what is the best in every situation. Nor do I believe that politician’s really have the best interests of their constituency in mind.
So, back to the radio program that inspired me to forge ahead and put my beliefs out there for the world to pick apart. During this program the host and her guests or co-hosts were discussing the recent and sudden increase in suicide rates for males in their 30 and 40′s. One of the women stated (and this isn’t an exact quote as I was caught off guard by the comment), that this is what the “gun nuts” (that part would be a direct quote) don’t understand, that they just want more guns available without taking into consideration things like suicide. I find it appalling that she would make such an off hand remark. Suicide is a terrible epidemic and it is tragic that a person gets to such a desperate point that taking their own life seems to be the only answer. But, you can’t throw suicide into the pile of arguments being used in an attempt to further gun control measures. Removing and or controlling guns won’t stop suicide, there are far to many methods by which someone can accomplish it once they’ve made that decision.
One of the arguments they brought up is that there need to be checks, before a person is allowed to purchase a gun, that would identify people who are undergoing psychiatric treatment for depression (as well as other psychiatric diagnoses). The problem with this argument is that you would be allowing the government to access your private, health-related records, and impose limits on your civil liberties based on the information they find. That might seem like a perfect answer when dealing with people who are suicidal or have murderous intent, but those people can’t always be identified. And, where does this “profiling” stop? Do we allow a limit on the number of prescribed pain medications for a person who has been treated for depression? That would prevent an overdose, even if the intent doesn’t currently exist. Perhaps the government would then see fit to prohibit alcoholics from obtaining a driver’s license in an effort to reduce alcohol related automobile fatalities. What if you were diagnosed with a terminal illness? Could someone tell from your medical or psychiatric records if you were buying a weapon in order to commit suicide or simply because your grandfather had been an excellent marksman and you’d always wanted to learn to shoot as well?
I know, some of these examples seem to be ridiculous. “That would never happen,” you might chuckle to yourself, while shaking your head at my reactionary imaginings. The thing is, we never imagined that our right to bear arms would be infringed on either. Doesn’t it say, right there in the Second Amendment to our Constitution, that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”?
Am I a “gun nut’? Well, I own guns. In my home there are a number of handguns and rifles. For the record, I am a responsible gun-owner. My weapons are kept in a safe so that my children can’t play with them. I do own guns that have been described as (and no, they are not created, marketed or purchased as) “assault rifles”. Do I need these guns? At this time I don’t have a need for them. I am not even a hunter (and, for the record, our right to bear arms isn’t a right to bear arms in order to hunt!). So, why do I have them? Well, I enjoy going out with my family to shoot. We are taking the opportunity to teach our children to have a healthy respect for and understanding of guns. Typically, when we go shooting, it involves several generations and/or extended family and friends getting together and bonding over a shared interest. Sometimes we shoot at targets and sometimes we just shoot the shit out of some cans. And, it’s fun!
In addition to target shooting we have guns for self-defense. While we aren’t exactly Doomsday Preppers, we are fully capable of defending our home and children at any time. If we needed to hunt for food, and I know people who fell on hard times and were only able to feed their families because of the meat they hunted themselves, we could do that as well.
So, yes, I have guns, but I don’t think of myself as a “gun nut”. I cried for days after Sandy Hook, and every time I see a picture of one of those beautiful people who’s lives were taken. But, I firmly believe that the change that needs to come in order to reduce gun violence and suicide is a change in our mental health system. We need to be able to offer more acute intervention and long-term support to people who are struggling with mental health crises. I wish that more people would focus on the mental health crisis in the world than on weapons. Guns are really just a tool, and we are instilling a false sense of security in our population by enacting restrictions on this one tool when there are so many others that will take its place. We need to get to the root of the problem: our broken mental health care system.