I try to not make this blog overly political. In fact, I don’t like politics at all. (Funny that I work in our capital, isn’t it?) Mainly because it seems that everyone has an opinion and no one will allow that opinion to be swayed (which would explain the deadlock in Congress). Of course, one of the great things about this country is that we have the right to our opinions. But something’s got to change.
There have been a lot of conversations on gun control after the horrible tragedy in Newtown. I don’t know where I stand on that. I grew up in an area where hunting was the norm. No one in my family hunts, but I have no problem with it. I don’t want to go hunting, but if you do, go right ahead. I knew families who relied on that deer for food for the winter.
I don’t know how I feel about handguns, but all I can say is that if you feel the need to have one in your home, then that’s fine. I don’t think I want one, but I don’t know what I would do if I were dating someone who kept a gun in his home. I just don’t know where I stand.
Assault rifles though… why do we need them? Something that will fire multiple bullets that quickly and make it easy to kill? What purpose does that serve? Obviously, I understand why they belong in the military, and even though I hate the implication, I understand why they exist for law enforcement. But why do we need them in the home? Clearly you’re not going hunting with them. And if you are, you really need to rethink why you’re hunting.
I’m open to opinions on this one, mainly because I just don’t understand. If you have an assault rifle or support the right to have one, explain to me why. But don’t use the slippery slope argument. I see that one and I think we have to get past it. I understand the belief that if “they” take one type of gun, next they’ll take all the guns. I just don’t think that will happen. And don’t give me the Constitutional argument. That gives us the right to guns, not the specific right to assault rifles.
Interestingly, I didn’t set out to write about gun control in this post. Gun control is the big discussion right now, and I wanted to focus on the other discussion that is getting less attention – mental illness.
I recently read a post from a mother of a child with serious mental illness. (If you didn’t click that link, do it. Trust me, it’s worth the read.) Now, we don’t necessarily know the details of the Newtown shooter’s situation, but there have been comments made that he exhibited signs of mental illness. (Unfortunately, he was also allegedly diagnosed with Aspergers, which has no specific link to violence and this situation is just going to add to the stigma for those with Aspergers and other diagnoses on the Autism spectrum.) Personally, I think one of those signs of mental illness is the fact that he went and shot up an elementary school classroom.
We don’t understand why he did it. We can’t understand why he did it. And we probably never will. But we need to do what we can to prevent it happening again, and that solution does not just deal with guns.
We need to have a serious conversation in this country about mental illness. We need to figure out how to help these people. (Michael Schofield has a daughter with schizophrenia and wrote a great post about this over the weekend.)
Now, I’m not saying that people with mental illness are violent. Frequently, they aren’t. And so we can’t lump everyone together. Heck, I’ve struggled with panic disorder. Does that lump me in with someone like this?
Keeping guns away from those with mental illness isn’t a solution. How would we do that in the first place? In this situation, it seems that the killer took his mother’s guns, and she owned them legally. A law preventing people with mental illness from owning guns would have had zero effect in this situation.
We need better services for the mentally ill. States are closing facilities. Insurance programs are refusing to cover treatments. Families without insurance have incredibly few options. And I’m not just talking about situations where the person is violent. I’m talking about options for people with all types of mental illness – depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, even eating disorders and everything else in between.
We don’t like to talk about mental illness. It’s one of those things that people whisper about. There is such an awful stigma attached to it, possibly because of situations like this. But it’s a description that encompasses a wide variety of symptoms and diagnoses and it’s time we stop ignoring them. Would this have prevented last week’s tragedy? We will never know. But that shouldn’t stop us from making a change so desperately needed.