TW: suicide reference, last paragraph
I never wished to speak on this subject. I imagine that most would have hoped to never need to speak on this subject. After all, this country is supposed to be the beacon on a hill – something to aspire to.
The discourse in this country following a mass shooting promptly digresses into what the conservative punditry likes to refer to as a “mental health reform” issue. They even have their very own hashtag. Much to my dismay the leaders of my party for whom I have great respect, do next to nothing to push back. Gun control advocates use us as their punchline in calling for common sense regulation. “Surely, someone with a mental illness shouldn’t be able to buy a gun so easily” they say sanctimoniously. Comedians like Jimmy Kimmel go on national television to proclaim that Donald Trump is “obviously mentally ill” because he doesn’t “think we need to do anything about it”. Happy to oblige your writers in their search for the perfect insult, Jimmy. The call to action on gun control is lost in the same dialogue, every time. The definition of insanity is to repeat the same action expecting a different result, and yet here we are. Ironic, isn’t it? The people who want to throw us under the bus are by very definition, insane themselves.
Mass shootings in America are first and foremost a result of the number of guns we allow to be in the hands of those untrained and without a need for them. Yes, mental illness is a part of the problem but only so far as it pertains to the fundamental issue of access. I would argue that healthy adolescents experiencing hormonal changes are just as ill equipped to safely handle a firearm which once again points to access as the primary concern. The misplaced dialogue is only a drop in the bucket when it comes to what is so wrong about our approach to curbing gun violence. What I find most troubling is the missing seat at the table for the mental illness community.
I am passionate about this issue and would be happy to lend my voice as I am sure many of us would. Have you been asked to do so? I haven’t. We see family members of those lost speaking, first hand, to the pain they experience. These very same advocates are also charged with speaking to mental illness. In what world does this make sense? Imagine if we took random parents and asked them to speak about the anguish of losing a child in a mass shooting, having never experienced it themselves. Not only would this be offensive, it would be entirely ignorant to think that the country would be moved by what they had to say.
Then we have the National Rifle Association speaking “on our behalf” in protecting our Second Amendment Rights, though not really. They don’t want “wackos” out there with guns. If they have made anything clear it is that they want “good guys with guns” in our communities. Newsflash, “good guys” don’t necessarily remain “good guys” and accidental shootings don’t discriminate based on one’s moral character.
The NRA finds itself in a bit of a conundrum. To advocate for the removal of our rights means opening themselves up to questions about why other populations shouldn’t be limited in their access to weapons (i.e. law enforcement officers fired from the job for excessive force complaints or those with a history of domestic violence). Can you imagine!
Mental illness isn’t a punchline. It is a devastating disease felt by people all over the world. Our community isn’t mute, and we deserve better. It is about damn time that our voice is heard more loudly on this issue. I can’t speak for all of us but as far as I am concerned not only do I not need a firearm, I don’t want one. I mean honestly, owning a firearm poses the greatest risk to me and me alone. I want to live a meaningful life, I want to give back to others, I want to thrive. Why in the world would I want an easy way out sitting in my dresser drawer knowing full well that another low could be around the corner at any moment. I am all for my Second Amendment Rights being taken away, the powers that be can have them! This is what I would add to the conversation, not as a bystander but as someone who survives day in and day out with a mental illness. This is what I would add to the conversation as a concerned citizen, tired of families being torn apart due to a lack of moral courage and leadership.
We can do better. We must do better!
Note from the author: please comment, share your experiences, and provide feedback if you’re inclined to do so. All input is welcome!