OK, America. Breathe a sigh of relief. I am not a gun owner.
The reason why I don’t keep a gun probably has more to do with the fact I wasn’t raised around them than the miserable statistics of death and despair.
More important to my abstinence is my long history of depression. That and the fact that guns are the number one suicide tool used by men in this country and are used in two-thirds of all suicides. It’s easy as pulling a trigger, after all. And it’s a lot harder to dodge a bullet than pills or a noose. And that, for me, is a big reason for avoidance.
But it’s not just a distraught gun owner (or distraught child or spouse of a gun owner) that is at risk from guns, as we have seen time and again in recent years. Mass shootings are the new normal.
Town hall after town hall, shooting after shooting, the issue of the “mentally ill”—some bizarre other—and guns are beat about as if a quarter of the nation wouldn’t qualify for the label during any given year. What I don’t hear nearly as much about is fixing a broken health care system and eradicating the stigma surrounding mental illness that keeps millions from seeking help around the world.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was on the right track Sunday discussing the Louisiana shooting that claimed three when she tore into Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad for vetoing legislation that would have kept two of Iowa’s mental health institutions from being closed.
Pardon me for saying so, but when does such national tongue lashings over mental illness occur in the absence of mass violence?
As dramatic as these too-frequent lethal assaults on innocent bystanders are, as horrendous and senseless, when will the 40,000 annual deaths due to suicide dominate the news cycle for days or weeks on end? What about the gaping emotional sinkhole that sucks in families and even entire communities with each one of those frequently preventable deaths?
Why is it that only when one of these momentarily shattered psyches decides that killing others is more attractive than killing themselves that we find mental illness in lights?
An 11-year-old kills a dog? Mentally ill? Most likely, however you choose to define that term. All those suicides, at that final moment of crisis? I guarantee you nearly every one of them would be placed somewhere on the spectrum by the experts.
So, I don’t know. America. You don’t have to worry about me. But your broken health care system, easy gun access (yes, I’ve roamed the aisles of my neighborhood pawn shops marveling the sheer range of killing devices there for the taking), and enduring stigmas against those who actually chose to self-identify as victims of inexplicable mental intensities and seek help: these great failings can be addressed together or one by one.
Each one is a shame on this nation and reaching the goal of a nation free of such horrors, self-directed or otherwise, requires action on each. Our elected leaders, each one of us, and our media have a responsibility to press to remove that cursed spot—before it bleeds onto the front page of Sunday’s edition. Again.
Top Image: Gun show at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.