Saturday, February 9, 2013

At the Intersection of Mental Health and Gun Control

We ‘re standing at the intersection of mental health and gun control.  How did we get here?  We have a green light.  We have to go.  But where?  In what direction?  Do we need a new  map, one that moves us onto safer terrain?  Can we take the next curve in the road?  Can we create a new traffic pattern? I think President Obama is heading in the right direction.


A young soldier with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) shoots the seemingly invincible Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL and expert sniper, along with a friend of his, at a shooting range in Texas.  Kyle wrote about his experiences as a Navy Seal in the book “American Sniper.”  Hard to believe, and sad, that he could be taken down so easily.   

The news stories say that Kyle and his friend had taken the accused murderer to the shooting range with them because they were helping him deal with his PTSD.  They were friends, or knew each other.  Semper FI.  Comrades-in-arms.  

But in close range of a gun in the hands of the wrong person, the expert became as helpless as the ordinary citizens who went to watch a movie in Aurora, CO, as helpless as the children and teachers at Sandy Hook school.  Innocent, unsuspecting, unprepared, killed,  out of the blue.  How in the world do you protect against something like this? 

I posted blithely on facebook that no one is invincible, a Navy SEAL taken down.  Guns 
kill, violence begets violence, I wrote.  Yes, but the questions keep coming, now more insistent than ever.    

How can mentally unstable people, troubled, deranged, delusional, go and buy weapons of war, or have such easy access to them, sometimes amass them, then take them onto our streets and into our homes, stores, and schools, shopping malls and movie theaters, and just shoot people dead?  Two or more at a time; 10 or more. 20 or more.  No re-loading necessary.  Just a spray of bullets into a room, into the crowd, murderous, deadly.  One-on-one killings. Mass killings.  With no apparent reasons.  Beyond comprehension.  On civilian territory, not in war zones. 

It really is time to act.  Background checks for all?  Why not?  No guns of war, no automatic assault weapons, in civilian hands?  Yes, time to ban them, even the Generals are telling us.  Weapons of war don't belong on our streets. Our Founding Fathers couldn't have even imagined it, let alone condoned it.  

More mental health services and professional intervention?  Yes, we  need to pay attention and put more resources into prevention and treatment.  

Do we have the courage to take on and untangle the lethal intersection of gun control and mental health? The majority of Americans think so. Will our elected representatives act accordingly?  Will they have the courage to find a new direction home that keeps us safe, and free from fear?   It's the 21st century, not 1787.   It's time to act for the good of the majority, not in the interest of the minority defenders of outmoded laws and ancient traditions.  
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