I’ve never weighed in on the gun debate publicly. I’ve always had thoughts, questions, feelings about it, but haven’t ever taken to social media. Perhaps because I felt like my voice didn’t matter among the millions of others pronouncing theirs. And I still feel that way–what I say here, or anywhere, isn’t going to change anything. And maybe it’s not supposed to. And maybe I’m not trying to influence anyone or anything. But as this latest gun violence-related tragedy at Umpqua Community College has hit us, I, as it seems many others too, have reached a sort of point of reckoning; a bizarre plateau of indifference, mixed with horror, mixed with defeat. We know this place–we’ve been here many times before. Too many. Yet, here we are again. And I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said already by countless others, over and over again. But I want to finally discuss my many mixed emotions and thoughts on gun violence, with hopes that maybe it will contribute to a larger conversation, which maybe some way, somehow, will bring peace to whoever needs it.
First, I kind of think the Second Amendment right is irrelevant here. I know that’s what most people who are pro gun rights center their argument around, but I don’t think that’s really the crux of the issue. No one is arguing that people who are capable of handling guns properly shouldn’t have the right to bear them. The problem lies with people who misuse guns. That’s where the policy change needs to happen. So everyone calm the fuck down about how your guns are going to be taken away. And also, frankly, some of you who think you should be carrying guns probably shouldn’t anyways, so laws limiting their accessibility would probably be good for you too.
It’s pretty simple–require background checks on people who are buying guns. And background checks that involve an investigation into mental health, as well as criminal history. Would you give an untreated schizophrenic person a gun? No. It’s literally that simple. And this is coming from someone who considers herself crazy. Like, I would probably fail a background check. Do I think I’m able to carry and use a gun responsibly? I know I am. But I also respect that with hundreds of millions of people in the U.S., there have to be certain laws and procedures that apply en masse. And if that means that if you pass the crazy test (as in you fail it–like, you pass in that you’re crazy), you can’t carry a gun, and I would def pass the crazy test, then so be it–I won’t get a gun. If that means that hundreds, thousands, potentially millions of others who couldn’t and/or wouldn’t use a gun responsibly also couldn’t get one, I happily sacrifice my individual right–for the common good. Isn’t that what patriotism is all about? (Like, I’m really asking–I don’t get it. Loved the movie but I’ve never been a good patriot).
I’m not so selfish as to protect my right to bear arms above all others’ rights–including their rights to life. I would rather I never have the right to own a gun than any more innocent lives be taken by people using guns who shouldn’t. And this isn’t all to say I think background checks would permanently solve all gun violence problems and there would never again be mass shootings–but it’s a start. There are no perfect answers. There are no complete solutions. But there are better and worse ones.
And let’s talk more about mental health. I think this is the main issue. People get outraged when the focus of the gun debate becomes mental health. Because they say mentally ill people aren’t more likely to commit crimes involving gun violence. And mentally ill people get painted as the villains. I happen to think that argument is also a pile of horse shit. The point is not that mentally ill people are dangerous, and everybody take cover because who knows when they’re going to be mentally unstable and shoot up a place. The argument is that people who commit acts of gun violence need help. They are mentally ill. Not that every Tom, Betty and Susie with Down Syndrome is going to open fire at school. But that in order to kill people, especially in a mass shooting, you have to be somewhat mentally ill. I honestly believe this. And yes, hatred, and racism, and prejudice, and sadism can be products of mental illness. I already know what a lot of you are thinking–that I’m using mental illness as a crutch–an excuse to pardon gun violence. But that, too, is besides the point. The point is that if everyone had better access to mental health resources, people wouldn’t fall through the cracks. They wouldn’t get to the point where their only solution is to kill multiple people and themselves. They would be able to work out whatever underlying issues make them want to commit these acts of violence, and, hopefully, not end up committing them.
But so long as we have a government that is primarily driven by greed and profit, the mental and physical well-being of its citizens will never be paramount. Wherein lies the money, therein lies the power. I just came up with that. I should be a chief of staff. Or lots of people have probably said that before. Whatever. Like, we all know this by now: the government gives approx. -0.000001 fucks about us. Unless you come from oil money. So I suggest getting a job with good health insurance, or marrying someone with a job that gives good health insurance, or dying before you turn 27. Omg the 27 club FINALLY makes sense–they were all anticipating the reign of Obamacare!
Because we all need mental health help. You may not want to admit it, but you’re fucked up by virtue of being human. So you need help. You may not need as much help as your neighbor who’s writing manifestos about how he’s going to blow every woman’s brain out who ever didn’t want to date him, but you still need help. And if you’re lucky, you’re afforded the help you need. If you’re not, you and a lot of other people are potentially at risk of the consequences.
I guess my bottom line is we need to do a better job of looking after our people–by instituting not just stricter gun laws but more effective mental healthcare regulations. And maybe stop thinking about what all of this means for us as individuals, and start thinking about what it means for society at large. Because while God knows we would love to live in a vacuum without contact with anyone else ever, that’s just unfortunately not reality. You may be vehemently stubborn in your belief that you can and should be able to own and do what you want with however many kinds of guns you want. But think for a second about what the world would look like if everyone thought that way–what it does look like with that being the mainstream pattern of thought.
If nothing else, fall back into thinking about what that means for you again–it means people can attack you and your loved ones with guns rather easily. One minute you’re watching a movie in a theater (which like btw why are you doing that who does that anymore ever heard of the Internet??) and the next, you’re being sprayed with bullets from an AK-47 some lonely teen bought off the shelf at Walmart. Is that really the best way for our society to function? (I’m inclined to say yes because I think the world would be better off without selfish people like you, but also I’m rising above it and saying that, for fuck’s sake, NO– no that is NOT the best way. I’m willing to coexist with you–reluctantly, but still–if it means a less violent world.)
Featured on News Cult: http://newscult.com/?p=67365
6 thoughts on “As Featured on News Cult: Gun Violence: Let’s Discuss”
I was about to gate on this post until you got to the part about all people needing help. In that sense, I see what you’re saying and think this is a well-said piece of opinion.
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Well said, Alex. Gun control by itself is not the answer, nor is addressing only mental health issues. There has to be a way to bring them both together so the extremists on both sides of the equation settle down and allow us to be look over our shoulder when we’re stopping at a coffee shop in the morning. But I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again… If the sight of 20 six year old children gun downed and stuffed in a bathroom or classroom doesn’t generate change, I’m not sure what will. Special interest groups, greed and ego trump human life and common sense every time. I don’t believe it will ever change but I hope to God I’m wrong.
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Yes! Thank you, George.
I think this was pretty well-written. I think it would have been really easy to make this into a piece that basically ridiculed all of the shooters and found new ways to call them crazy, but you did a good job of addressing the larger issue and staying on point. The point is something needs to be changed.
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thank you! Yes, I agree–something really does need to change.
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