“Guns do not kill, people kill.” What an irresponsible and disingenuous statement. Moreover, this absurd assertion often goes with “there are more than enough gun laws on the books, and we just need to enforce the ones that exist”. Horsepucky! People kill people and too often with guns. Guns are the means and the instrument for killing and not some neutral social cohort. Even more unfortunate, there is a fatal intersection between the mentally disturbed and readily available assault weapons. Despite this fatal flaw, the NRA is fighting hard to preserve assault weapon accessibility.
However, it is not all the NRA’s fault. Greatly contributing to the problem is society’s ongoing denial over mental illness — from diagnoses, routine screening, treatment and housing/confinement. Families affected by mental illness often have little or no insurance to help. They find minimal institutional help unless a crime is involved and know it is just a matter time before their physical control of a troubled family member will fail. Dealing with adult children who only periodically act out is particularly difficult.
A single mother’s story told in association with the Newtown shootings speaks volumes: “I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.” I say yes, indeed. But we need real action on both mental health and guns.
There is no doubt that a common denominator between those who are bent on revenge, infamy, mass murder and suicide is a high-tech, high-capacity killing, assault weapon. Technology has made these weapons very affordable and the NRA has made sure they are readily available.
For too long, the anti-gun control NRA has operated freely within a timid society. They have made it easy to acquire and transfer guns, which are estimated now at 300 million within a civilian population of 308 million. When the inevitable gun violence occurs they simply mumble under their breath and shift the blame to lax law enforcement. How socially crass is that? Unfortunately, too few citizens and legislators are willing to stand up to those who are bought or threatened by the NRA. And that is truly OUR failure and is something that can change.
The NRA’s strategy has been both clever and consistent. They make prevention a mission impossible and force us to use inferior missions of rescue and body retrieval. Moreover, the NRA type doctrine implicitly assumes that 20 children and 6 adults tragically lost is a terrible but acceptable tradeoff in a dangerous world, where gun rights are sacrosanct. How self-defeating.
Writing letters, attending a vigil, signing petitions, saying a prayer at church or joining an organization are good but simply not enough. Remaining a silent witness is totally irresponsible. It merely equates to a strategy of personal statistics: my chances of being a victim are less than being struck by lightning — or any bad news will most likely be someone else’s problem.
So what is the take away here? From last election we learned that big money does not buy America. Likewise, the NRA does not have to dictate our safety and well-being. Above all, the NRA agenda kills--just as if they pulled the trigger themselves. And we are just as guilty when we standby and do nothing. The choice is simple: abdicate and further compromise our family’s safety or say enough is enough. It may be only a small start, but indeed it will be a start.
• Mehrkens is a Juneau resident and gun owner.