Can we do anything about gun violence in the U.S.?

Seems like we have to reset this one every few weeks and that's not normal or OK.

Seems like we have to reset this one every few weeks and that’s not normal or OK.

Once again, Americans are reeling at the sight of another mass shooting. In what’s become all-too-commonplace, we react with horror, sorrow, anger, and discussion, but at the end of the day, we all know this will happen again. President Obama said as much during his remarks addressing the shooting in Oregon, and regardless of your politics, every American probably agrees with Obama when he said it’s likely he’ll have to address another mass shooting before his term is over. However, in our efforts to end the horrific violence caused by guns, we address a few key issues: the ease in which potential shooters access guns, how we handle mental illness in the United States, and whether any reasonable limitations on gun ownership are appropriate if it means preventing another mass shooting like we’ve seen across the country, year after year.

The following piece attempts to address a few key issues. First, we must try to find a way to prevent mass shootings from ripping apart communities across the country and if reasonable gun legislation is off the table (despite overwhelming support in most parts of the country), we need another solution. We simply cannot accept mass shootings as normal, or something that cannot be prevented because the Second Amendment prohibits the adoption of any legislation preventing some individuals from accessing firearms. The piece takes a look at perhaps a key psychological reason why it’s so challenging to pass reasonable legislation aimed at ending the scourge of gun violence affecting Americans every single day. Additionally, we must consider our rhetoric towards guns–especially the paranoid notion that someone is coming for them–which may–or may not–be contributing to gun-related violence in the United States.

What’s laid out here isn’t a series of concrete solutions to gun violence, but perhaps it will provide us with an outlet for deeper discussion–on both sides of the aisle–on what can be done to make sure we can end the evils of gun violence and mass shootings in the United States.

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Guns, Mental Health and Florida’s Failure

To say that Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, is not popular is a massive understatement.

He helped make Florida the first state to require those seeking assistance (welfare) undergo a drug test. Unsurprisingly, this move didn’t save the state money. It cost the state money.

Governor Scott has most recently signed a bill that stigmatizes those who seek treatment for mental health issues.

I have to pause here. This latest move infuriates me.

The bill infringes on a Florida citizen’s right to bear arms. You know, that thing better known as the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution?

Via:

Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Friday that will close a loophole that allowed dangerously mentally ill people to admit themselves for treatment, then quickly check out and buy a gun.

The legislation was one of the most significant gun bills to pass this year’s legislative session and was supported by Democrats, Republicans and the National Rifle Association…

The gun bill addresses people who doctors say pose a danger to themselves or others. Their names will be put into databases to prevent them from buying guns.

If the patient doesn’t agree to be voluntarily admitted for treatment, an involuntary commitment petition would be filed. Patients who voluntarily committed themselves would do so with the understanding that they would be barred from purchasing firearms.

If patients refused to give up their gun-purchasing rights, the involuntary commitment process would proceed.

The bill includes a pathway for people to petition the court to regain their gun-purchasing rights after they are treated. A doctor would have to agree that the person should regain the right.

Maybe it’s not clear why this bill isn’t good. After all, I don’t want guns in the hands of people who will do bad things.

But I don’t want people to do bad things. And I don’t want a gun. Still, rights are rights.

But there’s a faulty assumption here. For starters, having a mental illness that requires hospitalization doesn’t mean a person is bad, or is unable to determine right and wrong. People with mental illnesses are far more likely to be targets of violence than to commit acts of violence. See this, this, this, and this.  (I could go on…)

This bill may actually keep people from getting help and treatment they need.

The stigma around mental health is huge, and to get people to seek treatment is hard enough. But now, with this bill, there’s a state-sanctioned stigma. It’s now permissible by the State of Florida to stigmatize someone having a hard time through no fault of their own and seeking help.  It’s permissible to take away a right guaranteed by the Constitution.

I could go on (and on and on), but this bill is just terrible. Stigma by the state for severe depression? Loss of constitutional rights for an eating disorder? (Which, by the way, I was hospitalized for at age 15.)

It’s now legal in Florida. Assuming you get treatment.

This law does nothing productive to curb gun violence. It does nothing to address the real issues behind gun culture, the pervasive violence in our society. This law certainly doesn’t help and only hurts a group of already vulnerable people who society tends to shame anyway.

I leave with this this fantastic  image, but keep in mind, this was supported by Democrats and Republicans–shame on you.

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Thank you, Justine, for this sadly relevant image!

My Party Identification

If you haven’t read many of my posts here on the Everblog, you might not be aware that I am a classic “yellow-dog” Democrat.  I’ve never, not once in my nearly three decades as a registered voter, voted Republican.

I’ve contemplated moving Left of my Party more than once, and if there were viable state and national options in that direction I would have probably given them my vote in recent years.  That’s not my point here.  What I want to announce is that I am willing to vote Republican.

Yes, you read that correctly.  I would happily vote Republican …

If … a Republican candidate could be trusted to protect the right (yes, right) of my daughters, my wife, my sister – all  women – to control their own reproductive destinies.

If … the modern Republican Party were not in thrall to economic policies that haven’t worked outside of Ayn Rand novels.

If … the Republican Party’s Congressional Leadership were not made up – entirely – of white males.

If … the Republican Party’s national platform were not so concerned with who my neighbors can marry.

If … Republicans were thinking of immigration reform more in terms of human decency and less in terms of rebranding their marketing.

If … Republicans were as concerned about  billionaires paying a reasonable tax rate as they are about local tea party groups maintaining 501(c)4 designations.

If … Republican House members seemed less sure that universal (and universally affordable) health insurance would destroy the fabric of American competitiveness.

If … Republican elected officials at all levels seemed more alarmed about the epidemic of gun violence in America.

If … Republicans were less-hostile toward traditional public education.

If … Republicans weren’t so certain that privatization can cure all ills.

Yes … I would happily vote for a Republican candidate if even most of those conditions were met.  But they’re not.  They haven’t been.  For my entire memory as a voter, R’s have been convinced that overwhelmingly male legislative bodies know what’s best for women’s bodies.  They’ve consistently promoted policies of “trickle-down” economics that have damaged our national character.  They’ve resisted placing women and racial minorities in positions of authority.  They’ve been obsessed with who people are allowed to fall in love with.  They’ve opposed reform in immigration.  They’ve insisted that it’s OK for tens of millions of Americans to walk around uninsured.  They’ve shifted the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle-class.  They’ve flooded our streets with guns.  They’ve starved public schools, from kindergarten through graduate education.  They’ve funded private prisons, private schools, etc. at the expense of existing functional and efficient public programs.

No … Democrats are not perfect on any of these issues.  They are, in my opinion, moving past the center and to the right on too many issues.  I want my Party to do better.  But the alternative is entirely unacceptable.

And this doesn’t even scratch the surface.  I didn’t mention Social Security or Labor or a variety of other issues close to my heart.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could vote Republican?  If a fine, upstanding candidate could win my vote without me worrying about party identification?  Yeah, it would.  But in today’s political climate the facts tell me that checking the “R” column gets me exactly the opposite of what I hope for America.