This is an opinion column
“Someone has to start thinking about Mom,” said the Alabama Law Enforcement Sgt. Jeremy Burkett. “We’re tired of going to mothers and having to tell them these kids aren’t coming home.”
As a father of four boys, I hope law enforcement never shows up on my doorstep to deliver such a horrible message to my family. We cannot address the issue of senseless violence wedged between senseless mentions of gun control and mental health.
Stop telling me that criminals will always commit crimes or that we live in a broken culture that has gone off the rails. Video games are violent. China wants to usurp America’s role in the world. Joe Biden and Donald Trump are old. Simply describing a known issue is not a meaningful contribution to the conversation. We cannot and should not accept that high rates of violent crime and countless twisted minds are American fatalities.
Other Cameron Smith columns:
The recent shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville and the shooting at a birthday party in Dadeville, Alabama demonstrate that something is seriously wrong with us. The shooters did not have the same profile. They weren’t using the same firearms. Each of them possessed a blatant disregard for life and a willingness to take it indiscriminately.
I know the data on suicides, homicides and firearm-related accidents like the back of my hand. Ever since my own brother became a statistic of gun violence, I’ve been paying attention. My family also has direct experience with serious mental health issues. Nobody likes to talk about such heavy stuff, so we resort to empty political platitudes instead.
Common sense gun control ranks near the top. It means everything and nothing. It’s a slogan that Democrats love. President Joe Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to enact these mythical measures.
Activists can shout “No justice, no peace!” until the cows come home. Lawmakers like Rep. Justin Jones of Tennessee can engage in the theater of carrying small coffins. Protesters can attack Republicans as racist authoritarians. The stark reality is that if Democratic gun restrictions were as widely accepted as common sense dictates, then Republican state majorities would embrace them.
Democrats are vocal in their demands and routinely miss specific legislative ideas that have more than a chance of becoming law in hell. Imagine I move to New York and demand that gun safety training be taught as an elective in public high schools. It would undoubtedly reduce the number of accidental gun deaths, but I’d be laughed at by the state legislature in the blink of an eye.
It may come as a shock, but most of us find our own ideas brilliant and well justified. Building a majority that agrees with us is quite another matter.
On the other hand, Republicans routinely turn to ambiguous mental health concerns to sidestep any discussion of guns. “We don’t have a gun problem,” goes the common refrain. “We have a mental health issue.”
It’s the Republican version of the inspired Democratic slogan, “It’s the guns.” For Republicans, “it’s sanity”.
In Dadeville, two teenagers destroyed a room full of children. The defendants are not even old enough to vote. Coming to the conclusion that there was something wrong with their mental health doesn’t exactly require a Ph.D.
But when it comes time to enact legislation to support mental health, success is hard to come by. Measures such as expanded counseling resources in schools, clearer information about insurance coverage for mental health services, or even options to help alert and educate parents about mental health issues facing their children face struggle to gain ground.
Too many of us are mentally ill with a constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
Instead of continuing to be self-righteous braggarts who cannot imagine anything other than our own views being correct, we should find common ground.
Start with clear tax incentives or subsidies for gun safes, gun locks, and other gun safety equipment. Their primary function is to prevent children from accessing firearms and injuring themselves or others. They also slow down rash decisions.
Not a year goes by that I don’t wonder if a gun lock might have been enough of a distraction to keep my brother from killing himself. So many gun deaths occur because emotionally charged individuals make poor decisions. At a minimum, a padlock or safe alters an individual’s focus, even for a short period of time.
Congress can and should create a liability shield for people who voluntarily conduct a background check for a private gun sale. Lawmakers could modify the nation’s Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) system to make such checks easier. It’s not the mandate Democrats want, but it’s a useful addition that private arms dealers would be foolish to ignore.
Should Americans prescribed antipsychotic drugs be allowed to own guns? My grandfather became violent and extremely unstable due to dementia. He had committed no crime, but he was under the influence of some of the strongest mind-altering drugs allowed in America. If there was ever a case for someone with a disease or drug who shouldn’t be allowed to own guns, it’s him.
Maybe antipsychotic drugs aren’t the right threshold, but we should at least have a reasonable discussion about the psychological conditions, behaviors, and medical treatments that could lead to Second Amendment-compliant gun restrictions.
If Republicans are concerned about the influence of psychologists and counselors in our public schools, introduce legislation offering a tax credit for out-of-pocket expenses for mental health services. Giving families options and resources to improve their own mental health is a great idea. Politicians from both parties rail against the government sitting between patients and their doctors. What better way to improve mental health and sideline the government?
Stop talking points. Use the legislative process. Follow the results. Stick to what works and repeal what doesn’t. Too many moms get knocked on the door by law enforcement. We are not without options. We need to help each other, protect our families, and respect our God-given rights. If our leaders fail to find such a difficult balance, we must find new ones who are up to the task.
Smith is a recovering political lawyer with four boys, two dogs, a bearded dragon, and an extremely patient wife. He is a partner of Triptych Media, a follower of business strategy and a regular on talk radio. Please direct outrage or agreement to firstname.lastname@example.org Or @DCameronSmith on Twitter.