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Newtown Discussion: Gun Control and Mental Health December 16, 2012

Posted by tackettmedia in politics, sustainability.
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3 comments

As I am watching the Sunday morning political shows in the wake of the Newtown elementary school shooting, the themes are clear: Gun control and – albeit to a lesser degree – mental health issues.

As I write this, I am watching Meet the Press. I just finished following the discussion on This Week. Consistently everyone is calling for conversation around gun control and privacy issues surrounding people struggling with their mental health.

I wonder whether “conversation” is enough. Mayor Bloomberg said it best when he put forth the message that he supported President Obama’s second term run because the President had the right vision around certain issues, but now it is time to lead and implement that vision.

One of the themes that bothers me is that no one is talking about ammunition control. Yes, we can put laws in place that require background checks, make it harder for people to purchase guns, ban certain guns, etc. But all these measures won’t affect the guns that are already out in our communities.

There is also no “conversation” around the issue of whether the U.S. Second Amendment supports the creation of a militia society. I am from a country where each man is required to go through military training. They store their weapon, a gun, at home. I grew up with a gun in our spare bedroom closet. Consequently, you could say that I was raised in a militia society. Yet, there were and are still controls in place through ammunition control.

Especially with the technology we have available nowadays, it ought to be possible to put in place some sort of ammunition controls. It will not be perfect since enforcement of any laws always depends on people in certain positions to do their jobs. However, without looking at ammunition control, I believe no new laws will have any big effect.

In essence, we can talk all day about removal of guns, which is not realistic and will not make any difference. But we could talk about ammunition control.

And now to my view of mental health issues. I will likely have to write more about this issue in a separate blog entry since I am thinking about it often (and therefore, have a lot to say on the topic) in connection with my work around homelessness. However, I briefly would like to mention that there needs to be more awareness, more education, better definitions, and diverse approaches to assist individuals and families dealing with mental health issues.

During today’s debates I heard a few times that it was necessary to close mental institutions in the 1960s and 70s. It was also said that the systems that were to replace the institutions (community-based mental health care and halfway houses) never was put in place to its full extent. Well, then the question is why?

Why did mental institutions not work? Why did alternatives not work? Why is there not a larger range of services in place?

We need to examine cost issues, treatment options, family support systems, etc. But above all, we need to look at definitions of what mental health issues are. The terminology and wide range of definitions that we currently have confuses the heck out of me. All this screams to me that there is a need for widespread education and awareness surrounding mental illness.

To finish this blog, I believe it will be easier for politicians to tackle the gun law issues. Yet, in the end, we can expect another watered-down law and a lot of back-slapping politicians congratulating themselves for their actions.

Mental health, I fear, will have to take another backseat.

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