Nation is Primed to Ponder Mental Illness and Guns

When a community is suffering, taking action can help regain a sense of control and support the healing process.

Social problems. They are my reason for blogging on Patch: to identify a social problem and then invite our community to get involved and be part of a solution. Sadly, the social problem facing our community – rather, our country, right now needs no introduction. The tragic events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning will forever change the conversation. 

When faced with adversity my method of coping is mobilization. What can I do to regain a sense of control? This week we are all left to ponder this question. How can we channel our heartache and anger into action? Is it because Newtown is so close to home that we are compelled to act? I don’t think so – the country is engaged in discussion like never before.   

There are many questions, and many facets to consider. But two areas scream for attention: how our society deals with mental illness and guns.

Mental Illness:
We face a mental health crisis in this country. Budgets are cut, and with the loss of funding go vital services. There is a disparity between the way insurance companies view general healthcare and behavioral health services; this allows payers to limit services for those seeking help for a mental illness. They impose limits on how much providers can be reimbursed too, so in in this part of the country most therapists don’t accept insurance at all. People who have a mental illness are stigmatized, and this deters many from accessing services. Parents who seek help for their troubled children are chastised if medication is part of the treatment.

There are no easy answers. Let’s talk, listen and learn from each other. We need to take a close look at how our society deals with people who have a disease of the brain – a chemical imbalance. It will take work, but we can change the culture, and improve the care of those experiencing a mental illness.

Leadership from the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) Connecticut is going “on the road” to talk with residents throughout the state. This is an opportunity for community members to learn about what is happening in Connecticut to address the needs of those with mental illness, and to get involved on a grass roots level. Local NAMI chapters will host the meetings; a schedule can be found on NAMI CT’s calendar. Some dates are already scheduled (below), and more will be:

  • Fairfield NAMI: January 2, 2013, 7:30-9:00 pm. This meeting’s agenda includes a discussion of NAMI’s legislative priorities for 2013. More about the meeting is here.
  • Stamford/Greenwich NAMI: January 16, 2013. More info here.
  • NAMI Southeast (Norwich): February 6, 2013. More info here.
  • NAMI Windsor Locks (East Windsor): February 10, 2013. More info here.

Let’s consider the facts. The Swiss-based Small Arms Survey found that in 2007 the United States had the highest gun ownership rate in the world: 88 guns per 100 people, or 270 million altogether.[i] When countries experiencing high murder rates by drug cartels (Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil) were excluded, the survey reported that the US has the highest rate of homicide by guns. Firearms killed 31,347 people in 2009 – that is 17.7% of all injury deaths that year.[ii]

Gun control helps. The states with high gun ownership and weak gun laws experienced the most gun deaths.[iii] No matter how “gun enthusiasts” may spin it, the numbers speak for themselves: tougher gun laws save lives.

What justification is there for civilians to own military style weapons and high capacity magazines? What rational person would deny the importance of background checks and gun registration? When Congress resumes session in January, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) intends to introduce a bill to renew the ban on assault weapons. These are common sense measures. 

The gun lobby is powerful. Suggestions to arm teachers and implement high-tech security features in our schools and public areas are based on the premise that the current state of gun ownership and (lack of) regulation is acceptable. No longer can our society acquiesce to gun violence perpetrated against the innocent. This is our call to be part of the solution. The nation is ready – now is the time for action.

Contact government officials:
Let your elected leaders know what you think. Connecticut Against Gun Violence, www.CAGV.org, is leading the charge on gun control in the state. They are working with Connecticut legislators and on January 9th a Bill will be introduced to enhance gun safety. Click on the “Legislative Action Center” on the right side of their home page, under Take Action. Once you enter your home address this link will connect you to your local, state and federal representatives in government. Since Senator-elect Chris Murphy hasn’t taken office yet, he is not included. He can be reached here, at his Congressional office. After he takes his senatorial seat that link will close and he will be listed on the CAGV’s Legislative Action Center too.   

Other organizations that are actively pursuing gun control:

Several on-line petitions are circulating:

  • Immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress. We the People: sign the petition
  • Gun Control. Now. Sign On (an arm of Move On): sign the petition
  • Increase the availability of mental health services now! Change.org: sign the petition
  • Zichronam Lirracha: For their memory shall be a blessing. Jewish Council for Public Affairs: sign the petition

[i] The Guardian, Gun homicides and gun ownership listed by country. US edition. Accessed 12/18/12, http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jul/22/gun-homicides-ownership-world-list.

[ii] National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 60, No. 3, December 29, 2011. Accessed 12/18/12, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr60/nvsr60_03.pdf.  

[iii] Violence Policy Center. States with Higher Gun Ownership and Weak Gun Laws Lead Nation in Gun Deaths, Washington, DC: Violence Policy Center, October 24, 2011. Accessed 12/18/12, http://www.vpc.org/press/1110gundeath.htm.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Sam December 25, 2012 at 03:11 AM
@Mike According to the news they were purchased leagally by the mother. But they werent legally purchased by her kid, he stole them apparently. Guns should be kept in a fire proof gun safe at all times when not in use. In this case, with this mentally disturbed kid living there this women should not have even had them in the house. Gun control would not have prevented this, the government can make all the laws and restrictions it wants and you can bet that wackos and criminals will still be able to get guns.
John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmitt December 26, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Face it, your militia is about to get more well-regulated...
Loretta Jay December 29, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Fact check: Switzerland only issues guns to ex-military who secure a permit and have a demonstrated need. Janet Rosenbaum, assistant professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center School conducted a study exploring gun ownership in Switzerland and Israel. The study can be accessed here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22089893. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post interviewed Dr. Rosenbaum on December 14 about her research. He included a transcript of that interview here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/14/mythbusting-israel-and-switzerland-are-not-gun-toting-utopias/. Wikipedia has a pretty comprehensive summary of Switzerland's gun regulations, including its progression through history. Citations are identified throughout most of the article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_Switzerland.
Ben Rodriguez December 30, 2012 at 04:51 PM
This country needs to get it's head on straight. Assault Rifle (AR)-15's don't belong on the streets. We need to have a common sense standard of regulating ANYONE that sells/buys weapons (background checks and fingerprinting), with no NRA pushed loopholes. We also need to emphasize mental health support in schools and society, rather than stigmatizing (like making a database of "crazy people")
Rick McDonald December 31, 2012 at 12:11 PM
You need to do some research before commenting. The AR in AR-15 stands for ArmaLite not assault rifle. ArmaLite is the original manufacturer of the AR-15. An assault rifle is a rifle that has full automatic firing, full automatic meaning it keeps firing as long as the trigger is held in the pulled position and there is ammo in the magazine. The AR-15 is a semi-automatic, semi-automatic meaning a new round is chambered automatically after a shot as long as there is ammo in the magazine but the trigger has to be released and pulled again to fire the newly chambered round.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »