According To Congress, We Should Let 75,000 Citizens With Mental Illness Purchase Deadly Weapons

by Joelle Wisler
Originally Published: 
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Congress is currently pushing through legislation that will allow around 75,000 people with mental illness to purchase guns. This is happening, and the papers are on President Trump’s desk where they will be signed just as soon as he’s done boasting about his big win some more while simultaneously trying to convince everyone that there was massive voter fraud.

Yes, the Senate just overturned a rule that Obama had put in place stopping the sale of firearms to Social Security beneficiaries who require a third party to manage their finances. Obama did this in response to the Sandy Hook shooting of 20 students by Adam Lanza, who had a variety of mental disorders.

I’m not dismissing all persons with a mental health diagnosis as violent or homicidal. I know that’s not the case. However, common sense seems to dictate that if symptoms of your diagnosis lead you to feel suicidal or violent or aggressive or impulsive, etc., you shouldn’t be in charge of a deadly weapon. But, you know, gun sales are super-duper important to the NRA.

Connecticut Democrat Senator Chris Murphy argued during the Senate hearings that “[i]f you can’t manage your own financial affairs, how can we expect that you’re going to be a responsible steward of a dangerous, lethal firearm?” No shit, Chris Murphy. Thank you for saying that.

When my son came home from his first day of second grade, he let me know that his teacher had one very strict rule. She had told the class that there would be absolutely no gun play — on the playground, in the classroom, anywhere. She would not tolerate it in any form, and they would be sent straight to the principal’s office. My son looked wide-eyed as he told me this as if he was afraid he would accidentally violate this very important rule.

“Do you know why this rule is so meaningful to her?” I said, knowing full well why she had made it.

“Yeah, she said her husband was killed by a man with a gun,” he said, twisting his hands around in a worried sort of way. I was both happy that she told the class about what had happened, but also sad that they had to be introduced to such a personal account of violence as second-graders.

I gave him a hug and then he quickly changed the subject. But throughout the year, he gradually processed his feelings about the whole thing. Some days, he wanted to talk about guns, and about why people kill each other, and if guns could do any good in the world. Other days, he wanted to talk about the specifics of what happened to his teacher’s husband-who had been killed by a disgruntled employee.

These were all hard questions to answer but maybe they were made easier because I had always discouraged him from playing with make-believe guns. He also had never been drawn to them like some kids are, so this had been simple. When we hiked, the sticks that he picked up usually became wands for magic rather than guns for shooting things. Other kids in his class had a tougher time with their teacher’s strict rule, however, and he came with stories of kids being angry that they got in trouble for something they were able to do at home.

Guns are for killing things, right? Why would I want my kids to play with toys that are make-believe for killing? They’re kids. I get that some kids want to grow up to be soldiers and police officers and hunters. They want to fight bad guys. They want to be the hero. I’ve even heard that some children, without ever being exposed to guns, will pretend to shoot stuff as if this is an innate part of our humanity. I have read studies that show that aggressive pretend play is healthy for kids — even helping them be able to regulate their emotions in real-life situations.

But, in 2014, guns were the second leading cause of death for kids in the United States between the ages of 1 and 19. The second leading cause of death.

I won’t be letting my kids play with toy guns. I will ask their friend’s families if they have guns in their house. I will teach them the importance of respecting guns. And if they want to be soldiers, or police officers, or hunters, they have their whole grown-up lives to do that.

And, as far as those 75,000 individuals who will now have access to firearms? I really hope that we, as a country, don’t come to regret the haphazard decisions that are currently being made by our government officials who are firmly in the pockets of the NRA.

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