Breakfast With an Old Friend

Reading time – 52 seconds  .  .  . 

He lives in Santa Barbara, so of course our catch-up conversation included discussion about the homicides at UCSB – he lives just 3 miles from where the murders took place. He’s a bright and inquisitive guy and he asked me what I think the core issue about gun violence is and I could not come up with one; I came up with a list and he added more. Before blaming everything in the NRA, consider this:

  1. There are many deeply patriotic people who read the Second Amendment as an absolute right to gun ownership and they are very vocal about it. While you may disagree with them, just understand the depth of honest passion others have.
  2. We as a nation have never treated mental illness with the same depth of view or finances as we have for people with obvious physical ailments, so often people don’t get the help they need. Back in my CEO days there was an insurance cap of $10,000 coverage for mental health – lifetime limit!
  3. We have severe limits on involuntary hospitalization, which often leaves mentally ill people on the streets and suffering. Some of them go on to make others suffer. It is probably right that we make it hard for anyone to be locked up without their consent, so this is a gnarly issue.
  4. The determination of whether someone is mentally incompetent is often relegated to the police who do not have the skills for the task.
  5. We have a violent national culture compared to other first world countries, there is almost one gun in private ownership per citizen in the United States and having a gun available makes impulsive murder easy.
  6. Big money doesn’t want any curtailment of firearms ownership because any limitation is bad for business. And that is more important to them than six dead kids in Santa Barbara.
  7. We have a political system that requires candidates to raise enormous sums of money to get and stay elected, which means that they become beholden to big money contributors. This is a bi-partisan issue because that’s the way the game is played and that means that most legislators don’t want to vote against big money interests, including that of the arms manufacturers. Distasteful as it is to write these words, getting and staying elected is more important to some of these folks than six dead kids in Santa Barbara.
  8. The NRA is at least a twofold problem. First, they are the lobbying arm of the gun industry, so they are all about maximizing gun sales and twisting congressional arms to make that happen. Second, they like their own power and will do whatever it takes to retain it, so they twist those congressional arms even harder. And all of that is more important to them than six dead kids in Santa Barbara.
  9. Firearms are manufactured in many states and legislators don’t want jobs to disappear from their districts because that might cause them to lose their next election, so they vote against gun safety legislation. That is to say, legislators keeping their jobs is more important to them than six dead kids in Santa Barbara.
  • There are so many simple, common sense things we can do to begin to reduce gun deaths in America, like:
  •     – Universal background checks for the sale or transfer of any firearm
  •     – Laws that prevent convicted violent criminals and mentally unstable people from purchasing, owning or possessing a firearm
  •     – Mandatory trigger locks
  •     – A total ban on assault rifles and other strictly military hardware

None of these – not even all of these – will stop all gun murders in the US. But they will begin to stop the carnage and some of our kids will lose the bulls eye that is now on their backs. Tragically, none of these things has happened because of the dreadful numbered list above. Not even after Sandy Hook Elementary School.

This list is just what came to mind during an informal conversation with a friend. What are we missing in this complex issue?

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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3 Responses to Breakfast With an Old Friend
  1. Jim Reply

    Until the population of the United States learns that there are better ways to resolve problems and issues, I don’t know that there is any hope of really stopping those terrible things from occurring.

  2. Bernie Dyme Reply

    How about destigmatizing mental health problems so people can feel free stepping forward to get help? How about the government allocating more funding and providing better mental health care coverage by insurance plans?

  3. David Lindgren Reply

    Jack, I appreciate the rational analysis of the dilemma re gun control, violence and mental health. I am furious re my fellow mental health practitioners who stay quiet throughout this whole catastrophe. And I loathe to read about “white privilege” and “misogyny” as the basis of the California shootings. This was a mentally, paranoid “boy” who has no real idea of the implications of gender issues. And how can I automatically post your blog on my Facebook page? I wrote someone and it said something like I had run out of eligibility. Thanks, David