We can draw the line on guns

On any given day one can open a conversation with, “how ya doin’?” and find that the next five to 10 minutes are spent listening to a diatribe of what is wrong with them, their world and everything under the sky.

Isn’t it about time we begin to look on the brighter side of things? Isn’t it about time we take the phrase, “if it is to be, it is up to me” personally and do something about the things that are troubling us and the world around us?

We can’t just shake our heads, or go to the refrigerator for another beer to soothe our disbelief of what is happening. We can’t choose to do nothing anymore. If we do, then we are a part of the problem. Being in denial is not the answer. Saying, “I’m only one person, there is nothing I can do” isn’t the answer. Each of us has a responsibility to do something about “IT!”

I believe attitude is altitude, and I know that by joining hands and hearts we can make a difference in a positive and productive way. Let’s start with the most horrific tragedy of Las Vegas. If one considers the horrendous act of violence that took the lives of those innocent people killed by a mad man with an arsenal of guns recently, merely shaking our heads is not enough. Before the naysayers begin to crumple their newspaper, I am not talking about your Second Amendment rights; this seemingly endless killing of innocents goes far beyond your right to own a gun, unless of course you are a danger to yourself or others as a result of a form of mental illness.

Yes, I went there. Anyone in their right mind has to admit that a man who stockpiles the number of guns and the amount of ammunition that the shooter in Las Vegas did can’t be mentally stable. Neither was the young man who shot the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As a matter of fact, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 93 people die in America every day from gun violence, and nearly two-thirds of those are suicide. The problem is two pronged. While we all want to do something about the gun violence, are we doing enough about mental health? Or, are we turning away knowing there is something wrong with a loved one, but saying something about it is too painful, so we remain silent?

The mother of the Sandy Hook killer knew there was a problem, and the girlfriend of the Las Vegas shooter has said she believed he had some form of mental illness.

The debate that is going on in Washington shouldn’t focus solely on gun rights. We need to also focus on the mental health of those who use guns to commit the killing of others as well as themselves.

The argument always seems to turn to gun control when a mass shooting or tragedy happens. The politicians get on their high horses and pontificate about what they would like to do; but little gets done and those suffering from a true tragedy, mental illness, are too often left out of the debate.

Dianne Feinstein was asked what would be the one thing she wanted to see with regard to changing the gun laws; she said she would have to think about it.

When President Barack Obama talked about gun control after the Charleston, S.C., mass shooting, then Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal accused the former president of “trying to score cheap political points.”

Getting the men and women in Washington to opine on gun control doesn’t seem like a problem. Steve Bannon, the former White House Chief Strategist said, “Impossible: will be the end of everything.”

When asked in a press conference, Sarah Sanders said, “‘It is premature for us to discuss policy.” She went on to respond to a request by Nancy Pelosi’s call for a select committee. Sanders said, “Today is a day for consoling the survivors and mourning those we lost. Our thoughts and prayers are certainly with all of those individuals. There’s a time and place for a political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country.”

Sen. Chris Murphy had a different take, he told Congress, “This must stop. It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic.”

I believe I must go back to my earlier statement: there is more here than gun control.

My question to the ‘Washington Insiders’ might be, when is the right time for this discussion that includes the mental health issues that surround the need for a revision to how guns are bought and sold. We must find a way to help those who do harm to themselves and others with legally purchased guns.

My answer for Feinstein is that we improve our registration requirements to allow for an efficient tracking system in order to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. And, that means keeping them out of homes where the mentally ill reside – such was the case of the shooter of the children of Sandy Hook, and the overwhelmingly number of guns owned by the murderer in Las Vegas.

It is time to call upon our better Angels and truly be our brother’s keeper. Gun control legislation debates will continue – gun laws may not change. But we can make a difference by helping those who need help, the ones suffering everyday with emotional and mental issues who may have access to guns. We can no longer look the other way. We must learn the signs of mental illness and say something, and do something, for the life you save may be that of a loved one. And it may even be your own.

The Second Amendment should be protected, I believe that. But so should our loved ones, and that means changing the way we register, sell and buy guns. The debate continues …

Have a great day.

Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com