Such was the case last evening when a dialog began about gun control and mental health between two mothers in two different countries. In the shorthand that is unique to Twitter, we only whispered at the surface, but I am building a great deal of respect for her views on success and failure, and we and the brilliant minds at Leadership Voices agree on the need for an urgent global discussion on mental wellness. Irene Becker is a business coach and consultant with Just Coach It in Canada, and I am actually working with a business coach, Nancy Kaye, of Define Your Destiny in San Diego, California. These women and others like them share a vision of the potential that can be reached by many who may have previously seen themselves as failures. And it’s quite possible these two fine, smart, beautiful spirits who are trying to heal the hearts and the minds of the clients they work with, one at a time, may share some other similarities in their views on gun control.
I have a unique perspective on the issue of gun control, in that my husband is an ex-police officer/ firefighter/ paramedic and is a nationally recognized security expert who specializes in Business Continuity Planning that encompasses active shooter and violence in the workplace programs.
We’re from Michigan, and we tend to be prepared sorts. That being said, neither of us is against federal mandates for stricter gun control policies as they pertain to the consistent vetting (across the country) for past criminal and mental health issues, right to privacy be damned—I would not be opposed to such background checks on all members of legal age in a prospective household, a waiting period not to exceed a week, for example, safety checks and required safety courses. With his background, my husband was part-owner of a gun store in our town for a time and served as gunsmith and armor to many of the local law enforcement agencies. On occasion I worked in that gun store, and thus had to go through the extensive training and testing and obtain a Concealed Pistol License (CPL) myself. I understand there are those who have very differing views on and feelings about guns than many of the rest of us in the US, as I’m sure we do on other issues. Much like the taboo of mental illness, this wasn’t something I often felt I could talk about in California, as I imagine it wouldn’t be in many circles in Canada and other countries. I must tell you, however, as a 5’0” woman who has been the victim of date-rape and who spent years as a single mom, I rather enjoy feeling competent and prepared; less scared and less like a potential victim all the time.
I suspect the incidence of all crimes is lower in Canada than in the US. But here we are, and suddenly taking guns away from law-abiding citizens while leaving them in the hands of criminals and psychos who don’t abide by the laws of the land, amounts to piss poor planning. However, Leadership Voices, Irene and Nancy are definitely onto something when they speak about the amount of stress under which our society lives and functions on a daily basis. I’ve seen it first hand, having lived in Chicago for a time when our daughters were young, and more recently having lived in San Diego for two years. We have chosen to return to our small, Midwestern town, where the pace and the demand and the traffic and the competition and the stress is far lower than what we experienced in either of those two bustling metropolitan areas, and frankly where I’m less afraid (and better prepared) to walk the streets. There was a school shooting at Kelly Elementary School in Carlsbad, California, not fifteen minutes north of our house when we first arrived there. There were two incidences of highway snipers that occurred in the short time we lived there, the 2nd one ending with an incident AT our freeway exit. There were robberies in malls, there were home invasions, there occurred two murders of cab drivers two exits to the south of ours in an area we frequented with out of town guests; all and much more in the short time we lived in California.
In our experience and in fact, the problems don’t stem from those of us who legally and responsibly own guns for the protection of our homes. The problems tend more to come from those for whom guns have been purchased by others, or from those who illegally possess guns. My hometown in Michigan sits on a stretch of highway that runs between Detroit and Chicago. There is a great deal of drug running that occurs, and there is plenty of gun violence that occurs in the socioeconomically depressed and welfare dependent town that sits right across the river from ours. We cross the river to go to the movies, and we cross the river to do our Christmas shopping. Thus, we are occasionally the victims of muggings and other crimes, particularly this time of year, and shoplifting and petty larceny is rampant.
Among the difficulties of the recent events in Newtown, CT, for me, is the fact that it has taken away an insular sense of security I once treasured here in my hometown. Mine is very like the town of Newtown: lakeside, quaint, picturesque, we parent and love one another’s children without restraint; we look out for our neighbors. Sandy Hook Elementary is a school very similar to my son’s. The staff and the children who lost their lives, and ALL of the town’s and the nation’s and the world’s parents and citizens who grieve them, look and sound very similar to those in our town. And even while I grieve my own and my children’s loss of innocence in such times, I have a strong sense that the past several years of economic destruction in many American families has left us heartbroken and emotionally, mentally, and financially battered. Those with the capacity for hope and the mental stability to do as Irene so aptly describes in her essay, Winning the New War, to use our Constructive Discontent to Fail Forward, will survive and with the help of people like Irene and Nancy use our skills to grow and perhaps even to excel in these times. It is the perpetually poverty-stricken, the sick and the tortured, the ones who suffer from undiagnosed and untreated mental illness, PTSD, and even chemical imbalances that can sometimes be attributed to something as simple as food sensitivities, who are clearly more susceptible to urges that lead them to take their pain and their anger out on innocent victims.
But patting them on their heads and holding their hands and telling them that it will be OK and being afraid to discuss mental illness or to reach out for help that isn’t there; caring more for their civil rights than for their mental health and the safety of others, clearly isn’t doing enough to ensure the health and safety of the public at large, and it must be immediately addressed.
Americans will always feel differently about guns than Canadians and those in other countries do, because Americans have had to fight hard for our freedoms, and Americans have had to fight for the weak and for those who have been inhumanely treated by their own governments. But what of our own? We are the self-appointed and globally-appointed protectors of freedom and justice in this world, and that ideology isn’t likely to change any time soon. Now we just need to find a way to heal our own troubled nation and protect the children in our own backyards and schoolyards, classrooms and hallways.
Taking the right to bare arms away from law-abiding Americans is akin to “changing the minds” (a la Paul Ryan in the vice presidential debate) of Middle Eastern nations or changing women’s minds about the right to choose—from either perspective. That’s a war nobody wants to take on. Perhaps we can, however, come to a reasonable compromise about important things like background checks for all persons of age in a prospective household, waiting periods, trigger locks, safety checks and safety courses.
I wouldn’t be GlutenNaziMom if I didn’t relay the fact that much of the anger and the malcontent that exists in our country can be attributed both to what is lacking (vital nutrients/ variety) and to what is present (GMOs, sugar, chemicals and additives) in our Standard American Diet—S.A.D. And there’s a reason the acronym is so very, very SAD.
We must realize that all of the pieces and the parts are connected. I am a sometimes reasonably liberal and sometimes reasonably conservative chick—founding member of the Enlightened Middle Majority—who occasionally likes to very safely shoot guns, who has chosen both life and otherwise, and thus could never presume to “choose” for another woman, and who has pulled herself out of the depths of poverty as a single parent and for a season contemplated suicide, and who believes that Health Care Reform as it sits is faulty, at best. How can it support itself if NO ONE is paying a copay? The math simply doesn’t work. And what earthly good can it do if we don’t address mental health in the process? If we continue to fail to address or even discuss Welfare Reform? Mind, Body, Spirit; it’s all interconnected, from an individual standpoint, and from our nation’s.
Guns and the right to bare arms, religious freedom as well as the freedom not to worship are organic and fundamental pieces of the ideology on which this country was built. Mr. President, you may have won the election because for just enough the alternative was unpalatable, but you have a long way to go before you win over and heal the hearts and the minds and the pocketbooks of the Greatest Nation and of the world. And until we as a nation come together, support one another, and collectively do so, unthinkable and unacceptable horrors such as the one in Sandy Hook Elementary school last Friday, such as the one in the mall in Newport Beach, California, three days before, and the one in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, before that, will only continue to happen and likely continue to escalate. I think we can all agree that nobody wants to see that happen in their corner of small town America, or anywhere.