I am frustrated by persons talking about only what “won’t work” to stop gun violence — the theory that gun violence is all about guns and helping with mental disorders won’t help unless we get rid of all the guns, or it is all about mental illness and banning any guns won’t make a difference because there will just be other weapons and violence.
Soon we are all talking in polarized “sound bites.” We over-simplify violence and we over-simplify mental disorders. We over-simplify the interactions between the two, and over-simplify all the other societal causes and types of violence. And before you know it, we feel paralyzed to accomplish anything to save our children. But there are not single answers to complex human behaviors like gun violence that will prevent all future tragedies. But we are NOT powerless, and there are many valuable paths that decrease risk from violence to self or others.
Here are some things we can do:
—Expand funding to train and provide mental-health crisis assessment and intervention staff to our schools and our communities; ban bump stocks; fund research to put facial recognition, breathalyzers, locks and GPS on our guns like on our smart phones and cars; build laws that require a brief “respite” from gun ownership following a charge or intervention related to violent behavior; have free lockers in police stations for spouses and parents who are worried about their distressed family members; teach suicide risk assessment and mental-health first-aid in schools, churches, Rotary clubs, and all the community groups we belong to.
—Close the loopholes and require sensible background checks for private gun sales, kits online, or at gun shows; support our police with policies, procedures, and practical assistance, to actually GET the guns from persons who have already been determined as unsafe to own guns; require movie ratings to be as firm about violence as about sex; fund and support safety nets for abused family members; fund assessment into the quality and consistency of reporting across state lines and amidst agencies of already disqualifying events like domestic violence or felony charges; make a DUI a disqualifying event as the person has already proved they can’t be trusted with a four-wheeled weapon; expand treatment for depression; keep mental health and chemical dependency parity, so that insurance companies must continue to cover behavioral health care; provide gun amnesties to buy back and destroy illegal guns; teach non-violent relationships and anger management everywhere.
—Ban assault ri?es and high volume magazines; start talking about pacifism as a cultural value and stop glorifying self-defense as strong and pacifism as weak; provide Job Corps training and jobs to youth and the unemployed; require print and visual media to study and implement appropriate reporting procedures for violent and suicidal events to prevent contagion and “clusters”; require gun safes for parents of toddlers and young ones and help young families purchase these safes; provide crisis intervention training and “stand-by” mental-health assistance for our police forces so they are not forced into participating in “suicide by cops”; develop identification and intervention peer groups for persons at high-risk of harm to themselves or others, for high risk groups like adolescent males and elderly males.
Read about gun laws in other countries and see which ones you agree with and which you don’t. The list goes on and on. Please, if you care about the safety of your children, your parents, your peers, pick something on this list you can agree with and work toward that goal.
Jennifer Allen, a Kalispell Democrat, is a candidate in Montana Senate District 5.