Days later and I’m still reeling from Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas. I’m sure we all are. I find myself reading the stories and bios of the people who lost their lives that night. Charleston Hartfield was many things: a Las Vegas police officer, an accomplished Nevada Army National Guard sergeant first class and a youth football coach. Heather Alvarado, 35, was a mother of three and married to Albert Alvarado, a firefighter in Cedar City, Utah. The couple loved traveling with their three children. Candice Bowers was a single mother of three. Her family described her as a superhero who loved country music. There are 55 more stories to know and to grieve. One was a nurse who died protecting his wife. Another devoted her life to teaching children with special needs. They were people from different walks of life who had gathered Sunday night to enjoy a country music festival in the glimmering heart of the Las Vegas Strip. Then the gunman struck, shooting at the outdoor crowd from the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel. He killed 58 people and injured at least 500, making it the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
And now I’m grappling with this question: what the hell do I tell my kids? How is this okay? Of course it isn’t, and when the lid blows we are all brought to our knees, leveled to our basic common humanity. But – the pot has been boiling for a long time. This is just the result of years upon years of deep-rooted negligence, corruption, selfish ambition, and bad politics. The gun rights organization spent $54.4 million in the 2016 election cycle, almost all of it in “independent expenditures,” meaning spending for or against a candidate but not a direct contribution to a campaign. The NRA also gave $27 million in direct and indirect support to 50 senators who voted against a bill to require universal background checks for firearms purchases. *
I am not here to force any political ideologies or parties on anyone. I’m only stating facts. What is more interesting to me are the mental health numbers in our country. Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year. Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. *
And yet – even still, mental health doesn’t seem to be a substantial part of the gun control conversation. And yes, background checks matter but no, when it comes to assessing mental health, they aren’t enough.
Within his first two months as president, Donald Trump repealed a gun regulation that prevented certain individuals with mental health conditions from buying firearms. *
Federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks on prospective purchasers and to maintain records of the sales. But unlicensed private sellers—on the internet and at gun shows, for example—are not required to observe the same policies.
Let that sink in.
I’m not talking about taking away your guns. But I am talking about amping up the way we enable people to get them. I do agree that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. And I’d add, sick people kill people. So what are we doing to regulate (access to firearms) AND treat the mentally ill? That is the conversation worth having.
For now, I’ll be exercising my rights by writing to my local and federal representatives, and I encourage you to do the same. The simplest way to do it is to test RESIST to 50409. The Resistbot will provide a list of your assigned reps, you type your message, and it sends directly. Simple. Fast.
Here is a sample of what I sent.
Dear ( name of recipient ),
I am writing to you as a parent of small children growing up in an unprecedented era of gun violence in our country. I urge you to vote to close the deadly loopholes in our laws that make it too easy for dangerous people to get guns. I’m begging you to resolve our gun laws immediately by expanding background checks to all online and gun show purchases.
* Background checks work. They are effective and have blocked more than 2 million gun purchases, keeping guns away from convicted felons, domestic abusers, criminals and other dangerous people.
* The current law covers only about 60 percent of gun sales, leaving the door open for prohibited and dangerous people to still buy a gun. For example, domestic abusers with restraining orders can still go online and buy guns without going through a background check in most states.
* 9 in 10 Americans support expanding background checks to online and gun shows sales, including over 80% of gun owners and 74% of NRA members.
* Now we must tell Congress to Finish the Job and expand background checks to all online and gun show purchases.
Background checks are a commonsense tool for keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, and the dangerously mentally ill. It’s time to end the epidemic of gun violence in our country. Thank you for doing what is right for the people of ( your state ) and the United States.
( your name )