Social problems. They are my reason for blogging on Patch: to identify a social problem and then invite our community to get involved and be part of a solution. Sadly, the social problem facing our community – rather, our country, right now needs no introduction. The tragic events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning will forever change the conversation.
When faced with adversity my method of coping is mobilization. What can I do to regain a sense of control? This week we are all left to ponder this question. How can we channel our heartache and anger into action? Is it because Newtown is so close to home that we are compelled to act? I don’t think so – the country is engaged in discussion like never before.
There are many questions, and many facets to consider. But two areas scream for attention: how our society deals with mental illness and guns.
We face a mental health crisis in this country. Budgets are cut, and with the loss of funding go vital services. There is a disparity between the way insurance companies view general healthcare and behavioral health services; this allows payers to limit services for those seeking help for a mental illness. They impose limits on how much providers can be reimbursed too, so in in this part of the country most therapists don’t accept any insurance. People who have a mental illness are stigmatized, and this deters many from accessing services. Parents who seek help for their troubled children are chastised if medication is part of the treatment.
There are no easy answers. Let’s talk, listen and learn from each other. We need to take a close look at how our society deals with people who have a disease of the brain – a chemical imbalance. It will take work, but we can change the culture, and improve the care of those experiencing a mental illness.
Leadership from the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) Connecticut is going “on the road” to talk with residents throughout the state. This is an opportunity for community members to learn about what is happening in Connecticut to address the needs of those with mental illness, and to get involved on a grass roots level. Local NAMI chapters will host the meetings; a schedule can be found on NAMI CT’s calendar. Some dates are already scheduled (below), and more will be:
- Fairfield NAMI: January 2, 2013, 7:30-9:00 pm. This meeting’s agenda includes a discussion of NAMI’s legislative priorities for 2013. More about the meeting is here.
- Stamford/Greenwich NAMI: January 16, 2013. More info here.
- NAMI Southeast (Norwich): February 6, 2013. More info here.
- NAMI Windsor Locks (East Windsor): February 10, 2013. More info here.
Let’s consider the facts. The Swiss-based Small Arms Survey found that in 2007 the United States had the highest gun ownership rate in the world: 88 guns per 100 people, or 270 million altogether.[i] When countries experiencing high murder rates by drug cartels (Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil) were excluded, the survey reported that the US has the highest rate of homicide by guns. Firearms killed 31,347 people in 2009 – that is 17.7% of all injury deaths that year.[ii]
Gun control helps. The states with high gun ownership and weak gun laws experienced the most gun deaths.[iii] No matter how “gun enthusiasts” may spin it, the numbers speak for themselves: tougher gun laws save lives.
What justification is there for civilians to own military style weapons and high capacity magazines? What rational person would deny the importance of background checks and gun registration? When Congress resumes session in January, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) intends to introduce a bill to renew the ban on assault weapons. These are common sense measures.
The gun lobby is powerful. Suggestions to arm teachers and implement high-tech security features in our schools and public areas are based on the premise that the current state of gun ownership and (lack of) regulation is acceptable. No longer can our society acquiesce to gun violence perpetrated against the innocent. This is our call to be part of the solution. The nation is ready – now is the time for action.
Contact government officials:
Let your elected leaders know what you think. Connecticut Against Gun Violence, www.CAGV.org, is leading the charge on gun control in the state. They are working with Connecticut legislators and on January 9th a Bill will be introduced to enhance gun safety. Click on the “Legislative Action Center” on the right side of their home page, under Take Action. Once you enter your home address this link will connect you to your local, state and federal representatives in government. Since Senator-elect Chris Murphy hasn’t taken office yet, he is not included. He can be reached here, at his Congressional office. After he takes his senatorial seat that link will close and he will be listed on the CAGV’s Legislative Action Center too.
Other organizations that are actively pursuing gun control:
- The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, www.bradycampaign.org
- Mayors Against Illegal Guns, www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org
- Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, www.csgv.org
- Violence Policy Center, www.vpc.org
Several on-line petitions are circulating:
- Immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress. We the People: sign the petition
- Gun Control. Now. Sign On (an arm of Move On): sign the petition
- Increase the availability of mental health services now! Change.org: sign the petition
- Zichronam Lirracha: For their memory shall be a blessing. Jewish Council for Public Affairs: sign the petition
[i] The Guardian, Gun homicides and gun ownership listed by country. US edition. Accessed 12/18/12, http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jul/22/gun-homicides-ownership-world-list.
[ii] National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 60, No. 3, December 29, 2011. Accessed 12/18/12, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr60/nvsr60_03.pdf.
[iii] Violence Policy Center. States with Higher Gun Ownership and Weak Gun Laws Lead Nation in Gun Deaths, Washington, DC: Violence Policy Center, October 24, 2011. Accessed 12/18/12, http://www.vpc.org/press/1110gundeath.htm.