Sitting on the porch recently, it was delightful to hear the neighborhood children playing together. What a relief from this angry world we're living in. So far this year, we've had more than 200 mass shootings, more than one per day with two in two weeks in Chattanooga.
Nowhere's safe: grocery stores, bars, parties, churches, schools and hospitals. Gun violence is contagious, especially for young men who make up 98% of these shooters. Nothing says constitutional rights like an enraged 18-year old with a semi-automatic AR-15.
Rage is certainly a factor. A hate crimes expert at the Criminal Justice Program at Wake Forest University School of Law, said, "We're seeing the confluence of violence, easy access to guns and political rhetoric that does not condemn and often supports violence against minorities." Many who oppose gun regulation push back, saying that it's the rage and related mental health that should be addressed, not gun reform legislation.
So you'd think funding for mental health would increase. But Texas Gov. Abbott recently cut that funding. And Tennessee Gov. Lee, who rejects gun restriction laws because "criminals don't follow laws," goes with "mental health." Yet he won't expand Medicaid, a key resource for mental health agencies.
This emphasis on mental health makes you wonder why there aren't more red flag laws that would allow family or law enforcement to file for an emergency protection order against individuals posing a risk if they buy a firearm. But many states reject red flag laws.
Researcher Mark Follman argues that there's "a very rational thought process" behind the planning of mass shootings. The suspect in the Uvalde attack bought at least two assault rifles shortly after his 18th birthday and shot his grandmother before going to the elementary school. The 18-year old suspect in the Buffalo attack left behind a racist manifesto, wore body armor and live-streamed his attack. All that takes planning.
Law enforcement agencies, business leaders, medical professionals and clergy want more protection. Why don't we change the legal age for purchasing guns from 18 to 21? Why don't we ban assault weapons and semi-automatic weapons like Canada and Australia do?
Neither is doable because the GOP objects and demands our elected representatives adhere to party orthodoxy. When New York Republican Rep. Chris Jacobs recently supported an assault weapons ban bill, he eliminated any chance of his winning the GOP primary. Jacobs noted that guns were a top priority: "If you stray from a party position, you are annihilated."
Gun manufacturers see the advantages to our divided country and craft marketing and advertising messages that play into our tribalist nature. For example, days before the Uvalde, Texas, massacre, the maker of the AR-15 rifle used in the shooting posted an ad showing a toddler holding a rifle. The caption read, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
No wonder GOP candidates picture themselves with guns, implying that they'll battle relentlessly for their tribe. Who will they fight? The far-right American Firearms Association warned its supporters about "Bloomberg-funded, red shirt radical, commie mommies [Moms Demand Action]" who are advocating for gun reforms.
Guess who could really use that mental health funding?
Contact Deborah Levine, an author, trainer/coach and editor of the American Diversity Report, at firstname.lastname@example.org.