I can’t help but watch Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, talk about mental illness after a mass shooting. He’s like a zamboni clearing the ice of any blame that should go to our lack of gun regulations and leaving behind a nice smooth surface for him to rant on and on about us “maniacs” getting our hands on guns.
I can’t help myself. I have to watch him. Last Sunday on Meet the Press he claimed there just weren’t enough “good guys with guns” to stop the “bad guy” with a gun at the Navy shipyard in Washington, DC. I think Wayne watched too many westerns as a kid. Wayne, you just can’t divide the world into “good guys” and “bad guys.” You ever see the movie Taxi Driver with Robert De Niro?
We have got to stop letting guys like LaPierre stoke the fear of people with mental illnesses. The overwhelming majority of us are not a threat. Putting my name in a database because I tried to kill myself 30-some years ago is not going to make you safer, Wayne. And, it’s going to piss me off and clear the ice for a nasty, expensive legal showdown between the ACLU and government – which will again distract us from any meaningful gun regulation and care for people with mental illnesses.
Wayne and I agree on one thing: the mental health system in America isn’t working. As much as I rant about mental illness being treated like any other physical illnesses, they are not. Mental illnesses are the most costly. They are the number one workplace disability and cost us billions of dollars in lost productivity.
Where Wayne and I part ways is that Wayne believes a federal database of people with mental illnesses who have been involuntarily committed for treatment would make us safer because those people would not be able to purchase guns. Of course, he overlooks the sins of those “responsible” gun owners who don’t lock up their guns when they aren’t being used – making them readily available to burglars and us scary “maniacs.”
As Adam Lanza taught us, you don’t need to buy a gun to slaughter innocent school kids. You just have to steal your mom’s gun.
What we need is free medical care for people with mental illnesses who cannot afford it. Kind of like Miranda rights for mental health care: You are entitled to mental health care even if you can’t afford it. Treatment, therapy, medications, even housing – the works.
That’s a radical idea, isn’t it. Why should I – the hardworking taxpayer – have to pick up the tab for their medical care, prescriptions and housing! Because you’re doing it anyway. Jail and prisons are now the number one providers of mental health care in the United States.
It costs a lot less to house someone with a mental illness in a group home that provides care and treatment than it is to house them in a jail cell. Who do you think ends up paying for all those emergency room visits made when people with mental illnesses become acutely ill? You do.
When it comes to mental illness we must get beyond our “pull yourself up by your bootstrap” mentality. I could not pull myself up by my bootstraps when I was sick – and I’m a pretty tough cookie. I needed help and thank God I had good medical insurance that covered my therapy and prescriptions.
Until we get beyond the fear and stigma of mental illness being stoked by the NRA, nothing is going to change. Come to think of it, nothing really has changed since Newtown, has it?