I’m still feeling horrified by the killing of 26 children and adults that occurred just down the road from my home on Sunday. I’m equally horrified by how quickly my mind has wandered to other things like how much laundry I have to do or the e-mails I need to return. My brain tells me that this is the new normal; that I need to just accept that dying by mass shooting is an American thing now. But my heart screams out, “No! We have to do more.”
I keep hearing that we have a “mental health problem,” not a gun problem.
So here’s my question: Why do we lead the WORLD in public mass shootings (and that’s not including gang-related violence) when there are plenty of mental health issues and mental health diagnoses in other countries? As a mental health professional, I can tell you that my clients are far more likely to be the victims of violence rather than perpetrators. However, let’s just say that a potential shooter is struggling with a mental health crisis. If they do reach out for help, chances are that their insurance won’t cover the counseling or psychiatric care.
We as a nation decreased drunk driving by 51 percent since 1982.
We as a nation have decreased the incidence of SIDS by 50 percent since 1988.
We as a nation prohibited and recalled 11 million drop-side cribs after the suffocation and strangulation deaths of 32 infants.
We, as a nation, MUST find ways to decrease gun deaths and eliminate horrific mass shootings. We can do it.
This issue is complex. It is non-partisan and there are no simple answers in a country that is saturated with firearms. So, instead of continuing my rant, I’ve decided to focus on what I CAN do.
- I can urge my representatives to close background check loopholes and pass universal background checks. (Why was the latest shooter able to buy a gun at Academy Sports with everything on his record?)
- I can urge my representatives to pass and enforce legislation that prevents individuals convicted of domestic violence from purchasing firearms.
- I can urge my representatives to maintain access to healthcare for ALL Americans and prevent pre-existing condition clauses from coming back on the scene so that all Americans have access to affordable mental health care.
- I can stay in the loop with organizations such as Sandy Hook Promise, Mom’s Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety, who are all pursuing a well-researched and multi-pronged approach to decreasing gun violence. Better yet, take it a step further and join a local chapter of Mom’s Demand Action. They schedule and facilitate regular meetings with law-making, policy-changing legislators.
- I can continue to ask why we Americans insist on owning and selling semi-automatic weapons, AR-15 style rifles, gun silencers and bump stocks? All of the recent mass shooters used AR-15’s.
And here are the tough ones…
- I can make sure that my family’s firearms (yup, I live in Texas and my husband is a gun owner) are safely stored and maintained.
- I can talk to my sons about anger management and rage, because I hate to say it, but they fit the “white male” profile for a mass shooter.
- I can monitor their mental health and check in with them regularly. I can remove all firearms from the home if a family member is expressing suicidal/homicidal thoughts or showing other warning signs. (The latest mass shooter posted photos of his AR-15 on Facebook and according to his uncle, posted other concerning messages.)
- I can alert the police if I see risk factors in my family members OR friends OR neighbors.
- I can talk to my kids about bullying and harassment. Especially sexual harassment. About treating all humans AND animals with respect and kindness and reaching out for help if they are suffering or feeling victimized.
These are things I CAN do and I will do. We need to keep talking about this. Please join me if you can.
Kirsten Brunner, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and married mother of two rambunctious boys in Austin, Texas. She provides sanity-saving tips and private workshops for expectant and new parents at Baby Proofed Parents. Kirsten is a regular contributor to Huffington Post, TODAY Show Parenting Team and Scary Mommy. Her work has also been featured in Real Simple Magazine, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Woman’s Day and Mamalode. Follow Kirsten on Facebook or Twitter for real-time tips and humor to help you “bring sane to baby brain.”