America's Gun Problem

I am bereft that in such a short time span, I need to send thoughts of comfort to 3 more families affected by the residual trauma of Mass Shootings:

To the family of Sydney Aiello and another unidentified student, both survivors of the Mass Shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, who chose suicide within 1 week of each other.

To the family of Jeremy Richman, who chose suicide today. His 6 year-old daughter, Avielle, was murdered during the Mass Shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT in 2012.

I'm going to focus on Dr Richman, a neuroscientist and neuropharmacologist, because I have experience with neuroscience and psychiatry due to my own brain health issues. He and his wife, Jennifer Hensel, created the The Avielle Foundation for brain research into the roots of violence as a way to do something about preventing more violent deaths and to cope with their loss.

As someone who lives with occasional suicidal ideation, I "get" his action. The total lack of movement in the past 6 1/2 years toward any reasonable legislation for Gun Reform to protect babies like his must've been absolutely baffling and indescribably oppressive for him. Scientists spend their time trying different methodologies to solve problems and find answers. America's Gun Problem seems so simple, effective answers hanging there in front of us, tantalizing. Surely, a smart guy like Dr Richman and his science advisory board could solve it.

However, it wasn't until the anti-science President started his tenure in 2017 by shutting down labs, defunding science-based agencies and deleting gigabytes of important data that US scientists in general woke to the realization that many of their research topics contained new, political layers.

And holy frijoles do we have layers when it comes to America's Gun Problem!

If I had a superpower, it would be to shame the gun manufacturers, their lobbyists and the NRA into admitting on-camera and in front of Congress that this whole deal they've invented about "taking your guns" and expecting responsible, gun-owning Americans to go "gunless" is all merely, but chillingly successful propaganda. The real aim of the firearms industry is to make as much money as possible regardless of collateral damage, like 6 year-old girls, grieving parents or traumatized high school students. They also would admit, like with other harmful industries such as Big Fossil Fuel and Big Pharma, the Profit Over People mentality always costs, not them -- the guys in the boardrooms and in front of the microphones -- but the rest of us.

They would truthfully testify about their successful divide-and-conquer strategy. It's working better than their wildest dreams. There's nothing like pitting one side of a nation against the other to drive up profit margins. Samuel Colt's Army Model 1860 helped make him one of the richest men in America during the Civil War.

Well, I'm a #GunReformNOW advocate AND a gun owner. I choose not to participate in the firearms industry's artificially created philosophical war. I want to talk to angry (and frightened) NRA supporters, hunters and Second Amendment supporters because the only way we're going to solve America's Gun Problem is not with science, but by creating opportunities for respectful dialogue without the rhetoric, talking points or spin.

It doesn't take a neuroscientist to know that honest talk starts with identifying common values, and all Americans share some. Whether you own a gun or not, support the NRA or not, we all love our children and want them to be safe walking to and learning in school; we want to feel safe in our homes and neighborhoods; we want to earn enough to feed our families; we treasure spending time with friends; we want random and planned violence to stop.

Segué into a discussion about America's Gun Problem, easy does it. You tell me your thoughts, concerns and feelings and I'll listen respectfully. I may not agree with you, but I will value your willingness to talk and will try hard to understand your perspective.

In return, you listen to me. I want sensible laws to close purchasing loopholes, to reduce unneeded civilian firepower (both in magazine capacity and access to military-type weapons) and better scrutiny of buyers. In addition, and we'll probably agree here, legislators of all stripes must increase funding to community mental health facilities and mandate that people with harm histories attend therapy there. If it means reducing violence and death -- in your family, to your neighbors, in your nation -- you'd work hard to find a way, right?

So, let's move past this stuck place where we yell at each other, or worse kill each other or kill ourselves, because the firearms industry has put lies in our mouths, because the firearms industry concocted an artificial Us or Them mentality. I'm not willing to waste one more moment so greedy, selfish men can reap more profit. I'd much rather identify common values and brainstorm with you because you care about America's Gun Problem as much as I do.

If you have thoughts of harming yourself, you can get help NOW -- no judgment, anonymously or not, your choice. Just call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Everyone struggles. It's OK to ask for help.