The brisk fall air stung my cheeks as our feet crunched through the brown grass. I was carrying my B.B. gun, my dad, his .22. He had shown me how to load and fire it, how to take aim and hit a target. Now we were going hunting.
Dad made sure I knew the safety should always be on when I was walking. He showed me how to carry my gun and how to cross through the fence at the back of the field safely. I don’t think we got anything that day. But I was with my dad and it was good.
Guns, Dad and happiness are forever linked in my mind, so when you tell me I can’t own a gun simply because I am bipolar, it makes me angry. It’s like stripping away part of my childhood, and I’ve already lost enough to this disease!
It’s really not fair. I’ve never threatened anyone, never been homicidal. Yes, I have been suicidal, but my plans do not involve a gun. Never have.
Besides, mentally ill people are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Over 1/4 of people diagnosed with SMI have been a victim of violent crime. That is 11 times the rate of the general population. Yet we aren’t focusing on that. Instead we are worried about becoming a victim at the hands of someone with a mental illness, despite what the statistics show.
“When we hear about crimes committed by people with mental illness, they tend to be big headline-making crimes so they get stuck in people’s heads,” said lead researcher Jillian Peterson, PhD. “The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, not criminal and not dangerous.”
This public perception of the “crazy” man with the gun is increasing stigma against the mentally ill. We are being looked at as terrorists, based on an accident of birth and not on our behavior. Can you imagine if we tried to take the driver’s license of every person who drinks because a relative few will choose to drive drunk?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, their are some warning signs that someone with a mental illness may become violent. Those include:
Co-occurring abuse of alcohol or drugs
Past history of violence
Being young and male
I don’t fit into any of those categories. The majority of those with a mental illness don’t. So why should I be banned from owning a firearm? From hunting and target shooting?
NAMI is also concerned, and I agree, that blanket bans on the mentally ill may create “more barriers to people being willing to seek treatment and help when they need it most.” That would actually make the problem worse, as lack of treatment is a real risk factor.
“Solutions to gun violence associated with mental illness lie in improving access to treatment, not in preventing people from seeking treatment in the first place.” NAMI.org
NAMI also believes gun bans should look at more risk factors than just mental illness. 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness. Should we ban them all? Or just the 1 in 25 with a serious mental illness? If the U.S. population is 318.9 million, that means banning some 12 million people because they might commit a crime.
I agree with NAMI, the solution lies in providing access to treatment, not in further stigmatizing the innocent. Click To TweetIt’s a damn shame that people in the richest nation in the world don’t have access to basic care when they need it. Instead we’d rather make generalizations and perpetuate the problem, instead of focusing on what could make a difference.