I read with interest the recent Utah Sheriff’s Association letter to President Obama regarding his plan to reduce gun violence in our country. I was perplexed by its alarmist, adversarial tone and extreme focus on protecting the 2nd Amendment rights of citizens. Some of the statements in the letter made me wonder if members of the association had even read the president’s proposal.
President Obama recently, “Like most Americans, I believe the 2nd Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. I respect our strong tradition of gun ownership and the rights of hunters and sportsmen. There are millions of responsible, law-abiding gun owners in America who cherish their right to bear arms for hunting or sport or protection or collection.
I also believe most gun owners agree that we can respect the 2nd Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale.”
The letter read, “As your administration and Congress continue to grapple with the complex issue of firearm regulations, we pray that the Almighty will guide the People’s Representatives collectively.” Reducing gun violence in this country requires action, not prayer.
Gun violence and the underlying causes that lead people to commit mass murder, murder-suicide, suicide by cop, and suicide is a complex problem that a single strategy can’t fix. In fact, the majority of firearms-related deaths in the U.S. are suicides.
In 2010, 19,392 Americans died by suicide using a gun. Education, outreach and training for the general public, health professionals, gun dealers and law enforcement professionals on recognizing suicide/homicide signs is crucial. Law enforcement can play a huge role in this by using best practices, registered training focused on recognizing suicide/homicide warning signs. Law enforcement officers can also improve their mental health/suicide/violence prevention literacy skills, and understand their key role in the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention report by the Surgeon General.
Other important focus areas include access to affordable mental health care, safe schools, and means restriction. Those referred to as “malevolent souls” are individuals with underlying mental disorders. It’s important to note that the vast majority of mentally ill people are more likely to be victims of violence, rather than perpetrators.
Still, timely identification and treatment of mental disorders can prevent individuals from becoming so depressed and violent they become a threat to themselves or others.
The association is comprised of law enforcement officers dedicated to the peace and protection of the lives and property of Utah citizens. This involves more than protecting our 2nd Amendment rights. Gun violence is a serious public health and safety problem. In an average year in America, over 100,000 people are shot in murders, assaults, suicide, suicide attempts, accidents or by police intervention. I ask that the association expand its view of the current gun control proposals, recognizing the law enforcement community’s key role in reducing gun violence, and become part of the solution.
Christiansen, of Ogden, runs the blog O-Town Ramblings at http://www.o-townramblings.blogspot.com/. The column was also sent to the Utah Sheriff’s Association.