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Debating Gun Control and Mental Health

Guest blogger: Bentley de Bardelaben

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Executive for Administration and Communications

United Church of Christ Witness for Justice #512
January 24, 2011

The current debate about Second Amendment rights, gun control law, and the ability to properly diagnose mental health has stirred public opinion in such a way that people are now talking about possible changes. The tragedies that occurred at a shopping plaza in Arizona, on a military base in Texas and on a college campus in Virginia have a common link-access to guns by the mentally unstable. Many have heard the saying, “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” While I am not looking to argue, mental illness is a subject worthy of discussion.

It has been awhile since I’ve been hunting, but I admit it is an exciting sport. The rule I hunt by is “kill (or catch if I would be fishing) only what I expect to clean and eat.” Further, I’ve never been a proponent of using automatic or semi-automatic weaponry. It’s about the thrill of the hunt and the skill of the hunter, not about slaughtering the animal.

Obviously, I support the Second Amendment right to bear arms. But having a gun to protect myself and family against a home invasion is a very different issue. Along with the privilege of owning guns one must familiarize one’s household with rules of gun ownership, especially when children are young. The tragic shootings in Tucson have reopened this discussion. The issue in this case is the mental state of the gun owner. In fact, some people support the adding of a mental health component to the application for acquiring a gun license.

Prior to my becoming an ordained minister, I had to pass a rigorous mental health test. It was mentally exhausting to say the least. The questions went over and over the same things. But the point of repetition of questions was the consistency of my answers. Fortunately, I passed. This was good news for me and the parishioner’s whose souls I had been charged to care for. A mental health examination is required for women and men in ministry; however to procure a gun license, we overlook a person’s mental health status. Isn’t the safety of American citizens as important as where we spend eternity? Comparably, these topics are apples and oranges. Nevertheless, they are equally important.

Some are asking that we become less vitriolic and more mindful with our speech. There is Cominciamo con la definizione di “requisiti di giocata”, a cui sono soggetti tutti i bonus casino . an earnest attempt to bring a civil and respectful tone into our national political debate. But civility does not address mental illness. In my experience, concerns about people who are paranoid schizophrenic and hearing voices in their minds have little connection with the ability to debate civilly. True, it cannot hurt us to be civil. But we must not lose this opportunity before us to regulate gun ownership for the mentally ill. The precious life of Christina Taylor Green and the rest of our nation’s children demand that we take action.

It is a wise nation that learns from lessons of its past that is destined not to repeat them. Let us be the great republic we are and make necessary changes to our gun laws for the safety of all. For such a time as this, we cannot afford to fail.

Special Note: Our heartfelt condolences to the families of Judge John Roll, Gabe Zimmerman, Dorwin Stoddard, Dorothy Murray, Phyllis Scheck, and Christina Taylor Green. Our thoughts and prayers for the recovery of those injured including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. In addition, we pray for the parents of Jared Lee Loughner, who are also wounded by this terrible tragedy.

The United Church of Christ has more than 5,300 churches throughout the United States. Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation. UCC members and churches are free to differ on important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.

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NGAC holds first forum in Youngstown, Ohio!

On Tuesday, January 25 Elliot Fineman traveled to Youngstown, Ohio at the invitation of ACTION, an interfaith organization that works to improve the community in Mahoning Valley.

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ACTION hosted a forum on gun violence and how National Gun Victims Action Council’s strategy to harness the economic power of gun victims, survivors, family, friends and faith leaders will lead to gun laws that protect public safety and respect the rights of legal gun owners at the same time.

The Youngstown Vindicator, which sent a reporter to the meeting, estimated that 50 people attended the presentation. Those who attended were inspired by Elliot’s strategy to restore sanity to our gun laws and increase the safety of our communities.

While he was in Youngstown, Elliot did interviews with two television stations, a radio station, and two newspapers–all of which were interested in his message of hope about reducing gun violence.

Check out the news page soon for links to the broadcast and print interviews with Youngstown media outlets.

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