OPINION: How did we get to this quagmire on gun violence?

Gun Rights

Here’s what I am so tired of hearing. First, you hear the gunshots — if not literally, at least figuratively, as there is yet another report of a mass shooting somewhere in America. Then come the devastated local officials to explain that they had no idea it could happen in their town. Then come the politicians to offer prayers and sympathy — a phrase which now just makes me want to gag. And then finally come the statements from NRA-owned politicians about how this is not about guns but about mental health. And then comes … nothing.

Anchorage recently was shocked to find out that a young man who stabbed a stranger with no provocation and left her paralyzed was released from jail because he couldn’t be charged if he didn’t understand the charges against him. That’s the state of mental health care throughout this country. A lot of talk about how necessary it is. A lot of outrage over incidents like the recent one in Anchorage. And then … nothing.

Funding mental health programs has never been a priority in this state, well at least not since the end of unlimited oil money. There was a time in the 1980s where we actually had annual mental health grants that went out to all regions of the state in order to help them start and maintain local mental health services. It will come as no surprise to anyone that those grants disappeared quicker than a rock sinks in water as soon as the money started to dry up. Those local clinics ended up closing and those people in those areas needing mental health services often ended up with “Greyhound therapy.” We may not have a bus from the Bush areas of Alaska to Anchorage and Fairbanks, but we still know how to put people on a plane. They leave for “services,” and all too often never return.

As far as mental health and mass shootings are concerned, I see that connection only if you call right-wing extremists mentally ill. All too many of them kill out of sheer hate for anyone and anything they deem as different. Mental health is not the issue. Hate is the issue. The attempt by the NRA to put all the blame on the mentally ill is just shameful.

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The NRA blames the mentally ill knowing that it has no responsibility to fund programs to help them. They use their money to lobby Congress so that it does NOT pass laws that keep guns out of the hands of those with mental illness.

The NRA has a lot of things it should be embarrassed about. But blaming the mentally ill for gun violence when it fights against laws that would keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill should put them in the deepest circle of hell. They pick on a population with little political clout. They hand their paid politicians scripts that refuse to admit to the reality of American life today. They pretend that the Founding Fathers wanted everyone to have access to weapons of mass destruction. They pretend that the phrase “well-regulated militia” is not in the Second Amendment. Or, worse yet, they pretend that armed bands of hateful, mostly white men waving Confederate flags and brandishing rifles are the militia referred to. That might be true if the South had won the war, but it didn’t. So, waving their flag means either they want Black Americans to be put back into slavery or they are too ignorant of history to understand they are waving the flag of a country that lost its war against us.

Who ever thought the day would come when going to a parade or a mall meant taking your life into your own hands? Who ever thought the day would come when protecting hate and violence would become a Congressional priority? Who ever thought we’d see the day when deciding to go grocery shopping was a life-or-death decision?

I’m tired of it all. So should you be. Come November, take a close look at the person you plan to vote for and decide if you trust your life, and the lives of your school kids, in their hands.

Elise Patkotak is an Alaska columnist and author. Her book “Coming Into the City” is available at AlaskaBooksandCalendars.com and at local bookstores.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

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