Guns and butter, but mostly guns

I don’t know anybody with a serious mental illness—at least don’t think I do. But according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in seventeen Americans suffers from either major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or borderline personality disorder. That means either I, one of the neighbors to my left or right, or the family across the street falls into that category.

I also don’t know anyone who owns an assault rifle. Again, same caveat. But published reports this past week indicate that of 50,000 registered assault rifles in Connecticut, only 47,000 have been registered. So I guess that’s bad, and everyone agrees that all these scofflaws should stop scoffing. But according to people in the gun industry, that 50,000 total may be as little as fifteen percent of actual assault-rifle-owners in this state. In Connecticut. Little eighty-by-sixty mile Connecticut. I wouldn’t have thought there’d be enough room to store them all, but somehow people are finding adequate space.

So let’s be conservative here (in the non-Tea Party sense of the word) and settle on 250,000. And let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that each owner possesses ten. That may be a bit high, but once you start collecting them, well, they say it’s kind of like eating popcorn…sans butter. So we have 25,000 people with assault rifles, that’s about the population of New London, and one out of every seventeen is depressed, schizophrenic, etc. By my count, that’s about 1500 people with serious mental illnesses who also have assault rifles—in our state alone. And yet the “problem” is they’re not registered? Seriously? That’s the problem? If we think a small state like ours that contains within its borders 350,000 assault rifles isn’t a problem in and of itself, then we aren’t merely missing the point, we’re missing the entire pencil…and the eraser…and the tree it came from.

Gun apologist constantly deflect criticism of their pastime by claiming that we need better mental health more than we need gun laws. But it doesn’t have to be either-or, nor does it have to be one then another. But that’s a battle for another day. At least the state should make a concerted effort to get these guns registered so that, if by chance, the one-in-seventeen crosses databases with the 350,000, maybe we can pull some of those guns off the streets before the next mass killing.

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Chuck Radda

I'm a former high school English teacher, currently a literacy volunteer and novelist. I invite your responses right here or to chuckradda@gmail.com. You can also follow me on Facebook and on Twitter—where I tweet annually at @chuckrad45.

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