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March 31, 2021

Let us Not be Complacent, America.

For so long, I’ve been standing in the middle ground with regard to gun laws and the gun debate here in the United States of America.

I’ve understood arguments on both sides yet have most often agreed that the issue is a mental health crisis in our country.

Now, I see it differently.

If I’m an alcoholic, and I choose to have alcohol in my home—chances are I will drink. If I am a tobacco smoker, and I choose to have tobacco in my home, chances are I will smoke.

If I have thoughts of going on a mass shooting spree, and I have a Ruger AR-556 pistol—equipped to function similarly to a rifle, with a longer-than-normal barrel—and a nine-millimeter semi-automatic handgun—I am much more liable to kill.

The Boulder attack was the seventh mass shooting in seven days in America.

Tralona “Lonna” Bartkowiak, Eric Talley, Rikki Olds, Denny Stong, Neven Stanisic, Suzanne Fountain, Kevin Mahoney, Lynn Murray, and Jody Waters were murdered at a grocery store.

There is a mental health crisis here in America, no doubt. Yet, I cannot in good conscience sugarcoat the direct issue any longer—it is about deadly assault weapons and our easy access to them.

In order to buy a handgun in Colorado, the purchaser must be a Colorado resident and at least 21 years old. In order to buy a rifle in Colorado, the purchaser must be at least 18 years and does not have to be a Colorado resident. The gun buyer must fill out a form (ATF Form 4473) that asks several simple questions; this being one of them: Has the purchaser ever been adjudicated a mental defective or committed to a mental institution? Once this form is complete, it is then sent over to the CBI InstaCheck Unit. The CBI will then perform a background check by searching various databases. The background check will typically deliver a yay or nay within 20 minutes.

The issue here is simple: most people who have mental health issues have never been adjudicated a mental defective or committed to a mental institution.

When I struggled with depression earlier in my life, I had reoccurring visions of a silver revolver. This image would pop into mind at various times, and it became a symbol for suicidal ideation. This question on the ATF Form 4473 in no way addresses a struggle with depression. The only person who could have known was my therapist, and even then, I was never adjudicated a mental defective.

If a man is having thoughts of going on a mass killing spree, usually there will be hints and clues embedded in his words and actions. Chances are, however, that he may not be speaking to anyone who could legally adjudicate him a mental defective. The wording here on the ATF Form 4473 is part of the problem, for it reeks of mental health stigma, and it needs to be changed. It doesn’t take being labeled a mental defective to kill someone with a firearm.

In my opinion, it is essential that any gun purchaser has a thorough mental health evaluation prior to purchasing a gun. This evaluation should take place with a licensed mental health practitioner over a period of time. Thereafter, an in-depth report about the purchaser should be submitted to the state and implemented into the CBI Background Check database before the purchaser walks into a gun shop.

With enough organization, action, and community support, I am certain that we can petition to legally change the background check process at the State and possibly the National level.

Are you with me? Please comment below and let me hear your thoughts.

Let us not be complacent in normalizing mass shootings in America. Trust me, it’s not worth the wait until it comes to a grocery store near you.

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