Bill Bailey: OK, let’s try it your way

By Bill Bailey

Guest columnist

In 1972, following a personal family gun-related death, I sold all of my shotguns and pistol.

My favorite memory of time with my father is dove and duck hunting. I am a believer in the Second Amendment for its original purpose. I believe gun ownership is not an evil thing. I believe armor-piercing ammunition and magazines that hold more than 10 bullets is unnecessary and that automatic weapons ought to be reserved for the military, law enforcement and federally licensed collectors. I believe that just like driving a car, gun ownership should occur only after professional safety training.

As of May 7, there have been more than 200 mass shootings this year. We have had more mass shootings than days in 2023.

The FBI defines a mass shooting as an incident where one or more individuals is actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people. The Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2012 defines a mass killing as an event where three or more are killed in a single event.

So far in 2023, 14,000 people have died from gun violence. We average 115 per day. Almost 500 of those have been teenagers. Eighty-five have been children under 10. They have been killed in schools, shopping centers, churches and at parties. We have about 66 suicides a day.

Death by guns is now the leading cause of children’s deaths.

The population of the U.S. is 330 million. There are an estimated 450 million guns in the U.S.

Many independent and reputable surveys and polls indicate more than 80% of our citizens support universal background checks for gun ownership and believe it does not infringe on one’s right to own a gun, except to those who shouldn’t own one. A similar percentage like the idea of Red Flag laws.

The membership of the NRA is estimated to be 5½ million, or less than 2% of our population. The NRA is the most effective lobby group of Congress and in many, if not most, states.

No significantly impactful gun legislation is going to happen in the next few years.

To do something then to curb the killing, it is time to take the NRA up on its idea that mental health is the primary problem, and hopefully, it will throw its mighty muscle behind the idea of significantly supporting raising the level of mental health funding.

The federal government spends about $280 billion on mental health. It is time to spend four times that.

Like cancer, there is probably no family that has not been touched by a mental health issue. Everyone has a bad day. For some, that bad day feeds despair or isolation, which then can turn into anger or depression. At some breaking point, the anger can build and may show up as another mass shooting.

No community is insulated from this.

One can debate that universal background checks is the first step toward mandated gun control. There can be no debate that better mental health has positive ripple benefits.

One can make the argument that laws to limit gun ownership is a form of population control. No argument can stand up to the benefit of anger management.

Rather than continuing to finger point and argue while hundreds die from gun-related deaths, it is time to do something. That something can be a massive funding increase in mental health. Since the NRA has said the issue is mental health, then I would suppose the obviously influential organization and its membership would enthusiastically lobby and support that.

If in the next few years, after a huge increase in mental health funding, there is no significant reduction in mass shootings and deaths, the generation of those children now being killed and their families and friends as the civic, business and governmental leaders of tomorrow will rise up and legislatively take action in a way that the NRA will probably not like.

The debating, arguing and finger pointing is not doing anything to stop the gun violence and deaths. It is time to do something, even if 80% of the population thinks it is the second, and lesser, choice.

This must stop being an us or them issue. We must not see this as capitulation or a win for one side and a loss for the other. It must be a choice that hopefully leads to a win for our children, families and nation.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It is time to do something … anything.

Now retired, Bill Bailey is a former Seymour city councilman, mayor of Seymour, state representative and president of the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce. He is a current resident of Seymour. Send comments to [email protected].