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mental health mondays :: when the right makes two wrongs

i don't put a lot of stock in arguments from the nra as to why factors other than the ludicrously lax gun laws in america are chiefly responsible for the amount of gun violence there. i believe that the only way to effectively reduce gun crimes is to limit the number and power of weapons available to the general public and that the men who wrote the constitution and the bill of rights never envisioned their second amendment being used in the way it is by the pro-gun lobby. that's my opinion and while i believe it's correct, it's clear that there are other opinions about this, particularly among the right flank of american politicians.

one of the latest scapegoats/ explanations for gun violence in the aftermath of mass murders in colorado, connecticut and at a military base near washington is the country's method of dealing with mental health issues. and for once, the right wing and i are in agreement that something needs fixing and that having more comprehensive gun control will be of limited use if people with severe mental disorders have greater access to weapons than they do to healthcare. at least, i thought that we were in agreement until my good friend martin sent me this article regarding senator al franken's initiative to improve funding for mental health support.

as i mentioned, i don't think that mental illness is responsible for all or even most of the gun violence in the united states, but if you're going to argue that it is, then it helps to put your money where your mouth is. you can't just say "this is a serious problem" and then actively block efforts to solve it. or at least, if you do, you should have to make your explanation clear.

the argument that individual states should be responsible for health care is pretty tenuous. it's a libertarian fallback position absolving the federal government from responsibility for doing just about anything, other than those things which are equally necessary for all the states, but beyond the capacity of individual states to provide. however, i think there's a very compelling argument that access to mental healthcare is exactly that kind of thing. resources vary wildly from one region to another, but the danger presented by a mentally ill person determined to cause harm to others is equal, no matter where one lives. [note :: i mean that the danger would be equal wherever the situation exists, not that there are equal numbers of people with mental disorders in every area of the country.]

the importance of states' rights may be another point on which right wing politicians and i differ. but eventually, i hope that some enterprising journalist will see fit to ask one of the men who has blocked this legislation what they are doing to combat the problem of mental illness combined with gun violence. we're very aware of what they're doing to stop individual initiatives, but i don't see a lot of action directed towards fixing it. this, really, is the larger issue. politicians can list off their reasons for opposing individual pieces of legislation ad infinitum, but if they're going to justify their salaries, they also need to provide an alternate vision.

of course, no one will likely ask those questions, because they've not been asked before. senator tom coburn is notable for having opposed multiple efforts engineered to get help for returning veterans. senator mike lee from utah was one of the strongest advocates of the government shutdown late last year and his most recent piece of legislation is actually designed to block the influence of the supreme court's decision to legalize marriage equality. [to be fair, lee has also done some proactive work on easing the burden on the american prison system.] instead of having to answer the hard questions, politicians like lee and coburn are able to skate their way around by shrugging and saying it's someone else's problem.

in the meantime, conditions in the united states remain dire for many in need of mental healthcare and as long as there are people who are content to view their job as being to oppose legislation they don't 100% agree with as opposed to fighting for legislation that will solve real problems, it seems like little is going to change.

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