So I know that it’s been a while since I last posted to my blog, but there is a question that I get asked so frequently (and sometimes nastily) and I have wanted to write about it for some time now but I’ve just not had the words to be able to articulate how I feel. I have just recently watched the show 13 Reasons Why and without providing any spoilers it really does tackle the heart of suicide in a way that is not only relatable to almost each and every person who has been through high school (no matter the country) but also anyone who has ever been a teen, however if you have never been through, witnessed or even felt even remotely like the people portrayed in this series then at the very least you should watch so that you have an idea of how the actions and choices that you make can make a noticeable difference (for good and for bad) in someone elses life.
Now the question that I get often is “Why are you pro-gun?” (or some derivative which implied my stupidity) and you may be asking how this relates to a TV series about suicide. The first thing I would like to point out is that the killing of other people, and the killing of yourself are usually two sides to the same coin, at some point someone has felt that there is no way out other than to hurt others or to hurt themselves.
What are the forces that drive someone to make the final decision to end their own life, who is to blame for this (I mean is blame really something that we should be thinking about when it happens) and probably the most pertinent question is What could have been done to stop this tragedy?. Now the tool that someone uses to enact a suicide are sometimes discussed as Perhaps we could restrict what vulnerable people have access to to stop them being able to perpetrate this act, which to me signifies a distinct lack of understanding of the problem at heart.
The problem is not How did they get a gun to shoot themselves?, the problem that needs to be addressed is, and always will be, Why did this person feel that this was the only way that they could find peace? and until that question is answered everything else is really just patching up the bleeding, that is until the bleeding starts somewhere else because you only treated the symptoms and not the cause.
I live in a country where guns have been heavily regulated and for the most part people in general think that our gun laws have safeguarded us from the Evils of the big scary gun and to an extent I guess they are correct, however the sense that they are correct is probably not what you are thinking. When I say that in a sense they are correct, they are correct insofar as the big scary gun is not really a topic of conversation (except when people feel they are an expert on what’s wrong with America’s “gun problem” and how they could solve it) and so people don’t really have the threat of guns on their mind, however what they don’t seem to grasp is that just because you can’t see the monster, nor think it’s real, doesn’t mean that the chance of it rearing its head is any less, all it means is that instead of facing up to the issue head on, you’re less prepared when it does (and I mean this from a literal and figurative sense).
Now I have been pro-gun for a while and while I was writing a comment response to a Greens senator David Shoebridge (who as an aside, feels that the best way to protect free speech is to silence others) I thought I would look at the gun related deaths in Australia (which by the way, props to the ABS for their comprehensive centralised datasets) and while I was looking into the statistics what I found about our suicide rate was astonishing, and absolutely disheartening to read. What I found is that in the last 10 years not only has the amount of people ending their own life increased substantially but what is also extremely evident is that around 3 in 4 persons who do this are young men, and that by in large they use rope (not necessarily rope, but you get the picture) to complete their grim task.
Now one of the things that is constantly mentioned is that Girls usually choose a method that allows people to reach them in time, boys usually use a method that gets the job done and they tend to suggest that girls merely do it for attention and that boys actually want to die. Now I don’t care how you slice it up, 4 out of 4 people in the suicide statistic are dead, gone, no more and that to me is a damn shame, and should be considered one of the big shames of our generation. Regardless of if it is an attempt on a life, or if someone succeeds in actually ending their own life I don’t believe it is ever “attention seeking”, I believe that it is always a cry for help and that we as a society are failing people… We are failing girls and we are failing boys… And the victim is someone’s son, daughter, mother, father, sister, brother, friend, partner or any other of many different relationships and this in itself is an absolute tragedy.
So how does this have anything to do with guns? Well, what it does indicate is that while suicide is possible with a gun, it is also possible with anything that you have in your house, your school or your businesses and even just around the streets and “banning guns” will not stop someone that is planning to end their life from doing so, and to even suggest this is the case would be laughable if it wasn’t so damn serious. So yes I don’t agree that suicide statistics should be included in any statistics against gun violence because that is not only disingenuous but it’s also not helping our brothers and sisters that need our help and for those that actually understand suicide would come to realise that this is just a cheap ploy to try and push an agenda to try and ban the scary things in life, all because you can’t see the benefit of a tool.
So after all that who is to blame, I mean I have established that the tool can’t possibly be to blame for the actions of it’s operator (you don’t blame the rope, right?)? I think what we need to understand is that there are no single reasons why someone chooses to go down that route, the uncomfortable truth is that we all need to be more observant of the warning signs that people are trying to reach out to us because at the end of the day we are all to blame for not realising that people are reaching out and asking, no crying for help. It’s much easier to blame the tool, the gun, than to face up to the fact that society is the problem and is what needs to change, and to me, 13 Reasons Why so eloquently illustrates what I am talking about (if you haven’t seen it, watch it).
I also get asked a lot How can you be pro-gun when people use them to commit mass murders?.
Now this is the other side of the coin that I mentioned at the start of this post, and this is one of the most divisive subjects on the issue of guns. Now you might ask How are suicide and mass shootings related? and to this I say that both are a cry for help, the major difference is that while suicide only directly harms the person involved (and obviously the many people that are left behind) mass shootings directly affect the poor souls that get caught up in someone’s cry for help.
Now that is to say while I accept that it’s a cry for help, I don’t accept it as an acceptable step for someone to take. The act of killing someone else in cold blood, regardless of the reason, is not only wrong but also sick and twisted, however this is the exact reason why we need to try and understand the signs of mental illness, we need to understand why people choose to end lives these ways. You can try and lessen mass shooting, or active shooter events by restricting the tools they have at their disposal to be able to enact these atrocities but what you can be sure is that like the suicide situation these problems cannot be solved merely by treating the symptoms, what you need to do for any meaningful change is to treat the source of the problems.
Motivations for massacres (and yes this diverts slightly from mass shootings because like I said, people will always find ways to complete their task if what they are after is blood) are so varied, but much like suicide there is no 1 thing or person that usually prompts something like this to occur, I feel that the biggest reason is that us as a society are giving the correct conditions required for this kind of illness to thrive, and to spread unabated because no one wants to face up to the inconvenient truth, it’s us that needs to change.
So a follow up when I try and explain this to people is Well how would you fix the gun violence issue in America? and what I generally respond with is that it’s not up to “me” to fix, but us as a society that needs to do better, be better and respond better to those in need. If we make someone feel like the only way that they can get through life is to end it, or to end the life of others then we need to take responsibility for what we have created. We need to focus on bullying and other issues that snowball and get bigger to the point they are unbearable and just being generally friendlier to other people no matter of their skin colour, their gender, their belief structure, their sexual orientation or any other label that we may have to give someone (hell, why do we even label people, why do we feel the need to label people?) and we just need to do better to be able to help with both of these issues. Each and every one of us.
I also mentioned earlier that I think that if we just go around banning things that make us scared (well tools) then one of the other side-effects of this line of thought is that as a society we start to lose the ability to know how to appropriately deal with a tool when one is unexpectedly confronted with one, and this is already very evident in Australia now.
For example let us a hypothetical situation of a gang member going through a school at night who happened to be carrying a gun (because we already know that criminals are able to obtain whatever they want for the right price) unknowingly drops this loaded gun in the school grounds and doesn’t notice it until the next day (if at all), if we have banned all civilian training and access to these tools then this opens us as a society up to a not being able to handle this kind of situation and could result it many more harms happening than if we had tried to educate people on the proper use on these tools because now not only do the kids in the school not know proper gun control (don’t point it at anyone, don’t point the trigger) but they also likely wouldn’t take it seriously because people wouldn’t believe that it possible that this could happen, and on top of that we also have teachers that crumble at the thought / sight of this tool because of how “dangerous” it is perceived to be (now this seems like a far fetched situation, but it’s based on real stories).
Lets also imagine that the Police are reacting to a criminal in the streets and pull their gun [tool] and attempt to stop the criminal from perpetrating their crimes we have a situation here were people are so scared of seeing a gun in real life that they actually get Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] from the mere sight / thought of it. Now I don’t think there is anything more worrying for our society than the prospect of people becoming mentally ill from something as similar to seeing a tool, not even being used as it is designed. This to me us an unacceptable situation for the health of our society.
Right to Self Protection vs Right to Life
One of the biggest discussion in America today on the gun debate is where is it appropriate to impinge on someone’s right to own tools to protect themselves in order to “protect the lives of others”, but if you can understand the points I mentioned earlier then should be able to understand that I don’t think giving up your rights to “protect others” is ever going to be a reality, what you really have is the surrender of your rights accompanied by the inability to protect yourself in the event that you ever need to (we prepare for the event of a fire, we prepare for the event of a medical emergency, so why not prepare for the event of a threat)! Now I fully understand that not everyone likes or wants to use a gun and in that circumstance you are free to exercise your right not to use these tools and rely on the Police (who may or may not be in time to save your life, stop your rape or save your possessions), however there are those among us who feel a sense of power, a sense of calm, a sense of safety that only preparedness can fulfill, much like how people feel about being prepared in the event of a fire (it won’t take away the pain if the event does happen, but it will certainly help the chances of success).
There is a saying The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun and while many detractors like to say Well how often does that happen or point to examples where people have died from there not being a correct tool available but what they fail to see is that being a good guy with a gun is not an guaranteed that you will win the fight, nor that you will succeed in neutralising the threat, but what it will do is give you a chance, and that is all that we can ask for really, the chance to be responsible for our own lives.
Chances are if your opinion was already set before you read my post that you haven’t changed your mind, but I hope that you can at least see things from someone else’s point of view, I hope that you can look at people you haven’t been listening to the signs of that you now notice them, I hope that we as a society start to change from a Ban all the things attitude to a Lets help all the people attitude and only then may we see this kind of stuff decline.
I’d like to point out though that crime in general in all western societies is declining, and are all safer today despite the media bias to the contrary, but I will cover media bias another time. I’d also like to point out that from the American perspective, if you remove suicides and mass shootings (caused by the same causes as suicide), and all defensive gun use then America is a very safe place.
I’m Pro-Gun, Pro-Freedom and I am really concerned with where society is headed.