[Editor's Note (Kurt Willems) - The following was written by a close personal friend. He has chosen to be anonymous, for reasons explained in this letter. While I may not agree/understand every nuance of his argument, I believe the "spirit" of what he says is important for this national discussion. I'm not one to get too political (at least in a partisan way), so don't read this as an automatic endorsement of the "Left," either. Please read and share!]
To Wayne LaPierre and the NRA:
I believe in a person’s right to “Bear Arms.” I come from a family of farmers, hunters, and soldiers who have used guns as tools, some of whom are in the NRA. But, the speech that Wayne LaPierre gave was quite frankly insane and I hope that gun owners and non-gun owners everywhere are able to recognize it. I should know, I can smell insanity from a long way off because I am, “One of those unknown number of genuine monsters… that walk among us every day,” as you so eloquently described people with mental illness. Simultaneously, you called for stripping my rights and chided the national government for not creating an “active National Database of the mentally ill.”
I have a severe mental disorder and people like Wayne LaPierre make me afraid to identify myself publicly. I’ll be generous and call them “misinformed.” Yet, the irony here is that the NRA fights for its desired freedom, while actively working to limit the freedoms of other Americans – even the mentally ill (not to mention, the poor, marginalized, and other citizens of the US).
Speaking out as one who is mentally ill, I disavow any attempt for people in the NRA to destroy the gains of people with disabilities, in order to justify a “national database.” This, along with resisting the freedom of public healthcare, creates a situation where the mentally ill have no option but to remain in the shadows.
Many in the NRA would have the audacity to support wars in foreign lands where civilians, women, and children get killed on a regular basis, while calling for an end to so-called “entitlement programs” that enable the mentally ill to get the help that we need. We are not “Monsters,” and while I know little about the young man who committed this act of terror, this sort of proposal that you (LaPierre) spoke of, does little to prevent severely ill people from having access to guns in the first place. A database is not the answer. Government funded preventative care that doesn’t alienate the mentally ill, however, can make a real difference. Every day that the NRA’s constituents promote status quo approaches to preventive care, the odds increase that another mass shooting, like the sad situation at Newtown, might occur again.
I am not a monster and neither are my fellow brothers and sisters with mental illness. We are human beings and citizens of this county with all of the rights you claim to defend with your guns, LaPierre. Where does your proposal to create an “active National Database of the mentally ill” end? Isn’t it odd that most of the mass shooters in this county have been white males? Why don’t we create a national registry of White Men and track them? Then, I’d be in two national registries.
I don’t write you (Mr. LaPierre and the NRA) as an expert. I’m neither a Supreme Court Justice nor a Constitutional Scholar, so I will not try to argue about the intention of the founding fathers when they wrote the 2nd Amendment over two hundred years ago. It states,
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. “
No one can really know what our founding fathers thought about the weapons the Shooter used to end the lives of 20 young children, 6 courageous educators, and his mother. If he had a flint lock riffle as part of a “well regulated Militia,” I doubt he would of stood a chance against those women and children.
Rather than an expert, I write as a person who is part of a group that contains ¼ of the citizens of this country. We walk among you every day with a diagnosable mental illness. Interestingly, if you had done your homework, you would realize that 38 states already have mental health registries. Some people with mental illness are already registered, while others resist help because of such registries and the stigma they create – especially if they are being pushed by a gun rights agenda by the very people calling us “monsters.” Your proposal, therefore, doesn’t make sense because even with such a registry, NRA advocates have pushed so many loopholes that I can still go to a gun show and purchase a weapon, even though I’m in such a state database. Your proposal and the general political positions of NRA advocates are inconsistent.
Wayne LaPierre, how far will you and your organization go, how ludicrous will your speeches become, before you and the people you claim to speak for realize what much of the world already knows? Your speech did not serve the best interest of gun owners, children, or anyone else. The worn-out arguments that you are hoping to implement that prevent any changes to current gun laws will even further expose the leadership of the NRA as completely out of touch with the general consensus of the American public.
So I ask the supporters of the NRA to not infringe on my God-given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by creating even more fear and stigma for those who are mentally ill. I hope that there is a quiet rebellion in the NRA, because I believe most gun owners are responsible and reasonable people who want a safe world for their children. The current leadership of the NRA wishes to deflect any attention from guns, while shifting blame to the mentally ill, all to prevent any safe changes from happening in this nation. They want us to live in a world of fear.
I wrote this letter to begin a fight against my fears. There is a chance my future children will inherit my mental disorder and I hope to leave them a more just, safe, and peaceful world than the one I inherited. I hope they will live in a society were all of us can come together to create a world where fear loses and love wins.
I pray in this Holiday Season that each of us as individuals, families, and communities will spend time examining our beliefs surrounding violence in this country. As a citizen of this county I can no longer stand the frequency of violence and unjust death. I hope that many years from now we can look at this tragedy as a turning point in our history.
A Concerned Citizen with a Mental Illness
Here is the video of the speech and the text version: