This is a national conversation, and it is complex. We need to use our collective intelligence to make meaningful change. The discussion must be about our ability as a nation to deal with mental health issues, as well as laws to curb gun violence. We all share in the responsibility to make schools, homes, movie theaters…America a safer place.

Many very insightful things have been written in the last few days about both. I like much of a what a friend, Ryan Wynia, has to say: “Does the Sandy Hook Massacre implicate America’s sensationalist culture, inflammatory media, inadequate gun control laws, a state of ethical drought or a ravenous public appetite for the transcendent storyline? Maybe. Probably. But mostly I think, the Newtown horror is a damning indictment of America’s (noticeably absent) mental health infrastructure. Maybe that’s because we don’t understand it. Maybe it’s because we don’t know enough about it. Or maybe it’s because we’re scared we understand mental illness more than we care to admit. Our brains are our foremost organ, constantly engaged and “always on.” Neurology is complex and sometimes obtuse. And while we may know less about the illnesses that invade the brain, we do know their effects are systemic and behaviorally pervasive. And although addressing the deficiencies of the mental health system may be a challenge and an inconvenient reality for a healthcare system already in turmoil, that challenge and inconvenience stand bleak in comparison to a life terminally interrupted.”

No matter how hard, we must as nation accept this challenge. Another mother sums it up in a very scary and poignant way with her article, “I am Adam Lanzas Mother.”

Lisa Long shares about her own struggles with a difficult son really hit home. Here is her article in its entirety (http://thebluereview.org/i-am-adam-lanzas-mother/), but the key points are (in her words), “No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”

I would like to suggest that the conversation must be part mental health and part gun control. We are a family of hunters who live in Montana and eat the meat from the kill. We have shared stories and pictures of our daughter with her elk at the tender ages of 13 and 14. We are thrilled to be able to feed our family with wild (hormone free) meat.

Both of out children took hunters education classes and my husband and I would happily subject each of us to psychological tests in order for us to own the guns needed to hunt. We would never dream of owning or needing semi-automatic weapons. For those who do rationalize such a need, why would they not want to assure the world they are competent and worthy of owning such a tool? Why would any rational gun owner not want all gun owners to be properly vetted and verified to be sane and capable of handling a firearm properly?

The people who think that “gun control” will eliminate their rights are incredibly shortsighted. If they are law-abiding citizens, they should easily pass any gun regulations and/or background checks.

We have gone backwards over the years for fear of votes!…or lack thereof. This article exposes difficulties that have prevented meaningful regulations. “The NRA: A Criminal’s Best Friend. How the National Rifle Association has Handcuffed Federal Gun Law Enforcement.” This is a very sobering look at the issue.

So, stop crying and feeling helpless. Do not let those kids and teachers die in vain. We can fix this!

After days of research, it seems the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is one of the organizations poised to make a difference. Join them in the fight. Here are their recommendations:

Two things What you can do immediately to start making a difference:

1) Make a point to call President Obama on a daily basis through The White House hotline at 202-456-1111. Tell him you want to see REAL leadership from him on this issue, including an immediate call for Congress to enact stronger gun laws. No more silence, no more platitudes, no more excuses.

2) Begin scheduling meetings for face-to-face visits with your Members of Congress, either at their district offices or here in Washington, D.C. Meet with the Member him/herself or the staffer who handles firearm issues. Bring every constituent you can to these meetings with you. The more, the better. Your message is they should immediately enact laws to:

a) Require background checks on every gun sale.

b) Strengthen those checks, particularly in the area of mental health screening.

c) Renew the Assault Weapons Ban.

Do your part now! Please let us know your thoughts. We know this is a very hot topic, but until we open the discussion, we will not get the job done.

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