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Feeling in Control

This country is fighting within itself over gun control. I'm beginning to think we are having the wrong discussion.

Reasonable restrictions on guns are only a part of the solution and, as there are so many of those in place, enforcement could use some tightening.

Watching the suffering of yet even more parents as another tragedy strikes compels me to share a personal story that has had quite an effect on my opinions.

My father suffers from bi-polar disorder. He also happens to be an outdoors man and hunting enthusiast. He had a manic episode back in 2006 that cost him the right to own firearms, which in turn inspired my play "Minds Over Matter.'' Though I looked at the lighter side of the illness to turn it into a comedy, while living through the situation, it was a challenge to keep laughing. He was released from the system and the hospital on balanced medications and set out to pick up the pieces of a semi-normal life. The justice system set no regulations on how he maintained his illness and they followed up for only four years after his original incident and then closed his case. I cannot fault the system for this as I realize the funding and staff to follow up more in depth is unreasonable to hope.

Fourteen years after his release, he had found ways to reassemble part of his gun collection, by utilizing relatives that were either unaware of the conditions of his release or were easy for him to convince otherwise. This all occurred while I was unaware because he knew that after all of the work I did in clearing him of legal troubles, with what is called an NGI (Not Guilty by reason of Insanity), that I would have some fairly strong objections.

Unknownst to him, his sleep apnea and stress of an ill sibling would launch him back into another manic episode. This caused not only delusions but also psychotic behavior as he was acting upon these delusions. As I am aware of all of the signs to watch for, I contacted all of the people I was told to contact. It took nine days to get help from the authorities to get him under control. In the aftermath, the police themselves recovered five firearms and I personally confiscated (Because the police could not) six hunting bows- including a crossbow and countless arrows. All of these are just as deadly as guns and bullets.

As a country we are fighting an issue on controlling the tools used to harm people. I feel that the bigger issues are the failures in our mental health system as well as in the laws that prevent family and friends from reporting and assisting police in stopping mentally ill people and to assist them in seeking help. These people need to be stopped and they need to be helped.

It is very easy to classify people as good and bad, but most of the "bad guys" are truly just "sick guys" - and girls. We need to be having a discussion about respecting individual rights and recognizing when help is needed. That balancing act has been off for quite some time and, if we can correct this course along with gun laws that already exist, we may be able to save innocent lives from horrific tragedies.

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