Breaking the Silence

Website for the American Mental Health Counselors Association's Breaking the Silence initiative to address mental health stigma.

The NRA’s New Clothes

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By contributing blogger Dr. LaMarr Edgerson

Once up a time there was a narcissistic king who ruled over countless subjects. One day two swindlers convinced him they could tailor new clothes so magnificent that only loyal subjects could see them. As the king strutted through the town wearing his new clothes his subjects were impressed – all except one brave boy who yelled, “He’s naked!” Afterwards, others opened their eyes and the truth became known. I’m sure you’re familiar with this famed children’s story.

Have there been times in the history of the world when citizens were controlled by the delusions of powerful people?

I am a retired USAF member and gun owner. I like the fact that the National Rifle Association (NRA) fights for my right to bear arms, but when does logic override emotion? I believe most congressmen understand the NRA’s stance on guns is ludicrous; however, many are afraid to stand against them. Instead, they go along with the status quo while innocent citizens continue to suffer due to our lenient laws.

The NRA has become as foolish as the naked emperor. Like fearless guards of a king, powerful lobbyists protect the unyielding NRA. As if using weapons forged of steel, those lobbyists defend its values with gifts and favors to gain leverage over weaker opponents who propose changes for the safety of American citizens. Proof of this is in the 1996 Dickey Amendment, which restricted the Center for Disease Controls (CDC) research efforts and officially prohibited the institute from using funds to “advocate or promote gun control.” As a result, the CDC appears to be afraid to do its job by making gun safety recommendations for the protection of the American public.

Recently, Mr. Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA, was on Face the Nation. He warned Americans to prepare themselves against terrorism after the Orlando attack. As continued information of this event unfolds, it appears that Mr. Mateen was not connected to any terrorist organization. Yet, fear mongering continues by Mr. LaPierre and paranoid supporters.

Americans struggled with gun violence long before 9/11 and continue to struggle with it today. Horrific incidents have taken place in our country – not only by terrorists from other countries, but also from U.S. born citizens. Yet, strong rhetoric against gun safety recommendations continues. According to a study completed in 2010 by Drs. Grinshteyn and Hemenway, “America’s gun violence rate is 25.3 times higher than other high-income countries.” America apparently has some of the most relaxed gun laws in the developed world. Why?

Why do I need to take lessons to learn how to drive a car, then a license that testifies I understand the rules of the road? This is followed by continued rules and regulations requiring me to renew that license every four years? Yet, there are few rules for guns sales and ownership. Most adults can purchase many types of guns without any training, certification or continued education? Why? Auto rules were designed for the safety of Americans, but apparently we do not need protection from unsafe and reckless gun owners.

As a clinical mental health counselor who specializes in trauma, I understand the phenomena of fear. According to Mental Health America, “paranoia involves intense anxious or fearful feelings and thoughts often related to persecution, threat, or conspiracy. It also states some of the symptoms include intense and irrational mistrust or suspicion, which can bring on a sense of fear, anger, and betrayal.” Paranoia can grow from a variety of scenarios, such as being a victim of violence… It is an unconscious response to a traumatic experience.

The lens that forms our individual worldviews are based on varied experiences. If that lens is cracked, smudged, tinted… then its view becomes altered. A lens of fear can produce anxiety and paranoia. Panic eventually sets in and we begin to worry for the safety of others based on that blurred viewpoint. Powerful people have the resources to share their vision with countless numbers of people – flawed or not. Neuroscience teaches us that emotion and logic rests in different parts of the brain. Emotion actually has the ability to override logic. Consider what the American public has repeatedly been told about gun laws and by whom.

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