We’ve known for years now that the problem with gun deaths in America isn’t street gangs and other criminals, it’s the thousands of people who commit suicide with a firearm each year. This horror is affecting men (especially men who live in small, rural towns) to a much greater extent than it is women. But rather than reach out to men and channel their feelings of frustration and impotence into more positive, traditional ways, the American Psychological Association says the real problem is they’re acting like men.
“Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health... Researchers led by James Mahalik, PhD, of Boston College, found that the more men conformed to masculine norms, the more likely they were to consider as normal risky health behaviors such as heavy drinking, using tobacco and avoiding vegetables, and to engage in these risky behaviors themselves.”
Not eating vegetables is a risky behavior? News flash: Romaine lettuce has harmed more people than any of my guns ever have.
This is just one of the reasons why so-called “gun restraining orders,” are a bad idea. A gun restraining order is when a person’s legally-owned firearms are forcibly taken away from them because, in the opinion of the courts and mental health professionals, that person represents a threat to themselves or others. Now, according to the APA, I’m supposed to believe that “traditional masculinity—marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression—is, on the whole, harmful.” because it leads to, among other things, depression and me not eating my vegetables? What happens when a diagnosis of “traditional masculinity” is enough to trip a gun restraining order? You may scoff at such an idea, but In my lifetime, homosexuality has been replaced by homophobia as a sign of mental illness. The definition of “mental illness” seems to be quite flexible these days, and ideas that were once the very model of male behavior are now being diagnosed and treated as just another mental illness.
I think psychology can and does amazing things to help people live happier lives. However, if a diagnosis of stoicism and eating too much red meat means someone gets to take away someone’s private property, it is no longer a science. “Gun restraining” orders are being touted primarily as an antidote to the unbelievable amount of suicides that are happening using guns. It’s a silly solution, of course, because if the desire is strong enough, no amount of restrictions will stop it, but at least it’s an acknowledgment that there is a problem. I lost a good friend, Bob Owens of Bearingarms.com, to suicide, and it’s high time we gun owners understand that the problem exists in our midst and that we need to do something about it before something is done to us.
The first step one for tackling this problem from the pro-gun side is to admit there’s a problem. We need to show a willingness to come up with ideas to solve it other than confiscation. Coming up with solutions that respect and uphold our rights but are still are able to deal with the very real problem of suicides using firearms lies on our hands. This solution needs to happen because there are so many anti-rights activists who are waiting for an excuse, any excuse to take away our right to keep and bear arms, and they’ll use this ongoing tragedy to do so. Expanded background checks and other gun control measures have been proven not to work: It’s time to stop this horrible epidemic of violence where it begins: Within the ravaged souls of those contemplating taking their own life.
We need to find with ways for those most vulnerable to suicide to bond together, find strength in one another. and build each other up over a shared love of the outdoors and the shooting sports. My friends Carrie Lightfoot and Juliana Crowder have had tremendous success with their Well Armed Women and Girl With Gun programs, which have created pathways into safe and enjoyable firearms ownership for thousands and thousands of women.
Maybe it’s time for something like those programs, but for men. It’s no surprise that memberships in fraternal organizations like the Elks Lodge and the Rotary Club grew after servicemen came home from World War II. Inside the walls of the Elks Lodge or similar group, men could find a “safe space” to bond and deal with the horrors of war on their terms. It’s time that the servicemen coming home from overseas and the rest of the men in America to find a source of support that’s something other than people yelling at them for not eating their broccoli. The solution to the suicide epidemic is within each of us. We just need to share it with others.