To the editor:
I grew up with guns. As a young child, I grew up first knowing about gun safety because our dad hunted and had guns in the house.
He taught us about the dangers of guns, to never ever have the barrel face you or anyone else as one tiny mistake could mean death.
I knew about the dangers of guns, gun safety, and how serious one must take it at a very early age, way before I even went to school.
At age 11, I was given the chance to learn how to shoot because I took an interest.
You would think that growing up on a farm with a dad as a hunter, I learned to shoot at home but that was not the case. I learned at a firing range along side a biathlon group.
Learning how to shoot at the firing range taught me even more about gun safety and how to be aware of other people around you.
With so many people shooting rifles in one place, gun safety had to come first, before trying to better your skills, before trying to see your score, safety was the first thing you thought about and was engraved in me even more.
When I turned 12, I officially join the group. I entered my first biathlon race and continued to race for four years.
From the ages of 11 to 16, I was surrounded by other people my age that not only had guns at home but, come practise time, had guns on their backs as they skied around on public trails.
Never once did I see any gun violence, not once and we were all young people competing against each other.
Any young person has their own troubles they are working through and here was a bunch of them, competing against each other with guns and ammo on their backs.
Not once was there a gun related accident or incident. To me, this means one thing and one thing only—gun control is not the problem, lack of mental health is.
No mentally stable and calm person would ever consider shooting another human being, no matter what troubles they may face in life.
We already have gun control and it does a great job at filtering who can legally own a firearm.
For my firearm license, I had to take a safety course and pass an exam. On top of that, I had to have someone who knew me for five years or more answer and sign a form with questions about how they knew me, if I ever suffered from depression, and if they thought it would be safe to allow me to have a firearm license.
You can’t receive a license without taking the course, passing the exam, and having someone legally vouch for you that you are a mentally stable and responsible person.
It is usually people who obtain a firearm illegally that cause the problem with gun violence and mass shootings. I don’t know how to stop those people from obtaining firearms, but I know the answer doesn’t lie in making it difficult for stable and responsible people to enjoy the sport of shooting.
Maybe we can’t stop them from obtaining guns illegally, but we can help people before they get the thought in their head to shoot someone.
We need more mental health awareness; we need more mental health options; we need young people to start accepting each other.
Mental health needs to be popular, we need to make it common knowledge in schools, and we need to make it feel like a normal and shameless thing to seek help for. It should be as easy as going to a vending machine and buying a Coke.
If you need help or comfort, it should be made easily accessible. I realize there are school counselors to help with this but the problem is getting counseling isn’t popular.
Maybe it should be. Maybe it should be mandatory for every kid, to have a quick one-on-one with a counselor every couple of weeks or once a month.
A quick check-up. Hey what’s new, what’s on your mind and what’s been challenging you lately? Anyone can easily answer these questions and maybe we should all have to.
Mentally unstable or not, it would show students someone is there that cares, someone to give you guidance in achieving your goals, and someone who can recommend more help if you need it.
I see one problem with this idea, it doesn’t reach out to those who have dropped out of school but it would be a good start.
Perhaps once we make ways to make mental help popular, it will be easy for anyone to seek help. As easy as buying a can of Coke.
Perhaps if this was implemented as early as elementary school, we would have fewer dropouts.
I don’t know. I’m just a former biathlete, target shooter and business owner. I don’t have a background in violence or counseling, but it seems like a common sense answer to me.
If you are anti-gun violence, be pro-mental health. If the stories of school shootings strike a deep chord within you, then do something today that can actually make a difference.
Donate to your local mental health organization. Let’s take control and create the world we want to live in, one healthy mind at a time.