Actually, Mass. is willfully blind to mass murder, suicide

So-called assault weapons not the problem, severe untreated mental illness is

IN RESPONSE to an opinion piece published on May 8, 2021, by Jim Jordan, I would point out that Massachusetts does not have a “blind spot” when it comes to so-called assault weapons. It is actually willfully blind to the common denominator behind mass murder and suicide.

Ever since Columbine, and especially since Newtown, it should have been obvious to anyone who paid attention that the core issue we are dealing with is untreated, and often undiagnosed, severe mental health issues. In nearly every instance of mass murder and suicide, there are always those who come forward after the fact expressing their long-term concern for the perpetrator or suicide victim.

Purely because of politics, self-anointed “political leaders” have continually tried to convince the general public that the “thing” is to blame. As if doing away with a certain type of tool will suddenly cause murder and suicide to miraculously cease. Just as a cold hard reminder, the Oklahoma bombing resulted in 759 people injured, 168 of whom perished. Not a single gun was used.

An incredibly sad example of this willful blindness was the fairly recent passing of the “Red Flag Law.” This ill-conceived law was sold as way to deal with people thought to be suicidal or the next potential mass killer. The law would allow friends and family to avoid due process by going directly to a judge and have people’s Second Amendment civil rights removed if believed to be a threat to themselves or others.

But the night the House of Representatives debated the bill the House leadership announced that all mental health amendments would not be considered for the bill. Lawmakers clearly stated on the floor that it was a gun licensing bill, not a mental health bill. Seriously, an effort to supposedly stop deranged killers and suicide is not a mental health bill? That debate represented the high-water mark of willful blindness in the Commonwealth.

The other willfully cruel and dangerous piece of the law is its negligence in providing any assistance to the aggrieved. According to the law, once the court has identified an individual as a potential threat to the public and/or themselves, the court revokes the individual’s Second Amendment civil rights and sends them home. Again, seriously, we think we have identified the next mass murder or suicide victim and the answer is to send them home with no assistance, no help, no guidance, or follow up? That is plainly willful blindness and ignorance of the underlying problem.

As a starting point to begin the process of truly addressing the issue head on, Gun Owners’ Action League has refiled H.2120, An Act Relative to Mental Health Needs and Suicide Prevention. This legislation contains two objectives that should have been allowed in the Red Flag Law, but were blocked.

The first is to establish a working commission to examine and report on the state of suicide prevention and mental health crisis management in the Commonwealth. We can throw money at an effort all we want, but if we don’t know where the needs and shortfalls are, what good is it?

The second part will establish a Friends and Family Suicide Prevention Hotline for the purpose of suicide prevention, intervention, and other mental health crisis management. The hotline will be designed to provide assistance to those who may be experiencing a mental health crisis or friends of family members that are concerned for another person. We were horrified when we found out that Massachusetts does not have its own suicide hotline. National hotlines are not going to understand the services and laws here in the Commonwealth.

Meet the Author

Jim Wallace

Executive director, Gun Owners Action League
While these are only the first of many steps that need to be taken, they at least represent a reasonable and logical movement forward on the right path.

Jim Wallace  is executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League.