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Local View: Gun owners are needed to model responsible behavior

From the column: "A lot of these troubled young men have no one to provide guidance about problem-solving and resolving conflicts. Picking up a gun and killing innocent, random people in the community shouldn’t be a thought they have."

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Bob Englehart / Cagle Cartoons
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To the guys with the guns, I am moved to write to you as we see a doubling of mass shootings — and are only six months into 2022. This may sound a bit incendiary, but I urge you to read on, as I am offering a solution and a course of action.

Where do you stand on school shootings? What is your position on shootings in people’s houses of worship (another constitutionally guaranteed right)? And what about on public transportation? How do you feel about those types of shootings? And then there are everyday places like shopping malls, grocery stores, public gatherings, and sporting events: Your thoughts?

I ask because I scarcely hear a word from you or your organizations after horrible things happen. There are few statements of sympathy issued or acknowledgements about the regrettable losses of lives.

I am not speaking to any white-supremist groups or surivalist enclaves or terrorist groups who want to overthrow our goverment. I am speaking to those of you who are everyday citizens and who support your communities, country, and families. You have quality values and beliefs. I know you do because I know some of you. I live in a rural area where many of my neighbors own guns, hunt, and shoot. I have relatives who own guns.

I don't want to argue about your constitutional right to bear arms; I want to start a discussion. We need to communicate more.

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It is true that a lot of these deplorable acts are committed by people with substantial mental health problems. As a professional in the mental health field I will take responsibility for that piece; it is on me and my colleagues to set up and lobby for better mental health care and preventive and prophylactic care to help prevent these kinds of calamities.

But here is my challenge: You guys with the guns are role-modeling for others; you must realize that. And a lot of these troubled young men have no one to provide guidance about problem-solving and resolving conflicts. Picking up a gun and killing innocent, random people in the community shouldn’t be a thought they have.

I am suggesting you engage some of the NRA’s lobbying money to begin a campaign, a discussion through the media, about gun ownership, about how, when you have a gun, there are right and wrong uses for it. Hunting, sure. Target practice, OK. Collecting just to admire the craftsmanship, great.

But someone needs to be role-modeling what it means to be a citizen with a gun. Where is the chivalrous, religious, moral, and social code for you guys? What happened to the courage, honor, courtesy, and justice of the all-around American Joe? We need a readiness to help the weak and to be a protector of innocent children and vulnerable people.

Being a minority — whether religiously, ethnically, racially, or sexually identified — is also a right for people in our democracy; they are free to exist and be who they are. Anyone’s disapproval or disagreement is not a reason to pick up a gun. Use the ballot box.

Many of the troubled men (you don’t see many females doing this) who commit these crimes are exploited, abused, bullied, and don't feel they are recognized by society. They are looking for a way to prove their worth, importance, and value. Yes, mental health could be an intervention, but first they need to feel that they can turn to others and experience empathy and be welcomed into a community. Let’s offer them a community of guys with the right intentions.

And it wouldn’t hurt if you were to offer more condolences to the people, families, and groups who are suffering. Exercise your humanity. You don’t have to apologize for owning a gun or fear someone will take away guns in order to exercise your humanity. Be a responsible community member and human being with the spiritual belief that all innocent lives matter.

Cheryl Champion of Duluth has a master’s degree in psychology and is a licensed social worker. She wrote this for the News Tribune.

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Cheryl Champion

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