By Stewart Hickey, National Executive Director for American Veterans (AMVETS)-
VA appears to be positioned as a political pawn in the government’s bully pulpit to beat up on the Bill of Rights by hanging a public service announcement (PSA) on gun control and safety onto the suicide prevention-centric Veterans Crisis Line. VA’s message and intent to associate gun safety with the mission and purpose of the Veterans Crisis Line is muddy here. Are veterans so juvenile that they need the paternalist government telling them how to properly secure their weapons in their own homes? Never mind that there are four higher causes of injury-related deaths than firearms. Never mind that taking away the means doesn’t resolve why 22 veterans tragically resort to suicide every single day. This type of negative and inappropriate message only helps perpetuate the already skewed perception of veterans as unstable, dangerous and public threats. The solution to the problem is not the instrument being used, nor hyper-vigilance in the home, nor gun safety “best practices.” The solution starts with bettering the environment of hope, caring and resiliency for those in crisis and providing a timely and appropriate way forward. It starts with quick access to evidence-based treatment, counseling and support. The Veterans Crisis Line is a critical element of the solution and a pathway forward. We all realize that VA only wants what’s best for veterans but political distractions are interfering with their priorities. Pushing a gun control agenda on veterans is an irresponsible, disingenuous, ham-handed move on the part of the VA. This, coupled with a Surgeon General nominee (Dr. Vivek Murthy) who advocates for all doctors asking patients if they own or possess guns, makes one skeptical about our government’s interpretation of the second amendment. Just as my doctor has no business knowing whether or not I own a gun (since it also has no bearing on my medical condition), the VA has no business advocating the politics of gun control (since it has no bearing on the hope, care and support VA is supposed to be providing to our veterans). By itself, a PSA on gun safety seems insignificant, but it strikes me as being one more little seed being planted in the overall public landscape. Seed-by-seed, an unsettling collective pattern is starting to germinate around gun control, confiscation of weapons and similar influences and threats to the second amendment, all in the guise of gun safety. When we lose the rights we were born with as Americans we lose our freedom and that’s the one thing that all veterans have risked their lives to protect.
Media Contact: David Gai, (301) 683 4035, Dgai@AMVETS.org