When I write my blogs, I try to keep out of controversial topics, politics and religion, but in light of this week's shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, I'm stepping outside my usual realm of topics. I hope you'll humor me.
I'm not here to convince you one way or another to change your mind on gun laws. You're clearly able to make your own decisions on where you stand on those issues and I respect your rights to do so, just as I hope you'll respect mine.
What I do want you to consider, however, is that people don't need guns to commit murder.
Last October, my nephew broke into my sister's home, beat her to death with a shovel and then set her house on fire with her inside. I don't tell you this to draw your pity or sympathy; neither of those things will change the circumstances or bring my sister back. What it should tell you, though, is that a man who was trained on every imaginable weapon our military has in its possession chose one that can be found in every garage in the country. He didn't use his gun. He didn't use a rifle. He didn't use a shot gun. He used a shovel. He decided to commit murder and used the tools he had near him. Most murderers do.
In these last few days, Twitter and Facebook have been inundated with posts on one side or another regarding gun laws. That's not where I believe we should focus our attention. The murderer in Connecticut and my nephew had two things in common: mental illness. It's the only explanation for the horrific acts they committed.
We need to push our congresspeople for better options regarding mental health: more-thorough insurance coverage, a better program to help returning military servicemen and women acclimate into civilian life and laws that will make treating mental health as important as treating physical health. If someone has cancer, they pursue treating it with a vicious intent to cure it. The same should be the case with mental illness, but it's not.
As long as there are stigmas regarding mental health, people will refuse to get the help they need. We need to let them know we support them and will be there for them throughout their treatment. We need to set aside judgment and love unconditionally.
Until that happens, there will be more incidents like Sandy Hook. We have the power to stop these things before they happen, we just have to be diligent in uniting together instead of splitting politically and spending our time blaming this side or that side.
We have to stop dividing ourselves and stand together now. Our children and loved ones are counting on us.