Jewish Journal

Guns & Mental Health: Take Action from Home Today (with these petitions)

by Maya Paley

December 19, 2012 | 1:59 pm

Like everyone else who heard about the tragedy on Friday morning, I was devastated, saddened, and shocked by the event.  But with the amount of debates, opinions, and “tipping point” rhetoric surrounding last week’s shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, I see no point in adding to the heated debate about whether the problem is guns or mental health.

Each problem we have in this country is complex. Gun violence and easy access to ammunition and assault weapons are huge problems. Mental health access is a huge problem as well. Economics, education, security, healthcare—these all played a role in what happened last week both in Newton and in Portland. There is no one solution and no guarantee that any legislation will ensure that this never happens again.

On a more positive note, I am impressed by the amount of conversation, action, and energy being put into making change so that these tragedies do not occur. It took us a while to stand up and recognize that something needs to be done about both access to guns and access to mental healthcare, but it’s finally happening and it’s up to us to make sure that the conversation goes the way we want it to. In an interview with ABC News, Alison Fine, author of The Networked Nonprofit, said: "When, a week from now, there isn't movement, the social networks can play an enormous part to say 'we are still here.' That's where they can keep alive issues that would have gotten quieter before."

With that, I have decided to provide you with some options for taking action from your bedroom. And yes, “slactivism” does work if there is a critical mass of people signing on.  I encourage you to do the following, which will not take you more than 5 minutes total: 

1. Send a letter to your representatives to “End the Epidemic of Gun Violence” through the National Council of Jewish Women’s website.

What the letter says:

“…Assault weapons remain legal in our country, and are easy to buy, often with no questions asked. And, individuals who should have never been permitted to buy guns are able to because of insufficient background check systems and controls. Guns are used in a significant percentage of domestic violence incidents and the presence of a gun in the home triples the risk of homicide in the home.  Contact your members of Congress to let them know that the time is now to enact background check reforms and a ban on assault weapons, common sense gun violence prevention measures to ensure the safety of our families and friends at home, in our schools, and in our communities.”

Click here to send the letter directly to your representatives in Congress.

2. Sign the most popular petition asking the Obama Administration to “immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress.”

What the petition says:

“The goal of this petition is to force the Obama Administration to produce legislation that limits access to guns. While a national dialogue is critical, laws are the only means in which we can reduce the number of people murdered in gun related deaths. Powerful lobbying groups allow the ownership of guns to reach beyond the Constitution's intended purpose of the right to bear arms. Therefore, Congress must act on what is stated law, and face the reality that access to firearms reaches beyond what the Second Amendment intends to achieve. The signatures on this petition represent a collective demand for a bipartisan discussion resulting in a set of laws that regulates how a citizen obtains a gun.”

Click here to sign the petition, which already has over 192,000 signatures.

3. Sign another petition asking the U.S. Government to fund mental health facilities instead of prisons. The petition’s author is a passionate and concerned mother with a mentally ill son. Read an article about her activism by clicking here.

What the petition says:

“Encourage congress to shift funding from prisons back into the mental health system to re-open hospitals and provide long-term treatment to people with mental illnesses instead of waiting until they commit a crime and placing them in jail. Open more long term care facilities and lengthen the allowable stay for appropriate treatment and stabilization. Authorize police to transport mentally ill patients to hospitals without requiring them to have first committed a crime. Reestablish the rights of legal guardians of mentally incapacitated people to voluntarily sign their wards into a long term care facility without requiring another court order.”

Click here to sign the petition, which already has over 5,200 signatures.

If you have any other action items you’d like to add to the list, post a comment below explaining what the item is and how you think it can make a difference on this issue.

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Maya Paley is Director of Legislative and Community Engagement at the National Council of Jewish Women/Los Angeles. The programs she works on include the annual Jewish...

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