This is not a piece about how Obama wants your guns. It’s not a piece about how liberals are evil and conservatives are patriots. You can get enough of that elsewhere, and, for the most part, it’s just noise. Keeping you enraged rather than engaged. It works on both sides of the aisle.
This article is about how viewpoints and legislation over the past 200 years regarding addiction and addiction treatment has led us to a point of no return. This piece is less concerned with whether or not Obama wants your guns, and rather is more concerned with how we got here. Further, it’s about how Obama’s executive actions really were, sadly, “Common Sense Gun Safety Reform,” (the title of his speech introducing the executive action on January 5th, 2016). They were common sense applied to nonsense, but common sense nonetheless.
Finally, this article is about how this is all, at least partially, our fault.
If Being an Addict Is a Mental Illness…
Over 230 years ago, Dr. Benjamin Rush, Founding Father of America and one of the first people to claim alcoholism is a disease, said the following:
“It is further remarkable, that drunkenness resembles certain hereditary, family and contagious diseases.”
Since Dr. Rush wrote that thought in 1784, the idea that addiction is a disease has taken hold in America in a pervasive and seemingly permanent way. The appeal of the idea is immediately apparent to anyone who has struggled with substance abuse or has been hurt by the person struggling, and it is this:
If substance abusers are sick, their drug and alcohol abuse is not their fault, which means they do not have to truly accept responsibility for the choices they’ve made. They were sick. They were powerless. No one would blame a cancer patient for dying, would they?
The problem with the idea that addiction is a disease, specifically that addiction is a mental disease, is that sooner or later people are going to start treating addicts like they are mentally ill, which is where President Obama’s executive action on gun control, and those who have attended or plan to attend rehab, come to a crossroads.
Executive Action: Applying Common Sense to 200 Years of Nonsense
“High-profile mass shootings tend to shine a light on those few mentally unstable people who inflict harm on others.” (emphasis added)
“… we’re going to invest $500 million to expand access to treatment across the country.”
“… we’re going to ensure that federal mental health records are submitted to the background check system, and remove barriers that prevent states from reporting relevant information.”
Long story short, Obama, through his executive action, wants to make sure all Americans have access to the help they need, that the federal government will be notified if someone is declared mentally ill, and that the mentally ill cannot get firearms. This makes perfect sense. Who wouldn’t want mentally ill people to get help? Further, who would want someone with mental health issues to be entrusted with the grave responsibility of gun ownership? It truly is common sense so long as you take it at face value.
Break Free from Addiction, Give Up Your Gun Rights
The problem with creating a false narrative is that you’re bound to come across paradoxes, and the paradox with this 200-year-old false narrative is this: If someone is sane enough to recognize they need help to overcome their mental illness (addiction), and if they successfully complete a program (rehab) designed to help them overcome their mental illness, can they still be considered mentally ill? Further, as a mentally ill person, how can they possibly understand the responsibility given to them in the Second Amendment?
It’s an old question: Is someone who knows they’re crazy ever truly crazy?
The government (as well as the addiction treatment industry), needing to create more nonsense in order for their nonsense to look like common sense, simply answered the aforementioned old question with no data or science whatsoever to back it up. Yes. If you are mentally fit enough to successfully complete a drug or alcohol treatment program (go to rehab), you’re still mentally ill (once an addict, always an addict). You are so ill, in fact, that you, for the safety of the mentally fit American public, forfeit your Constitutional right to bear arms.
It’s truly amazing. The government, along with the addiction treatment industry, took two of the defining characteristics of American culture, a fierce collective compassion and a desire to give second chances, and used them to get Americans to claim that friends, co-workers, and family members, were mentally ill. What’s more, they convinced Americans that any fight put up by these “addicts” was only a symptom of how mentally ill they were. In order to combat the dangers posed by this fictitious segment of the population, that of perfectly sane mentally ill people, they legislated “Common Sense” actions.
It is no different than the Jim Crow laws that kept African Americans from voting, or pre-suffrage sentiment that women wouldn’t want to vote because it would be too much for their fragile constitutions. It’s oppression 101: create the narrative that a certain populace lacks the character, fortitude, or cognitive abilities of others and, when that narrative is accepted by the culture at large, enact legislation that fits your agenda and erodes the rights of that particular group.
By the time we’ve reached the point at which this type of action is deemed necessary, it’s the only right course of action, and it’s an action government officials must take if they want to be perceived as representing their constituents.
Suppose there was a tragic drunk driving accident tomorrow, one in which a family was killed by a drunk driver. If a government official came out and said the driver was not an alcoholic, but was just a guy who made terrible choices, he would be panned by a majority of Americans, most of whom have been taught otherwise. He would jeopardize his position and he’s not about to do that, especially not when the first place a reporter would call for an opinion on whether or not alcoholism is a disease is likely to be a treatment center, which makes money from the idea, or governmental organizations like the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which only continues to receive funding if people believe alcoholics are mentally ill. If the government official wants to continue representing his constituents, he’ll simply say that it’s a tragedy and that no one is at fault due to the driver’s apparent alcoholism, and he’ll move on with his day.
It’s only “Common Sense.”
On a cultural level, America accepted the idea that people with alcohol and drug issues were unable to control themselves when exposed to drugs and alcohol. For those of us dealing with the substance user, it was easier than saying “My brother pawned our family heirloom for drug money because getting high made him happier than my company,” or “Mom popped pills because she thought escaping from her family was a better option than participating in it.” We chose comfortable lies over uncomfortable truths, and when we accepted the notion that certain people (and it could be anyone… even you) were powerless over substances, we accepted the idea that those people, people we knew and loved and whose choices we did not understand, were mentally ill.
We put ourselves in a no-win situation.
If you get into a car accident because you were driving while drunk and you use alcoholism as a defense for your decision to drive, there is a chance you will avoid the consequence of jail. The American public has come to accept that you, as an alcoholic, couldn’t tell right from wrong because you were drunk. However, avoiding the consequence of jail-time does not mean you avoid all consequences. If you go to treatment, admit you’re an alcoholic, that you cannot control yourself once you have a sip of alcohol, you have to accept the fact that while your family and friends may come to forgive you and trust you again, the American public cannot be so trusting. You’ve admitted that you’re an alcoholic, that you’re powerless over alcohol. At any moment, you could “fall off the wagon,” snap, and boom… workplace violence. You cannot claim you can’t be trusted with a fifth of vodka in the house but you can be trusted with a gun under your pillow.
Taking your guns is only common sense.
On the other hand, if you say that you’re perfectly sane, that you made bad choices, there is no “get out of jail free” card for you. Not with jail, not with your job, not with your family. If you let your company fail because you were drunk from dawn until dusk, those lost livelihoods are on you. If your family leaves you because you were never truly present with them, that’s your fault. That’s a harsh reality, but it is also one in which true redemption is possible. If you go to rehab, if you re-evaluate your life and realize there are other aspects of it that you forgot long ago made you happy and you leave that facility and make good decisions for the rest of your life, that’s it. The end. You keep all your rights, because you’ve done nothing to prove you couldn’t handle them.
What Can We Do?
The good news is, as always, we can fight. Undoubtedly, an instance of someone’s Second Amendment rights being taken away after rehab will lead to a Supreme Court battle, one which could stem the tide of governmental overreach. In the meantime, we have to continue to fight against the idea that making a series of decisions that led to unintended or culturally unacceptable consequences is the same thing as being mentally ill. We have to undo the damage of all our generations, each, it would seem, becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea that drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, video games, shopping, etc., have some sort of power that rob us of our free will.
We will be fighting against a society of victims, the powers that created that society, and even legal precedent, but this does not change the fact that we must fight. Every person, industry, and governmental agency that believes addiction is a disease, with Obama’s executive action, is passively, if not actively, doing damage to certain continued Constitutional guarantees, and the loss of one of the rights guaranteed in that document leaves all the rest to chance.
The beauty of executive actions is that they are only powerful so long as the executive taking the action is in power. Therefore, while we may have lost this battle, we did not lose the war. There is plenty of time to fight.
Fight the execution of this executive action.
Fight the inevitable consequences.
Fight the idea that we are ever truly powerless.
Because if we don’t… we are.