This is me, shooting an AR-15. I am a mentally ill person. I didn’t buy this AR-15, but I have access to it. I could have bought it. I have no criminal record and I’ve never been “adjudicated mentally ill” (so I wouldn’t be lying on the background check if I bought it).
I’m not dangerous. I brake for squirrels and turtles and once even a snake. I do kill spiders if they’re small (I scream and run from large ones) and spray wasps’ nests, but that’s about as scary as I get. Being mentally ill doesn’t make me a dangerous person; my illness is my own, like my DNA. People are unique, and so are their illnesses; mental health care is a piece of the mass shooting puzzle, but it’s not the only piece or even the main piece. Don’t use me and the millions of silently mentally ill people like me living normal, quiet, mundane lives to justify your refusal to acknowledge a problem that desperately needs attention. I’m tired of being your scapegoat every time one of these tragedies happens.
I get that you want to buy an AR-15 because it’s “Fun” to shoot and “looks cool”. I know it’s fun to shoot, especially with a laser sight! It’s like a live action Big Buck Hunter arcade game (only you look way cooler), with noise, and that fireworks smell, and pieces of fence post shrapnel flying through the air. What’s not to like about that?
I’ll tell you: it doesn’t feel real. Not even a little bit real. I’m 44 in this picture, and I had to remind myself after this was taken that guns are not supposed to be fun and that this was a weapon designed to kill people, not fence posts. That disconnect between how shooting a weapon like this feels, and what a weapon like this actually DOES is a big part of the mass shooter problem.
There are people out there who have become desensitized to the reality of what a gun like this does to a PERSON. They play video games and watch shows and movies that show guns like this AR-15 being used with no consequences. The Columbine shooters, the Sandy Hook shooter, and this most recent Parkland shooter spent HOURS shooting guns like this one for “fun” before their attacks. Is their (and too many others’) apparent desensitization to the consequences of firing on fellow human beings a brain problem, a parenting problem, a bullying problem, or a cultural problem? All of the above.
Is it a gun problem? Yes. Without guns–really easy to use, really easy to obtain, really fun to shoot, guns–I wouldn’t be writing this, and the country wouldn’t be talking about seventeen more dead children.