Omdahl: It's time to call their bluff
Omdahl writes, "North Dakota is a gun state so there must be a lot of people who would support a dramatic program for mental health to head off gun legislation. It would be in their interest to go to the next session of the legislature and support a $100,000,000 program for mental health. Since the NRA believes the problem is mental health, perhaps they would write the bill for us."
We have had 250 mass killings in 2022 so far and we aren’t even half way through the year. It is obvious that there is no such thing as sanctity of life in the United States.
A bipartisan committee of 20 senators – 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats – has been meeting and has come up with a draft that they hope will be ready by June 26.
The draft has been hailed as a great breakthrough for bringing sanity to the gun culture. If adopted, it will be worse than no legislation at all because it is no breakthrough, just a suspension of hostilities until the National Rifle Association decides on a strategy to undermine it.
The NRA says they will support anything that doesn’t encroach on the Second Amendment. That means they will not accept compromises. The drafters admitted that the gun restrictions would be modest but the mental health provisions will be important.
The mental health argument is nothing but a clever maneuver to sidetrack the gun issue into a dark hole where the issue cannot be resolved. That has been a human strategy since Adam and Eve grew apples.
Opponents of direct gun regulation have suggested that we pre-empt mass killing with red flag laws in which a judge authorizes law enforcement to take guns away from dangerous people. If I was the sheriff, I would insist on a bullet-proof vest and a 15th Century iron shield. If the person has already been designated as dangerous, the life of any enforcing officer will be in jeopardy.
The drafters stayed away from outlawing the AR-15s after Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said he needed an AR-15 to shoot prairie dogs. As kids we used to shoot gophers with one shot. Now we know how Thune deals with problems.
It would be better if they passed nothing because all of the “hurrahs” will lead people to believe that something has been done and the gun problem is solved when the legislation will accomplish nothing.
Since all of the folks who think the gun is more important than lives, let’s accept their argument that it’s not a gun problem but a mental health problem. It’s time to call their bluff.
North Dakota is a gun state so there must be a lot of people who would support a dramatic program for mental health to head off gun legislation. It would be in their interest to go to the next session of the legislature and support a $100,000,000 program for mental health.
But to be effective, the program must finance more potential psychiatrists and other mental health professionals and locate them in the wide geographic spaces that are barriers to better mental health services in rural areas.
Next, the state needs to look into the future and start screening school children for anxiety disorders. That won’t be cheap but this is being done in some schools to head off more serious mental problems in adulthood
Let’s see whether or not those shouting “it’s mental health” will put their money where their rhetoric is because it won’t be cheap.
Omdahl is a former N.D. lieutenant governor and retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.