While politicians in Washington D.C. are looking to find some sort of gun control “compromise” in the wake of the horrific murders in Uvalde, Texas, gun owners and Second Amendment advocates involved in the grassroots effort known as Walk The Talk America are taking on the challenge of improving access to and removing the stigma around mental health and gun ownership. I’m so glad that WTTA founder Michael Sodini could join me on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co to talk about the program and how it’s helping to save lives, and I hope you’ll check out the entire conversation in the video window above.
One of the common themes from gun control activists and the anti-gun media is that gun owners and Second Amendment supporters simply care more about their firearms than they do about the victims of “gun violence.” This editorial by the Philadelphia Inquirer is a pretty good example of that ridiculous rhetoric:
America’s kids are not OK. Pediatricians say anxiety and depression are on the rise in children, a trend that predates the COVID-19 pandemic. Is it any surprise that many of our children are anxious and sad? Despite this country’s affluence and the promise of life enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, we are unwilling to make even the smallest sacrifices to address the two greatest threats to our children’s future — gun crime and climate change.Instead, we take aim at them with book bans, refusals to acknowledge their identities, and rules that persecute their teachers.
It will be decades before today’s youth have the political power to fix problems that, if our current leaders don’t act now, will persist as these traumatized children complete their education, become adults, and consider having children of their own.At the very least, today’s U.S. Senate should revive and enact the Manchin-Toomey Amendment, which would require criminal and background checks when weapons are sold at gun shows or online. It’s an inadequate measure, but it’s the only proposal that has any chance of passage.That is our bleak reality — and it means the carnage will continue until we value our kids more than our guns. It means another Uvalde is inevitable.
The real reality is that every gun owner I know cares about not only their own personal safety and security, but the safety of others. That’s the main reason why so many of them are gun owners to begin with; for personal protection. But those of us who don’t believe that gun control is the way to a safer society aren’t uncaring, and Walk The Talk America is a great example of the kinds of work that’s being done at a grassroots level that aims to make a substantive difference; not through legislation or litigation targeting guns, but outreach to gun owners themselves.
For several years now Sodini and the other volunteers who work with WTTA have been working to get gun companies to include a simple one page handout with every firearm sold that alerts gun buyers to a free, anonymous mental health screening that, in their words, “are not a diagnosis, but a starting point of helpful information” that gun owners can choose to share with their health care provider for a full assessment. Sodini says that at first he was worried about what the reaction from gun owners and the firearms industry would be, but has received far more support than criticism since launching the program a few years ago.
Again, this program doesn’t advocate for new gun control laws, and Sodini is adamant in that approach. This is a program designed by gun owners for gun owners, and the WTTA trustees and board members includes Second Amendment advocates like Colion Noir and Rob Pincus alongside mental health advocates like Jake Wiskerchen of Zephyr Wellness, who co-hosts the WTTA podcast alongside Sodini. I was happy to appear on the podcast a few months ago (Episode 50 for those who are interested), and I hope to join them again soon to talk about some of the recent and unfortunate developments in my life and how that taking care of my own mental health has been an important part of the process of grieving the loss of a child.
I refuse to buy the lie that gun owners simply don’t care, because I know that’s not the case. But sometimes we do find it hard to talk about our mental health, and we can be reluctant to talk about suicide in our community because we know that it can and will be weaponized against us by anti-gun advocates. Walk The Talk America does a fantastic and important job of trying to remove the stigma around these conversations, as well as helping gun owners in need find a ray of hope and the help they deserve to make it through whatever crisis is at hand. I would encourage you to show them some support, as well as to take advantage of the resources they offer if you’re struggling yourself.