Saving Lives Without Sacrificing the Second Amendment

Townhall Media

Over the past few months I've had several conversations with Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel  reporter John Diedrich about his "Behind the Gun" series, which is perhaps the most balanced and fair examination of "gun violence" that I've ever run across. Diedrich didn't spend his time talking to anti-gun activists for his series. Instead, he chose to talk directly with gun owners who are passionate about saving lives without sacrificing our Second Amendment rights. 

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Diedrich and I had the chance to continue the conversation this week thanks to a remarkable event recently held in Wausau, Wisconsin called "At the Intersection of Firearms and Mental Health", which featured folks like Walk the Talk America's Michael Sodini and Jake Wiskerchen, Wisconsin gun store owner Chuck Lovelace, who is one of several FFLs in the state who will store firearms when gun owners feel the need to temporarily remove them from their home while they or a family member is in crisis. 

Diedrich admits that attendance for the panel discussion wasn't as robust as he would have liked, but he hopes that the event will have more of an impact with an online audience. 

The question we came away with is did we get the ordinary, everyday gun owner to come in. And I think in hindsight that's a tough ask for a couple of reasons. One, the event was called 'At the Intersection of Firearms and Mental Health', which is a lot, you know? Even when you don't use 'guns' which is kind of the other term, you know 'firearms and mental health'. And you know, if you're having some struggles in that space maybe this isn't the event you want to come and self-identify at in the audience.

That's a fair point. I'd add that while this is an important topic, it's not a particularly fun thing to discuss or listen to. I can understand why academics, clinicians, and those in the Second Amendment community who have a vested interest in the topic might have been more interested than the average gun owner around Wausau. I suggested to John that SHOT Show might be a better environment for this type of discussion in the future, but I'd still encourage you to check out the event in the video window above. 

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While the audience wasn't as large as Diedrich was hoping for, he says the event was still a success in his mind because it brought a lot of these stakeholders together for the first time. 

The connections that were made. People who didn't know each other were exchanging phone numbers and emails, saying 'let's work more together.' People that I didn't even know from this project came into this space, and there were a lot connections made and seeds planted. It'll be interesting to see what gives life to that in the weeks, months, and years to come.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear Diedrich talk about the future of his efforts, given that most long-form journalism projects like "Behind the Gun" have a final conclusion at some point. Hearing Diedrich's enthusiasm for the event, I wondered if he viewed the panel discussion as more of a beginning or an end to his series. 

"When we started plotting out this project a lot of times a public event will sort of come as a capstone or an end of this. This feels different. This feels, to me, like a moment. And we've already been asked about recapping this event in different parts of Wisconsin," Diedrich shared. 

Diedrich's reporting has not only helped to shine a spotlight on the suicide prevention efforts within the Second Amendment community. It's brought some of those activists together, and the new connections forged at events like the one in Wausau will hopefully spur on even more efforts within the 2A space. 

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We don't need "red flag" laws, gun bans, waiting periods, or any other anti-gun measure to reduce gun-involved suicides. Groups like Walk the Talk America and  Hold My Guns are showing a better path forward, but they could use your help. Many of us have been impacted by the death of a friend, family member, or mentor, and some of us may even have our own stories of survival when we were at our lowest point... even if we don't feel comfortable talking about that publicly. I encourage you to check out my conversation with John Diedrich in the video window below, but I'll also ask that, if you can, please support the life-saving missions of WTTA and Hold My Guns by sending a few bucks their way. 


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