Gun Owners to Talk Mental Health, Suicide at Wisconsin Event

AP Photo/Marina Riker, File

A lot of people struggle with mental illness to some degree or another.

Some of those people are more than just gun owners, they're gun rights advocates and Second Amendment writers. Some have, unfortunately, started a Second Amendment site and then later succumbed to their mental illness.


As a result of all of that, addressing mental illness among gun owners is a topic near and dear to my heart.

The problem is that far too many people are willing to use mental health as a reason to push for gun control. They use the stigma associated with mental illness to try and cram through laws that would restrict people and potentially push many to not get the help they need.

Members of the media are often in that camp.

But John Diedrich of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is a little different. He's been trying to approach the subject of guns the right way. He's even chatted with Cam on Cam & Co.

It seems that Diedrich isn't just interested in writing about guns and mental health. He's willing to step up and try to find a way to address the issue.

On a drive from Milwaukee to Wausau last spring, I had lots of time to think about a project I was working on about gun deaths in Wisconsin and the interviews that lie head.

I had found that 71 out of every 100 gun deaths in Wisconsin each year are suicides and a record number of people had taken their lives with firearms in 2022. The state’s rural counties are getting hit hardest, places near Wausau and north. More importantly, I also learned that gun owners were working on solutions. 

So I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we could have an event with gun owners talking to gun owners about these issues? Fast-forward a year and that event is happening.

On May 16, “At the Intersection of Firearms and Mental Health” will be held at the UW Center for Civic Engagement in Wausau. Doors open at 6 and the program begins at 6:30 p.m. It’s free. There will be refreshments, firearms accessory giveaways, and informational tables. The event will also be livestreamed on the Journal Sentinel's website.

The event is sponsored by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism at Marquette University. I did this project as an O’Brien fellow, which sought to frame the issues differently than is typically portrayed in the media. 


In other words, this is an event looking at solutions to the problem that aren't necessarily legislative.

The whole premise is allowing gun stores to hold firearms for people dealing with mental health issues. Many people who try to commit suicide are often bothered by suicidal thoughts well before they act upon them. Many folks hand their guns to friends or family during these dark times to keep them out of reach.

Some people don't have that or they want someone who can secure the guns and keep them safe, which gun stores can actually do.

We don't need red flag laws to swoop in and empower the government to take our guns for our own good. What we need are gun owners looking out for gun owners, which is what this event seems to be about.

This is a good thing because any effort that doesn't get gun owners on board is going to be a problem from the start. Especially as those efforts will likely look to legislative solutions that will only make the problem worse.

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