As the firearms and ammunition industry, we make and sell a legal, heavily regulated products to background-checked citizens. We are not experts on mental health.
What we do care about, however, is keeping our communities safe by ensuring that those who are prohibited by law from possessing guns do not obtain them. This includes dangerous individuals who have been adjudicated mentally ill by a court, for example, and are prohibited from owning a firearm.
Because we care about keeping guns out of the wrong hands, in 2013 we launched a project called FixNICS, to help bring all prohibiting records from the state level to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Our industry members know that a background check is only as good as the records in the database.
However, it is difficult to see references to an increasing stigma against those living with a mental illness, particularly in the wake of rare, but highly-publicized mass shooting tragedies. No one within the industry wants to deter any individual from seeking help or resources when facing a crisis or a mental health issue.
Stigma doesn’t help them, and it doesn’t help make our communities safer.
This is why our industry calls for more mental health resources, especially in rural underserved communities. It’s not enough to say that people living with mental health issues are rarely violent and that there should be no stigma attached to getting help.
America can’t ignore the real need for more mental health resources. And it’s not enough to say that any violent tragedy is the fault of the gun, so ban guns that look a certain way or magazines that hold a certain amount of ammunition. That also misses the point.
The firearms and ammunition industry is committed to pursuing real solutions for safer communities. Find out more about our programs and partnerships here: www.nssfrealsolutions.org.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel at National Shooting Sports Foundation.