By ROB AVILA
Special to the PRESS
A Texan’s son can buy an AR-15 from the local sporting goods store and feel the good weight of it as he pulls the trigger, shooting behind the family ranch as soon as he turns eighteen. For many in this State, that is a right to celebrate, not question. If he comes from a family that holds guns as a family tradition, a bullet fired from a son’s first legal purchase, likely wouldn’t be the first, hundredth or even thousandth he’d fired in his life.
You don’t have to go far in Texas to find families that have long respected the destructive power of a gun. Those who say without hesitation that guns are an absolute God-given American constitutional right. It’s the same right many even without this tradition chose to exercise to arm themselves in self-defense, or exercise just to have the peace of mind of a gun most often tucked away in their closet.
These are the rights gun-owning Americans are always willing to talk about and defend; the conversations about the guns we cherish, far distant in our minds from the conversations about their abuse. The distance is stark for gun advocates. Anytime our communities ask for a conversation about someone else’s son abusing the same Second Amendment rights, it’s often just a matter of time until those hard conversations erode into the easy defenses of the rights we only like to speak of cherishing. We attempt to separate the steel, lead and gunpowder our sons cherish, from the hard conversations of the sons of others, often for the fear that these conversations will lead to restrictions on our own rights.
Lost in these conversations about our Second Amendment rights are that in the 33,000 annual gun deaths in our country averaged from the Center for Disease Control and prevention’s Multiple Cause of Death database, nearly two-thirds of these deaths by firearms are suicide. In this hard conversation, statically, the highest at risk-group becomes the group we most associate with gun advocacy — middle-age white men in rural America, the son’s we watched grow up respecting the destructive power of guns, lost to their abuse.
While middle-age men are statistically more at risk, men in general, are six times more likely to die by firearm suicide. And more than race or gender you can look to region — rural counties experience firearm suicide at a rate 58 percent higher than in most urban. You can correlate these higher rates accurately by what we don’t like to admit: that they are raised in regions with a higher prevalence of guns. And as difficult as this all is to say, in these conversations we cannot separate the steel, lead and gunpowder the public health crisis they amount to.
The ever-faithful American gun owner argument is that we have the right to carry destructive force in case we may need it against another living being for self-preservation, to defend family and home. To fear what others with guns may do to us, we have the right to carry the same destructive fear we can use against them as well.
In these noble ideals, we forget that the less clear-cut aspects of out life that we aren’t able to defend against through the destructive power of our own hands. That there is ground that we cannot stand on ourselves — the factors associated with a higher risk of suicide — isolation, the stress of unemployment and low income in the region, trauma and stress. In personal crisis, our rights become a crisis against ourselves. And the men and women we raised to be stubborn and self-sufficient, many of whom chose to serve our country, end up struggling most against these factors, without ever being told that there are some issues no one in this world could handle alone.
There are many conversations about the Second Amendment our country struggles to address. The great fear of another mass shooting, the constant troubling statistics of police brutality against young black men, young women and children at risk at the hands of a domestic abuser with a gun. There is no one solution to these issues, and we have trouble even providing proper funding to research and understand them. But, if we choose not to have any conversations about the complexity of gun violence, the individuals raised to be immovably gun-advocates will continue to suffer most to the abuse of guns we should have always been open to discussing.
Editor’s Note: Robert Avila, J.D., is an opinion and humor columnist from San Antonio, Texas, who writes biweekly for the Port Isabel-South Padre Press and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. You can find further background and sources to columns at his website https://robavilascolumns.wordpress.com.