Response to Gun Violence

US Capitol Building.
From the desk of Courtney Geels  

Can we legislate gun violence away?

As the Republican Party candidate for the open Congressional seat in the 4th District of NC, I am deeply saddened and horrified by the recent shootings in the Buffalo supermarket, Texas elementary school, and most recently at a Tulsa healthcare clinic. As a woman raised in the Christian faith and the sanctity of human life, two ingrained truths that I learned are: “Thou shalt not kill”, and the Golden Rule- “do unto others as you would have done unto you”. Unfortunately, it is impossible to draft equitable laws and legislate selfishness and evil out of human hearts. The Second Amendment is a complicated issue in these modern times. It was written into the U.S. Constitution as “necessary to the security of a free State.” If the right to bear arms is infringed, the control of an already too large federal government may grow deeper. However, if nothing is done to address these horrible shootings, a blind eye is turned to the sanctity of life. Neither response is quite appropriate.

In many instances of gun violence, underlying issues that are affecting the offender are usually identified. Many, if not all, mass shootings involve mental health issues. In the case of Tulsa, which hits close to home for me, an emergency room nurse, two major factors were present that can be addressed to prevent similar events. 

  1. The shooter in the Tulsa incident was reported to have severe post-surgical pain. This is far from uncommon. Over the past several years, the overuse of opioid pills has led to national protocols for pain management to decrease addiction and diversion of these medications. Perhaps we have pushed too hard to limit pain medication in the postoperative setting? This is a challenge for all health care providers, who advocate for the comfort and well-being of patients. Unfortunately, people in severe pain may become irrational and even suicidal. My experience of seeing patients like this because of poor pain control suggests that doctors must have some leeway with stringent national protocols to treat individual patients with severe chronic pain. This issue is worsened by opioids and other addictive substances coming illegally across the border. Although securing the border seems like a different issue, they are all interrelated.
  2. In many heart-breaking stories of gun violence, serious psychiatric problems are noted in the shooter. One of my beliefs is that these shootings are directly related to the heart and mind of the shooter. Many studies report that over 55% of gun related deaths in America are suicides. The exponentially growing need for mental health care in our country must be addressed. Many psychiatric needs of patients go untreated due to underfunding and lack of access to mental health facilities and providers. My personal experience has seen that patients often wait days, and weeks in the ER for placement at appropriate acute and long-term facilities. Frequently there is a lack of insurance for those with serious mental illness, and psychiatric care should be included as preventative medical care. As a nurse and your congresswoman, this will be a non-partisan issue, to include mental health evaluations with well-patient visits. Perhaps, some of the “psychotic breaks” seen so publicly could be decreased? Children and teenagers should receive counseling as needed to prevent horrible decisions they can’t take back. More acute and long-term care facilities are needed for those who are already enduring mental illness. Perhaps another precaution that can be implemented, is any young adult between the ages of 18 and 21 would undergo the usual background check; However that background check would include previously hidden juvenile records up to age 21. Right now juvenile records are sealed, and this extension of background checks could prevent immature adults with criminal history from purchasing a firearm.

It is certain that good and evil are at odds every second of every day throughout the world. Society is charged to control some of that chaos by law. Many laws that are changed or created may have unintended side effects.  Having so called “gun free zones” at schools and medical facilities, is simply not effective, and may place those settings at a higher risk for attack.  A person with an amoral heart planning an evil deed may realize there is no line of defense to cross.  As your congresswoman, I will advocate for funding for safety officers at any facility that already receives federal monetary support. States should be encouraged to consider ways of employing retired law enforcement officers and military veterans to help with security in these soft target areas.  It seems to be naive to assume that teenagers and disturbed individuals will leave these places alone. The vulnerable in our society must be protected. We also must protect the checks and balances on the Federal government.

My upbringing in school and church in Hillsborough taught me to treat others as you would like to be treated. We seem to have lost this basic tenet of society in our country. We have lost it in dialogue with friends, family, and co-workers. We have lost it in our actions as adults. Perhaps a renewed emphasis on the family and Biblical principles should be the important reaction to gun violence in our country. 

Thank you,

Courtney Geels