Luke Church

If mental health is the issue . . .
If mental health is the issue . . .

On November 19, 2013 Gus Deeds, the 24-year old son of Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds, attacked his father, stabbing him repeatedly in the face and upper torso.  Gus Deeds later shot and killed himself.

Speaking in a CBS 60 Minutes interview, Creigh Deeds said Virginia’s mental health system failed his son.  Gus Deeds had been detained through an emergency custody order, but there was no psychiatric facility with an available bed to hold him under temporary detention following the maximum six hour emergency detention allowed by the state.

Creigh Deeds has introduced legislation to increase the amount of time a person could be held through an emergency custody order for a mental health crisis from six hours to 24 hours.  The measure has made it out of a subcommittee, but there is opposition from from two subcommittee members and the VA Sheriffs’ Association.

Gus Deeds’ suicide is another in a long list of seemingly never ending reports of gun violence.  Every day brings a new headline of a shooting, whether self inflicted through intent or accident, the accidental shooting of one child by another child, or a mass shooting at a mall or school.

The national debate continues on how to address this problem and one issue at the center of the discussion is mental illness and its treatment.

Since the NRA has explained to us time after time that gun violence has nothing to do with the availability of guns, but rather the poor state of mental health care, why isn’t the NRA in Richmond supporting Creigh Deeds in his effort to extend the period of time a person can be held in emergency custody during a mental health crisis? Does the NRA have a legislative committee working on health care law to improve access? Why is the NRA not supporting those people working to address the issue it uses as its main debate point on gun violence?

This is not about 2nd Amendment rights, what the Founding Fathers intended, open carry, concealed carry, the number and type of guns and ammo a person can own or even background checks.  It is not a suggestion that all mental illness leads to violence.  It is simply about the improvement of mental health services.  It is about access and delivery of services and treatment that just might reduce the number of tragic headlines and holes left in families, lives and bodies by senseless gun violence.

And, if the NRA continues to point to a broken mental health system as a reason for gun violence, then it should step up and join the rest of us who are ready to address the issue and find solutions.

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But when a mentally ill person uses a gun to kill, it is time to set aside the platitudes and talking points and do something that matters.

Click for the  full 60 Minutes report.