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In 2008, there was a Supreme Court ruling that declared that the Second Amendment meant an INDIVIDUAL right to own guns. The ultra-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia wrote it -- that replaced the centuries-old rule that there was only a COLLECTIVE right to own guns. Prior to 2008, only police and the military and people who argued for special exceptions could own guns.

I consider that radical rewrite of "gun rights" in 2008 to have caused a serious escalation of America's gun culture. And the statistics back that up: Since 2008, the number of gun sales has doubled. And since 2008, the number of gun homicides has more than doubled, too. Those statistics are from AmericanGunFacts.com and available everywhere -- except that ultra-conservatives don't want us to hear those statistics.

How can we fight America's gun culture? I hear lots of proposals this week -- all of which are steps forward -- but we should keep in mind that the goal is de-escalating "gun culture" while the ultra-conservatives want to keep the problems quiet and keep guns "normal."

The radical ultra-conservatives have succeeded in foisting their vision of a gun culture on America. We must reject that vision. Reject their playing field -- where guns are a normal part of everyday life. We can't let them define the playing field -- we can't let them define America as a gun culture! We must redefine the playing field so that America sees guns as a necessary evil -- to be used only when needed -- and strictly limited otherwise. We can start that change here in Massachusetts. Let's change America's gun culture!

Kathleen Crogan-Camara's speech at same event

The continued massacres at public schools is extraordinarily disturbing. As we already know, these attacks on our humanity have occurred in many different settings, and have occurred for a long time.

As a State Senate candidate and as a nurse, Kathleen wants to see more connection made between gun violence and mental health. Kathleen says, "Bringing guns to a school to shoot children is a manifestation of a mental illness. Also, by not addressing mental health crises in a timely manner, many individuals commit suicide with a handgun. This is heart-breaking." Kathleen is frustrated that the discussion in the news and in society isn't being talked about in a connected way. "Research shows that PTSD and suicides increase after mass shootings."

Kathleen feels that although Massachusetts has good commonsense gun laws -- they could be even tighter. "We need to ensure that all schools have adequate security AND mental health services on site."

"Why are we still not talking about the serious lack of mental health services?" Kathleen says, "Why do we continue to hear stories about a shooting spree killing so many, and time and time again, the individuals closest to the killer say they never had a history of mental illness? On closer examination, time and time again, we see behavior that would be considered questionable--or was ignored, dismissed, and not addressed?"

Mental health practitioners are aware that denial and mental health are related. Things like stigma feed denial. Going off psych meds are often issues that family members are faced with, along with stigma.

Kathleen feels we need strong leaders to address appropriate change. As a nurse, Kathleen feels we need to stop putting band-aids on problems and look at the core of what is going on.

Kathleen believes that one important key is providing a limited scope of mental health records during the process of background checks for gun purchases, while understanding the sensitivities of healthcare privacy. "Something's gotta give, so lives can be saved," says Kathleen, looking to raise red flags during the background check process.

However, this has to be set up so that mental health is not criminalized -- a compromise between stronger background checks and healthcare privacy. We need to improve the system of sharing mental healthcare information so law enforcement can work together for our safety and for the safety of our children. "We can do this if we work hard to create the right balance of information sharing," says Kathleen.

Kathleen also points out the exacerbation of mental health issues during the pandemic. "COVID lockdowns shined a light on many issues that were horrendous even BEFORE the pandemic, like mental health; emergency rooms being jammed with long wait times; and turning people away due to a lack of psychiatric beds."

As a nurse, Kathleen believes we need leaders to address problems and stop putting band-aids on the problems that face our citizens.

"We bring priorities to state government. We show our priorities when we recognize problems." To Kathleen, politics is personal.

Committee to Elect Jesse Gordon, 52 West St, Randolph MA 02368

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