Greetings and Happy New Year to all Wisconsin social workers! Hopefully, all of us were able to savor the holidays and regenerate our professional energies.
Whether our clients are individuals, families, or communities, the professional services we provide them will continue to require all of the vitality we can muster.We do this not only as a matter of professional training on matters directly affecting our clients, but as our ethical duty to them.
Among our ethical duties is that of promoting social justice, one of the hallmarks our profession. We are intolerant of injustice, and do not hesitate to mount a fierce advocacy on behalf of our communities. Such an issue has now emerged with the spate of lethal gun violence occurring in our nation, many of which involved multiple fatalities. Two happened in our own state, one at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek and the other at a spa in Brookfield. All were tragic, although the deliberate slaying of young children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut finally has riveted the nation’s attention on the interplay between gun violence and mental instability.
NASW-WI has long advocated the need for responsible gun control. The recent events have triggered both national and state conversations that now include:
- A limitation of firearm sales to responsible owners (i.e., background checks of prospective gun purchasers);
- A limitation on the sale of assault firearms and assault firearm magazines;
- A renewal of the lapsed ban on the sale of assault firearms;
- A ban on the sale of high capacity gun magazines or ammunition clips;
- The apparent proliferation of handguns;
- High volume sales of ammunition to a single purchaser;
- Undocumented guns sales at gun shows with no background check.
I know many in our state are hunters. (Disclosure: my husband is an avid upland game bird hunter, and keeps his guns in a locked safe.) In addition, some of my social work students at both UW-Oshkosh and UW-Madison are also hunters, and in classroom discussions on gun control they have been quick to aver that they keep their guns in securely locked locations. Responsible gun owners and sports persons need not and should not be apprehensive about legislation designed to limit access to assault firearms or high-capacity magazines.
When legislation involving gun issues is introduced in our state legislature, NASW-WI will be present to support responsible gun control. We not only welcome but particularly urge your participation in these discussions and committee hearings.
Certainly we all recognize the role that mental instability has played in these horrific events. It is imperative that we advocate for increased mental health services for children, youth and adults. Sadly, many of those perpetrating the gun tragedies of the past year did not receive the health services they appear to have so desperately needed. The state of psychotherapy is not yet at the stage where psychotherapists can identify potential shooters with certainty, but this should not preclude our profession from advocating increased counseling services for those who are troubled and distressed, and have given indications of potential harm to others. There is no time like the present to urge legislators and local school officials to support additional counseling and mental health services to those who are young, vulnerable and troubled.