Legislative Town Hall Continues Discussion on Mental Health
Editor’s Note: This article is a continuation of the article published in Tuesday’s Reporter. Due to length, it was published in two parts.
The Emmetsburg Welcome Center hosted U.S. Congressman Steve King, State Senator David Johnson, and State Congresswoman Megan Jones on Saturday, March 3 for a Legislative Town Hall meeting. Mental health and gun control issues dominated the discussion at this meeting.
Congressman King discussed the use of AR-15s which is one of the most popular gun types in the United States. Many people blame the AR-15 for the increase in school shootings, so they may not be to blame for the increase in gun violence. AR-15s are so popular that it would also be difficult to ban such a gun from those that use the rifle for hunting or protection purposes. King also went on to discuss the use of psychiatric drugs.
“Another thing that I learned in these discussions was that when people are going on these mind-altering drugs, they’re dangerous; they go on these drugs- they’re more dangerous until they get ramped up to a stabilized daily dose,” King began. “Once that’s established they’re probably safe to be out in the public. But if they go off of it, and you can’t monitor them or know whether they’re taking their drugs or not- they’re probably more dangerous on the way off than before they started taking them.”
King shared that he recently has visited a pharmacy where he learned that a psychiatric patient can be given an injection of their medication that will last for 90 days. He mentioned that with this type of dose, the patient can be monitored.
“It should make every American, in my opinion, my opinion is my opinion, it should cause every American pause with the cameras rolling and the mics open, that the president of the United States meeting with a bipartisan group of members of Congress and the U.S. Senate, except for Bill Nelson from Florida. Really wonder why Senator Nelson was excluded from that. It’s his state that had the mass shooting, ” Senator David Johnson began. “Would offer some, perhaps, changes in how we approach gun laws. And then meet secretly, privately I should say  with the NRA and all the sudden seems to change his position.”
Senator Johnson believes that these mass shooting issues are caused by the gun. “This idea that we’re just going to arm teachers, which is wrong, in my opinion, or that we’re just going to make fortresses out of our schools. This is a free society,” Johnson commented. He claimed that there are 300 million guns floating around the country and Johnson himself owns a gun, but only one. “I’m tired of elected officials calling these people crazy; they’re sick. They’ve got an illness.”
“On the national level and the state level, I’m not sure where the conversation is at the state level, but I know that with the recent shooting there has been a lot of talk of arming teachers, and they keep saying that for teachers who are past military or past law enforcement- give those people guns,” Emmetsburg citizen Joe Veltri began. “And being past military and qualifying as a combat veteran and a VFW member, my position was in the Navy. I was a SeaBee. I shot an M-16 once a year to qualify at target shooting. My combat experience was in Doha, Qatar which was to support the invasion in Iraq but I never even had a gun while I was there, we were just in missile range, so that was our combat experience. Just because you’re ex-military does not mean that you should have a gun in a school with kids.”
Veltri brought up a story of one of his classmates who joined the armed forces. This particular classmate suffered from severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as many combat veterans do. He proceeded to commit suicide because of his illness. Veltri stated that even though he would “qualify” as someone who could potentially carry a gun around a school, there are many veterans that are not stable enough to possess a firearm.
“So please, when you’re hearing people talk about that, don’t make it a fast band-aid, fix it situation,” Veltri concluded.
“I am a college professor and also worked a little bit in politics.” Lisa Wagner of Spirit Lake started. “My daughter is the current two-time state trap shooting champion, my sons are both current state trap shooting champions. There are ways to have guns and be responsible with them. As an educator, when those teachers have to make the choice, or that coach, and throw themselves or stand behind the door. You don’t think they would have made the choice to use a gun if they were happy to have it?”
The conversation continued regarding mental health. Many attendees shared their points of view regarding mental health as well as asked questions as to how the three politicians planned to remedy the flawed system.
The next legislative town hall meeting with be held at the Emmetsburg Welcome Center on Saturday, April 7 at 8:30 a.m.