Producer and actor Tom Arnold is still dealing with the tragedy of his 24-year-old nephew Spencer taking his own life this spring by shooting himself in the head, and Thursday he made an impassioned plea to enact new gun laws that might have prevented his nephew's death. "Some (people) equate guns to religion," he notes. "A gift to Americans directly from God himself. That sounds crazy to me. It should be on the gun test: If you truly believe your metal tool/explosive device is a gift from above, then you should be deemed insane and unfit to legally own a gun."
In an essay written for The Hollywood Reporter, Arnold endorses a new piece of legislation that's been drawn up by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
"They had the very bill I wanted before Congress, as well as a bill fixing the gun show loophole," Arnold writes of his meeting with the campaign.
"The Brady Bill was great, but gun shows and the internet have changed the picture since 1993, so we just want to update things. No guns for the mentally ill until they are treated (the last two cop killers in the headlines were former military with PTSD; once you serve this country, you deserve follow-up mental and physical health checkups every year for the rest of your life). No guns for domestic abusers, violent felons or people on the terrorist watch list, and background checks for everybody."
Arnold's nephew was discharged from the U.S. Army after serving time in Iraq and after attempting suicide, and Arnold also said his nephew "was diagnosed as chronically depressed and unsafe around weapons." Despite this medical assessment, Spencer managed to legally buy five different guns because there is no way to run a background check on someone's mental health history when they go to buy a gun, reminds Arnold.
Arnold also stated that while he owns guns and supports the Second Amendment, he cannot understand the ways that people have fetishes for guns.
"Like most people who grew up in rural Iowa, I am a gun owner and a supporter of the Second Amendment. As a hunter, farmer and former meat packer, guns have been a part of my life since I took 'Rifle Range' at YMCA camp when I was 5," the 57-year-old actor and father of two wrote.
Arnold, who traveled with the USO and other organizations to entertain U.S. troops in active war zones, explained that seeing the violence in these areas gave him "a good idea why we are now dealing with a PTSD and gun-suicide epidemic in this country," reports Fox News.
According to Arnold, his nephew was "a sweet boy, but he was small, and I'm sure he was picked on."
"He was kicked out of the Army after attempting suicide. He was diagnosed as chronically depressed and unsafe around weapons. Yet he was able to get a concealed weapon permit from the state of Iowa and buy five guns," Arnold continued. "Like me, Spencer was a substance abuser. He refused my offer for help with that as well as his mental illness, so I was very concerned. Last fall, when I saw on Facebook that he had joined a crazy, racist, neo-Nazi (I'm Jewish, as is my mom) gun group and videotaped himself showing off, drunkenly shooting his assault rifle and calling President Obama the N-word, I headed to the airport to go see him."
Arnold explained he doesn't feel Spencer was actually a racist, he "was tired of feeling small" and "wanted to be a part of something dangerous and cool. And whether or not anyone was OK with it, Spencer got to keep his guns despite his mental state."
On May 2, Arnold's nephew called a girl he was dating and the two of them reportedly got into a disagreement. "So my handsome 24-year-old nephew reached over and grabbed one of the five loaded guns on his nightstand and shot himself in the head," he said.
Arnold puts the blame for the lack of gun control at the feet of the National Rifle Association, which he claims has scared Congress into not passing stricter gun control legislation or closing the numerous loopholes that allow guns to be purchased without a background check.
"I wish I could wave a wand and make Congress fearless. Then they wouldn't kowtow to the NRA so easily. Same for a lot of my fellow Americans," he argued. "The NRA has convinced people that a home with a gun is safer than one without a gun. That is a lie. Not even close, and the odds are about 8-to-1 that if someone does get hurt with that gun, it's not going to be a bad guy. It's going to be the owner or a friend or family member."