No one has accused GOP U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn of being a complex thinker.
Or even just a thinker at all.
Nothing brings out Hagedorn's simple side more than a discussion of gun violence, as seen at a recent town hall event. Members of Moms Demand Action, among others, questioned the 1st District Congressman about the relationship between guns and mental health.
It's a constant fallback trope for Republicans, who won't entertain taking a single firearm off the market or out of someone's live, warm, oddly sweaty, and visibly shaking hands. As meaningless phrases go, blurting something out about "mental health" is like the med school version of the "thoughts and prayers" Republicans learned in freshman Lit.
So, how about it, Congressman Hagedorn? What are your views on treating those with mental health, specifically as it relates to gun violence?
First Jim took attendees on a simplistic (surprise!) history lesson:
"If you go back to the 1980s, the courts basically defined things in a way that said people couldn't be institutionalized except for a brief period of time, unless you could prove that they were a threat to themselves or someone else."
That bolded part's pretty important, isnt' it? Hagedorn seems to rue the day we let go of involuntary institutionalization, griping about the "stream of lawyers" who might argue you're "violating someone's rights" by locking them up. "So that's something that needs to be addressed."
Which part needs to be addressed? The institutions that no longer exist? The phantom lawyers arguing on behalf of a hypothetically institutionalized person? Those pesky "rights"? The 1980s? Jim doesn't say.
As for a "connection between somebody pulling a trigger and mental health," Hagedorn concedes there are "people out there that shouldn't have weapons, that have mental health issues."
This gets some applause. They clapped too soon.
Hagedorn reverts to simplicity: "People have due process. You can't just roll in and say, 'Oh this person's a bad guy, we're going to throw you in an institution and give you medicine, and the rest of it.'"
Then someone asks about seizing the guns of someone who's given clear signals they might be dangerous, and Hagedorn says: "Yeah, but that's a lot different than saying a person has mental health issues, now let's go take that person and put that person in an institution and get them treatment."
To be clear, no one has mentioned "institutions" except Congressman Jim Hagedorn, who has mentioned them a lot. In Jim's retrograde imagination, there are two modes of being in America: 1) institutionalized against your will (maybe in a straitjacket, depending how far Jim wants to take his fantasy) or 2) armed to the teeth, prepared for an unspecified mission, and equipped with a permanently invulnerbale psyche.
All this is bad enough. But the real shit kicks off around the 5:00 mark of this clip, as a woman suggests steps to quickly disarm people "who maybe are batterers, or who themselves—the biggest victim of gun violence for people with mental health issues are people who are taking their own life."
She's right, especially as it pertains to youth suicides. Jim Hagedorn has a message for all those dead people, young or otherwise. It is not a forgiving one.
"I don't believe in suicide," he begins. "I think it's terrible. My religious background tells me if you kill yourself, you go to hell. It's a bad thing."
"WHAT?!" yells one guy in the crowd, really the only reasonable response to that statement.
It's 2019, and a member of the United States House of Representatives is dodging simple (even for him!) public safety policy questions by asserting his belief that 47,000-some Americans who killed themselves in 2017 are rotting in hell.
More than half of those people used a gun, and Jim Hagedorn is praying for them. The guns, not the people. They're being taken care of—by Satan—so, don't worry.
Aside from the guy who hollered that one-word response, and a few gasps, most seem not to have heard Hagedorn's answer well enough. Either way, the conversation moves on, with Jim eventually saying we need to focus on"criminal control," not to mention "guns that are flowing over the border from Mexico every day." (Hagedorn has that backwards, but now's no time to let facts get in the way.)
By obfuscating and moving on, Hagedorn escaped his suicide = hell belief... until now... and maybe at the polls in 2020... and maybe once more when he meets St. Peter.
It's an odd construction, Hagedorn's, as if there's a coalition of people who believe the solution to depression is a self-imposed death sentence. "I don't believe in suicide," he said, flatly. And he's free to think that. It's a free country, at least until he brings back his beloved mental institutions.
But, Jim: Do you believe in career suicide?