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Spencer, 24

Until recently gun violence was something terrible that happened to other people on the news.

That changed May 2nd when Spencer, my handsome 24 year old nephew, a US veteran with a big heart, ended his life with one of the 5 loaded guns he kept next to his bed.

Spencer grew up a lot like I did in rural Iowa. A gun in his hands by the time he could walk. But life has been a lot harder for Spencer. He was diagnosed with chronic depression and he left the service after his second suicide attempt. The military deemed him “unsafe to operate weapons”. Two previous suicide attempts, mental illness for which he refused to receive treatment, as well as the Arnold family tradition of substance abuse did not stop Spencer from asking for and receiving, legally, a concealed weapons permit from The State of Iowa.

That changed May 2nd when Spencer, my handsome 24 year old nephew, a US veteran with a big heart, ended his life with one of the 5 loaded guns he kept next to his bed.

Spencer grew up a lot like I did in rural Iowa. A gun in his hands by the time he could walk. But life has been a lot harder for Spencer. He was diagnosed with chronic depression and he left the service after his second suicide attempt. The military deemed him “unsafe to operate weapons”. Two previous suicide attempts, mental illness for which he refused to receive treatment, as well as the Arnold family tradition of substance abuse did not stop Spencer from asking for and receiving, legally, a concealed weapons permit from The State of Iowa.

Since Spencer died every time I look into my boys eyes I can’t help but think about him and what his immediate family must be going through. I am grateful that I at least I know I tried to help Spencer (with the help of another gun owning but safety first brother). The irony is if I would’ve succeeded in getting my suicidal nephews guns away from him I would’ve been the one who committed the felony and he could’ve gotten them back before I bailed out of jail.

I am an advocate for National Gun Violence Prevention Month for selfish reasons. I am a father. I have 2 little children. I need to do everything I can to protect them. I respect the Second Amendment but I also believe in common sense. They are not mutually exclusive. First lessons my grandpa taught me before I shot my first squirrel: Guns are very dangerous. Owning a gun is a big responsibility. Be safe. Don’t show off. Don’t be an A-hole.

National Gun Violence Awareness Day marked one month since Spencer died. I will remember my nephew by raising awareness about the dangers of guns, and by wearing orange along with millions of other Americans who have had enough of gun violence.

I couldn’t save Spencer’s, but we can start a dialogue today that will save lives tomorrow. I hope you will join me in wearing orange and honor my nephew and so many more lost to gun violence.


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