The Sin City Saints star penned an emotional editorial, published in The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday, detailing his own 52-year history with firearms and the tragic story of his mentally unstable nephew, Spencer.
“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 has traveled with the USO and other organizations to entertain 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.”
According to Arnold, his nephew Spencer 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 that 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 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 recounted.
“Spencer having five loaded guns next to his bed every night is like me sleeping next to a dresser made out of chocolate cake and filled with cocaine,” Arnold, an outspoken recovering addict, explained. “I will probably be totally cool forever, unless someone says something that kinda hurts my feelings and … f*** it.”
Arnold lays 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.”
The actor wrapped up his essay with a simple breakdown of his thoughts on gun ownership, and the type of people who should not be permitted to buy a firearm.
“There are people in this country who consider guns to be living, breathing things. They represent liberty to some people, and the Constitution itself. Some even equate guns to religion. A gift to Americans directly from God himself,” Arnold shared. “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.”
“I’ve handled guns for 52 years. I support the Second Amendment. I own guns, but I am very, very careful because they are very, very dangerous. I know,” Arnold concluded.
The suicide rate among U.S. military veterans has recently been brought into the spotlight by the 22-pushup challenge – a social media campaign that aims to raise awareness of the statistic that an average of 22 veterans commit suicide each day in the United States.
Hollywood has responded in a big way with a number of huge stars sharing their thanks with America’s veterans, and doing their part to raise the profile of the #22Kill campaign. Check out the video below to see more.