American Culture

Mental illness should not become a blanket barrier to owning a firearm

I want to buy a gun.

As a kid, I loved westerns — those with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, and John Wayne. They were heroes — good guys in white hats defeating bad guys in black hats. Those heroes had guns — but they never drew first. That was the code of the West.

One movie — Winchester ’73, starring James Stewart — touted the gun I wanted most. I saw that rifle, that lever-action carbine, and I wanted one. But I was just a kid.

Winchester Model 94 Carbine

Now I’m not a kid. So I want to buy a Winchester Model 94 Carbine. It’s only about twelve hundred bucks. I can afford it. Lever action, seven-shot magazine, satin wood finish, brushed steel barrel. I have friends who can teach me to safely shoot it, respect it, and maintain it. So why not?

As I salivate, two thoughts emerge.

First, what the hell would I do with it? I’m not a hunter nor do I wish to become one. Do I need to defend my home against armed invaders? Unlikely. I never served in the military or law enforcement. People can train me to fire the carbine accurately, but I doubt they can train me, at my age, to steel myself sufficiently to kill someone with it in hurried self-defense. So, I suppose, I can just shoot tin cans off the fence posts from my deck. Is that worth twelve hundred bucks plus the cost of ammo and accessories and items for maintenance?

Second, I have endured episodes of depression, panic disorder, and anxiety since I was a teenager. I have been medicated off and on for more than 50 years. I am a high-functioning individual with three degrees who has spent nearly three decades teaching undergraduates how to write. The only harm I’ve done to any of them is with a red pen.

Politicians and others trying grapple with who should not be permitted to own a firearm slur millions of decent but troubled people by uttering a vague phrase — mental health — in the context of gun rights or gun control. The president of the United States wants to usurp due process and yank guns out of the hands of someone presumed dangerous because of concerns about his or her mental health.

Who decides that? Based on what evidence? Provided by whom? Gathered in what legal manner? Adjudicated in what court?

Anyone who kills in a mass, indiscriminate fashion is by definition fucking crazy. But not all and likely not the majority of those suffering from an emotional or psychological malady are insane enough to commit mass murder. We’re unhappy, not homicidal.

So I want to buy a gun. If you try to prevent me from doing that, the wrath of many lawyers will rain down upon you.

2 replies »

  1. I totally agree. I have Bipolar 1. I am medicated & am stable. I have been stable for years. Unlike you, I do hunt, mostly for deer, for which I mostly use a bow but once it’s gun season, yes I do use a gun. & sometimes I like to waterfowl hunt, for which you need a shotgun. At this point, I no longer own any guns but I do think about which if I want to buy one. Are my hospitalizations … long in my past … going to be brought up against me?

    I used to use my ex-boyfriend’s guns but he’s an ex. & there’s some REALLY good reasons he’s an ex so I’m not going back there. So I think about this stuff all the time. Are my days of hunting over? Something that I loved & was good for me on a bunch of levels? All of which that had nothing to do with killing anything at all? Because there were many days I would walk home from my tree stand having never even pointed my gun at an animal & that was alright with me.

  2. Aside from the blanket, undefined “mental health” dodge to avoid dealing with the issue, it’s exactly the notion of who gets to decide that bugs me. There’s just too many ways for that to go sideways. Worse, the hypocrisy surrounding the notion is astounding. The right to keep and bear is absolute, so we’re erroneously told, and to shore it up, one just needs to look at the statistics. Only some tiny percentage, some 0.000…00x% of owners with legally acquired firearms do something evil with them, so why the threat to infringe? Yet an even tinier percentage of people with blanket, undefined “mental health” issues do something evil with them, so let’s find ways to violate their privacy, their right to search and seizure only with probable cause, and their 2nd Amendment rights. By their own logic, the pro-gun crowd crying “mental health” as a dodge should fall under greater scrutiny.

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