Monday, January 21, 2013

Take My Gun Rights, Please

I think we assume that those with a mental disorder don't want to be told they can't own a gun.  Maybe it's stigma, maybe it's simply the fact that no one wants to be told they don't have the same rights as anyone else.  My personal problem with the idea of keeping guns from people with mental illnesses is that we really haven't clearly defined who those "mentally ill" out there are and it's not an "Us" and "Them" issue.  If someone has been hospitalized for dangerous behavior arising from a mental disorder, requires medications for chronic difficulties with mood or perceptions, and are on governmental disability for a psychiatric disorder, then they are certain in the category of  people with mental illnesses.  But half of all people will have a mental illness of some kind at some point in their life, many people without defined psychiatric disorders will behave in impulsive and dangerous ways, and people who do not have mental illnesses will obtain guns and later become ill, or will live with others who become dangerous. 

So this article caught my attention because the writer thinks about obtaining a gun after someone tried to crash into her home.  I thought she was going to be glad she didn't end up shooting some intoxicated guy.  Instead, she talks about her own depression and how she decided not to purchase a gun because she is afraid she will use it to commit suicide if she has another episode of depression.  She doesn't think it's a bad idea for the government to forbid people with her condition from buying guns.  A link, and a quote, and I'll leave it at that.  Comment as you like.

Please Take Away My Right To A Gun
from The New York Times, by Wendy Button.

My depression appeared for the first time in the late ’90s, right before I began writing for politicians. It comes and goes like fog. Medicine can help. I have my tricks to manage and get through it. Sometimes it sticks around for a day or a week, and sometimes it stays away for a couple of years. But it never leads me to sleep all day, cry and wear sweat pants like the people in the commercials. You’d look at me and never know that sometimes my fight against the urge to die is so tough the only way I get through it is second by second; I live by the second hand. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 38,364 Americans lost that fight in 2010 and committed suicide; 19,392 used a gun. No one ever attempted to break down my door in the early morning again, but I had an episode when my depression did come back in full force in the early winter of 2009, after I made a career-ending decision and isolated myself too much; on a January night in 2010; and again in May 2012, after testifying in the federal criminal trial of John Edwards, my former boss. If I had purchased that gun and it had been in my possession, I’m not sure I would have been able to resist and would be here typing these words.


Liz said...


i don't want to own a gun at this point. i realize that owning a gun would be risky in light of my mental health history. however, i believe that is MY decision and would like to regain my "right to bear arms." once i finish graduate school and move back to my home state (and have a few more stable years), i'm going to petition the courts to return that right to me. i'm not a child, and the government is not my mom or dad. or even my husband.

jesse said...

There were quite a few very thoughtful letters to the Times in response to the article that made the same point, and it is a strong point. What troubles me about the "just don't buy a gun" argument is that of the last 38,000 gun deaths in the U.S. over 20,000 were suicides. With that many deaths one might look more closely at the validity of the free will argument.

Plain Anon said...

I'd be dead if I owned a gun. No doubt about it. I would have been dead as a child if my parents had owned a gun.

Sarebear said...

I recently learned that my husband and I have quite different views on guns.

A close relative of his, as well.

This close relative is up in arms so to speak that his doctor has started reading from a list of questions, at the beginning of appointments, especially the question about if he is depressed. He is going to always answer no, truthful or not, because he sees this as a step towards the govt. coming to take his and everyone else's, guns away.

What planet is he on? I thought I was the one afraid of everything! I thought asking those questions was more making sure the doctor didn't miss a suicidal person, or at least feeling like they'd done enough to find that out, than anything else.

He's making everything about guns. I just hope his possibly lying about depression w/his doc doesn't medically screw him up, I know he's on lots of heart meds and some of those aren't good for depression.

His life, his choice.

My husband, even with my history of getting suicidal and hoarding methods to do it, would like to own guns.

That is SOO not a good idea (if keeping me alive is what's desired; otherwise, btring on the guns, cause I know I'd go there eventually.)

However, I'd not want to have my rights taken away, either, but I don't know how much that means given what I'd just said.

roblindeman said...

That Americans ask their government to deprive them of Liberty is not a new phenomenon.

What is new is suggestion that people who want to kill themselves will not do so if they don't have a gun.

I'm not the expert on these things, but it seems to me there are easier and less burdensome ways of killing oneself. Why not outlaw tall buildings?

If we were honest, we'd admit that we don't like guns but that we like tall buildings.

Dinah said...

I don't like guns and I do like tall buildings.

roblindeman said...


Thank you for your honesty. As always.

Now perhaps we me re-start the conversation having re-contextualized the relationship between firearms and mental illness?

NoGunsInMyHome said...

Rob -

There are many ways to kill oneself but not many as quick, convient, easy and deadly as a gun. For those who are impulsive - the difference in time it takes to walk into the next room and pull out a loaded gun and shoot and the time it takes driving to a tall building or overpass or even the store to get pills to OD is huge. Ten minutes, twenty minutes or even the distraction of having to figure out how to make sure one is very dead is sometimes enough to calm the impulsive scary loud noise in our head and remove the need to kill oneself in the moment.

I will not let impulse kill me.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I like guns more than I like tall buildings. Gun safety was pounded (figuratively) into my head from an early age. When I think of guns, I think of going to the target range with my dad.

Tall buildings generally involve cities and lots of people. Places with lots of people are scarier.

I am, however, more obsessive than impulsive. Despite the way it's constantly emphasized, the entire concept of preventing oneself from doing something by putting it off for a little while is entirely foreign to me. With a few exceptions (like really cheap silk) I don't act on impulses quickly. And with cheap silk, if you don't jump on the sale, somebody else does and it's gone.

roblindeman said...

With respect, NoGunsInMyHome, these arguments are not credible.

I know only one person (a member of my family, by marriage), to have killed herself with a gun. She planned her suicide meticulously, right down to verifying that her affairs were in order and her husband and young child would be taken care of.

I know of another person, a former classmate, who killed herself by hurling herself from the 30th floor window of her apartment building. According to witnesses, also classmates, this act was impulsive.

Remember, folks, buildings don't kill people. People kill people.

Joel Hassman, MD said...

The simplest reason why mental health care should abhor any interventions by government is thus: mental health care interventions operate under the premise that individuals are gray, that every treatment plan is unique to the person presenting to the provider; government on the other hand, especially these past 15 or so years, see culture as black and white and abhor exceptions to a point where they are punished even more severely than the usual disruptions.

Gun control is NOT a black and white issue, but if you as a culture, a society, continue to let Democrats and Republicans direct the debate, it is only right or left, er, wrong. Personally, gun access has to be defined on an individual basis. And like a drivers license, should be up for renewal every 5 or so years.

But, you won't hear or read government offer this as an option.

L said...

Two separate issues.

1) My flavor of severe, recurrent major depression means unquestionably that if I had a gun, I would be dead. And if my parents had had a gun when I was a child, I would be dead. There is no gray area there.

2) Even given number 1, the government does not have the right to decide if I should or shouldn't be able to buy a gun. Perhaps we should outlaw tylenol, as well.

Anonymous said...

L, makes a good point.

Why guns, particularly when it comes to women? Women are more likely to attempt suicide with other means like medication. Shall we ask the government to step into every depressed woman's home and empty out her medication cabinet and carry off her block of Wusthof knives? Shall we put depressed women in a separate database and prevent them from buying OTC meds or sharp objects? Men can be in the gun database and women can be in the OTC med database, and then everyone will be safe.

This legislation is about punishing people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, and I'm afraid they will accomplish their goals.

CatLover said...

I've said this before and I'll say it again, I am SO VERY SORRY that I ever "got help" for mental problems. Now, it seems I'm at risk of being put into an FBI database some day, because some OTHER mental patients don't want the right to buy a gun.

Well, I'm rural! I use a gun for deer hunting and clearing wood chucks out of my garden. You can't fence the little guys out - they always find a way (I do feel bad having to shoot them).

Although I do not keep a gun handy for home defense, and mostly think that's a bad idea, it is true that the sheriff is more than a half hour from my home most of the time. Given that so many mental patients have been sexually assaulted, if they feel they need a gun for home defense, I think that they should be able to do that, even if their feeling of safety is based on an illusion. Also, mental patients get stalked by ex lovers just as anyone else can be stalked.

I have never harmed anyone, and I do not deserve to be put into an FBI database, as if I am a felon. I have lived an exemplary life, helping many other people and animals too, in spite of much trauma inflicted by other people. Let people who are worried about using a gun for suicide put themselves on a voluntary list, as I believe some article comments said over on the NY Times.

I am on the edge of dropping out of treatment over this seeming witch hunt of mental patients. I cannot trust my doctor or therapist to represent my views. I have no problem with a doctor suggesting if I own guns to keep them locked away or give them to relatives when I am going through a rough patch. In fact, I do that.

I feel betrayed. The mantra "if you are depressed, get help!" served me well if I land in an FBI database over this. It doesn't help when some mental patients want to martyr ME along with themselves because they can't control their urge to buy a gun they have no earthly use for.

How about longer waiting periods? My husband and I are both gun owners, and we both think a month waiting period is just fine. We always planned our gun purchases for months, so we could decide what exactly was needed. Someone who can plan a suicide a month in advance and still wants the gun when the waiting period is up is pretty determined, and would use another method if they couldn't get the gun.

It's easy for a city person who lives in a reasonably safe neighborhood to willingly give up their gun rights, and give little thought to people who live in bad neighborhoods and rural areas.

Skizzy said...

I deserve the right to protect myself. My life is not less valuable than yours. My guns have been taken before. I bought more. They won't get them again. The mentally ill are considered wastes of resources. The drugs are meant to keep you still and quiet and the hospitals are prisons. The country has shown that they don't want us to exist by taking away our rights, one at a time. How much longer until we are so subhuman that we get euthanized like stray dogs?