Monday, 7 January 2013

Gun control, mental health and trauma

Ever since Sandy Hook, there has been a lot of discussion on the web about gun-control and whether or not it could have saved those children.

My personal belief was that regardless of what caused his mental illness, Adam Lanza was a dangerously unstable young man. His mother should not have been allowed to keep multiple fire-arms within his reach. Would lack of easy access to firearms have stopped him? Not necessarily, but it might have slowed him down and forced him to think twice.

I am told that to check mental health records and interview friends and neighbours of people who share the home of the applicant, or even the applicant himself, is to convict someone before a crime has been committed. In America one is innocent until proven guilty, and one should not be treated as a potential criminal until a crime has been committed. One should not be required to give up one's constitutional rights until there has been a conviction.

It is a noble argument, but I'd like to call bullshit.

I don't believe that any form of mental illness necessarily makes one a danger to society. Someone who suffered from depression after the loss of a loved one, for instance, is unlikely to be dangerous. Should such a person be denied the opportunity to exercise his second-amendment rights, he should be able to appeal the decision, even forcing the state to justify their decision in court. However, mental illness can make a person dangerous and should play a role in deciding whether or not a person should be allowed to own a gun. My foster father is one such person.

During the court case, after my foster father's death, documents were dug up. Unfortunately my memories of that period are highly fragmented and I don't remember what kind of documents they were (Mental health records? Criminal history? Past charges on which he was not convicted?) but they proved to the court's satisfaction that he was a dangerously unstable man. When his fire-arm license was issued, they were either not checked, or ignored. Those documents were a big part of my defence and played a huge role in allowing me to walk out of that courtroom with my grandma, instead of in police custody.

All of this might sound like a happy ending, until one considers the effect that his actions with that gun had on me. Those two nights when he pressed the barrel against my cheek bone were among the most traumatic of my life. It forced me to fight to save my self, and in doing so to commit an act that would haunt me for the rest of my life. It destroyed all that was left of my self-respect, all that was left of my soul. The night he died was also the night he won. I am only now beginning to understand exactly what the events of that night did to me.

Justice does not magically cure PTSD.

No conviction could ever clean the blood off my hands.

He should not have been allowed to own a gun!

Today, I know that if I were to apply for a fire-arm license, I would probably be declined. I don't blame the licensing authority. I blame my abusers, and those who refused to lift a finger to help me.

I blame the ignorant fool who issued my foster-father's license.

1 comment:

  1. There are a lot of people out there that should not be issued with a gun license. My mother in law was a Springbok shotist and my husband grew up with a lot of guns in the house as a child. Recently with all the new gun laws in SA and the fact that she is now in her 80s she handed in their gun collection to the authorities to be destroyed.

    Thankfully, my husband has never wanted a gun in our home and he could have had his pick of some 20 guns. I had a client whose son accidently killed himself when playing with a gun and it was almost a warning sign for us. We have in the past asked family members to give us their gun when visiting to be locked away until they leave. Family functions can sometimes get quite heated and a gun is such an easy thing to grab in a heated argument.

    I just need to add that my mother in law was hijacked a number of years ago and because of her experience with guns she did not panic when it happened and calmly let them take the car. I am not sure I would have been able to handle it as well - I am really scared of guns, I have never been able to even touch one.

    Your strength is so visible in your postings, never doubt what you did. As I read this post and because of my fear of guns I can only begin to imagine the anguish you must have suffered.


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