My Thoughts on Mental Illness and Guns

I want to preface this blog post with this: I have always been around guns my whole life and I have only known responsible gun owners personally.

I don’t normally write about my political thoughts or positions in my writing here because so much of what I write is about my personal experiences since my diagnosis. I am in no way writing this as a pro-gun position or from a position of anti-gun.

I write this not because of the events of this week, but rather because it is so important that I talk about a specific part of the conversations that are ongoing in the media and social media. I will leave the talking about “gun control” to others who may have better opinions. The tragic events in Las Vegas made me think about a subject that means the world to me; are guns and mental illness a good mix?

It comes down to where I stand when it comes to if people with mental illness should be allowed to own guns. My answer is clear.

In my opinion, people with mental illnesses should not be allowed to own guns for the simple reason that at any moment something bad could happen in their life that can trigger suicidal thoughts. I am not saying that people that have mental illnesses can’t shoot guns. I come from the position of my own experiences with my own mental illness. It scares me to think of the last time I tried to commit suicide and what would have happened if there was a gun involved.

I am such a good place in my life that thinking about suicide is a thing of the past, but as my history tells me, the fact that I have been through many different bad depression cycles in my life there is always a chance that, if I owned a gun I would use it on myself. What I find interesting are the laws in California when it comes to people with a mental illness.

A person held on a seventy-two hour 51/50 hold in California are not allowed to buy a firearm for a period of five years.* This, of course, restarts each time that a person is put on the hold. Three times in my life I have been put on a 51/50, and each time I was told my rights. The last time I was put on a hold was 2007. Given my history, it is my opinion that this type of ban should be for life. As of right now, I could purchase a firearm (I don’t actually plan to do so.) It is not because that I believe in being mean to people with mental illnesses, but simply I will live with being Bipolar for the rest of my life. There is always a chance of going back to that bad place.

I wanted to make one last point that has weighed heavy on my mind this week. We are living in such strange times where mass shootings have become the normal thing to wake up to in America. It saddens me that often, and sometimes it is warranted, that mental illness takes the blame simply because it is easier to blame that a person has a mental illness versus someone was a terrorist. (This is just my opinion.) I have known so many great people with mental illnesses that wouldn’t hurt anyone outside what they have done to themselves (of course, that is for another post) but to put a blame of mental illness just to me isn’t fair.

I would like to hear from people about what I have written. Am I wrong here? Let me know.

J.E. Skye

* Infomation from https://goo.gl/2nBCUN

Photo Credit: Foodie Factor

11 Replies to “My Thoughts on Mental Illness and Guns”

  1. First, thank you for following me! It’s great to find another with bipolar disorder. Also, I love your writing style.

    I agree with this post. Usually it’s not those with mental illnesses that do these mass shooting. It’s just easier to blame it on that if they don’t understand a person’s reasons. My experience with myself and friends with bipolar disorder or major depression is they wouldn’t hurt anyone except themselves. It’s more of a chance of suicide with guns. I’ve had two friends die from suicide. It’s heartbreaking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words. It is easier to blame and that is not fair the mental health community. It puts a bad stigma on people with mental health. I plan to change that and hopefully get people talking about it. It’s great to connect with you as well!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, exactly! That is exactly what I want to do with my blog as well, as well as a few other things that I’ve had issues with but my main objective is hopefully educating others about mental health.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have to say I share your feelings on this topic. I wrote something similar, but not nearly as eloquent on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. James, I agree with you. Although I could probably buy a gun–after lessons, that is–because of the cognitive issues I have, though slight, I really do not believe I should own a gun for my own protection. I am a stroke survivor and have General Anxiety Disorder as one of the results. I have what I call fits of depression. They never last more than a few days but the things that go through my head sometimes during these episodes could, by chance, lead to using a gun in the wrong way. Luckily, I have no interest in guns so it has never been a problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, it connects us to this very real think in our lives. I am glad that you have no desire to purchase guns. Like I mentioned I am not anti-gun, I just believe that its best for people like us to not have that access. Thanks again for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post. I’m very fatigued by the fact that people love to accuse other people of being mentally ill. About half of Americans will be mentally ill in their lifetimes due to dealing with divorce, disease or death. Normal people snap, evil people snap, jealous and troubled people snap. I wish I lived in a world without this type of violence.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That would be a world I wouldn’t mind living in but unfortunately we don’t live that type of society. I think its still possible that we can, maybe finally out of tragedy things will change.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Good post. I generally disagree with lifetime bans because it isn’t all that difficult to end up in a situation where you are petitioned, even if you are willing to be voluntary. I am not a felon and so do not deserve to have one of my constitutional rights pulled automatically on a lifetime basis. A five year rule is one that ensures that people who seriously struggle are unlikely to be able to buy a weapon to hurt themselves. It won’t catch everyone.

    That said, there are still waiting periods in play amongst other things so you cannot just go walk out and purchase a hand gun if you are feeling suicidal. There has also been a great deal of training on the part of shop owners to look for signs of suicidality. No one wants to be responsible for selling that gun.

    Ultimately though, it’s a matter of knowing that you are the kind of person who shouldn’t have a firearm in your home and not going out to get one. I’m not sure we restrict constitutional rights permanently, to large swaths of people, unless there is a compelling reason like a previous felony to do so.

    I am not willing to equate walking into an ER and stating that you are a harm to yourself with a felony. There are already people who refuse to get any kind of help for the erroneous fear that they will lose the right to own guns. Making it a lifetime ban would deter many many more.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I carry the bipolar one label and am a former gun owner and hunter. There have also been two instances in my life in which I held a gun to my own head and tried to find the gumption to squeeze off. It’s probably worth noting both of them occurred before I was diagnosed, so your idea would have had zero impact in my case.

    I don’t agree with your proposal.

    Firstly it’s way too broad. Yep, bipolar folks, those called schizophrenics and people who call their suffering ‘depression’ are all at increased risk of attempting suicide. And access to effective means like firearms makes it more likely they’ll succeed (though a piece of rope is just as effective as a gun). But there’s a lot more to DSM diagnoses than those categories. Borderline personality disorder, autism spectrum disorders, anxiety disorders, body image dysmorphia, etc, etc, etc. They all qualify you as mentally ill though they aren’t associated with suicide risk. In fact it’s been claimed that everyone would qualify for one or more DSM-5 categories were they to subject themselves to the checklists. OTOH there are many conditions that aren’t called mental illnesses that increase suicide risk, including substance abuse, certain professions (including psychiatry), dysfunctional families or marriages, job loss, homelessness, homosexuality and transsexualism, poverty, the experience of sexual abuse, bullying and racism … (the first time I tried to shoot myself was during a long bullying campaign against me at school). Should we ban them from owning guns too?

    Secondly it’s stigmatising. Like I said, it wouldn’t cover access to ropes, high places, lethal substances … The difference between those and guns is that the latter is far more dangerous to others. A law like the one you propose would inevitably be associated in the public mind with the risk of murder, not suicide. That would increase stigma against the mentally ill and, potentially, decrease their capacity to seek help for suicidal impulses.

    Thirdly, suicide is legal. Why should the mentally ill be denied the right to kill themselves? Often they have very good reasons, not all of them directly due to the illness. If you’re worried about doing something you won’t get the chance to regret while you’re ‘not yourself’ (whatever that means) then how about a voluntary ‘advanced directive’ version of 51/50 whereby you put yourself on a list of people who can’t buy firearms, regardless of your mental health status? If, after five years, you no longer feel you’re a suicide risk you can let it lapse (or perhaps put yourself on a 12 month wait for it to lapse). Otherwise you can renew it at any time for another five. And if you’re incessantly so suicidal for five years straight that you don’t want to renew so that you can shoot yourself when it expires then maybe it’s not such a bad idea after all. They shoot horses, don’t they?

    Yep, you Americans definitely need better gun laws. I gave up my firearms when Australia introduced more restrictive laws following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania. Since then we haven’t had a single mass murder involving four or more victims and firearm related homicide, suicide and accidental death has dropped substantially. But the overall suicide rate was unaffected.

    You need better laws right across the board, not targeting specific groups. If you were going for a targeted evidence based approach to reducing mass murder you’d be refusing to allow white men to own firearms, just like if you were trying to reduce violence you’d be better off forcibly detaining young men who drink alcohol and play contact sports than those with a psychotic illness. I think you can imagine the outcry over rights and discrimination were such measures to be proposed. Yet even those who identify as mentally ill can seriously suggest laws that discriminate against the mentally ill. Such is the nature of stigma.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate your point of view. It’s great to see even when we may not full agree we can engage in a real conversation about a very important subject. I hope I didn’t come off as targeting people with mental illness in a bad way. Yes, there are other options for suicide, but at the highest level I am against suicide no matter the method. I just expressed my views and opinion about a subject I feel are important.

      Again, thank you for posting your view. It really did make sense from your point of view.

      Like

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