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In the aftermath of the latest Ft. Hood shooting, the subject of mental health has once again reared its ugly little head as a way to deprive a large chunk of the population of their Second Amendment rights.
Not Soldier disarmament, which turns our troops into vulnerable prey...
Not prescription psychiatric drugs, which have been linked to violent behavior, and which were apparently a factor in the latest Ft. Hood shooting, as well as Sandy Hook and last year's Navy Yard shooting, in which responsible lunatic Aaron Alexis was apparently prescribed trazodone, which carries with it the risk of violence and suicide...
No. Mental illness, which can range from mere anxiety and depression to outright psychosis and schizophrenia, and which, according to the World Health Organization can affect as many as one in four people in the world.
Mental illness, which should be a private matter between an individual's physician and the patient.
Mental illness, which is a stigma so severe, that many patients would rather not seek help at all than admit they have this particularly embarrassing problem.
And mental illness, the focus on which could result in a disproportionate number of military veterans being deprived of the very rights they swore an oath to protect with their lives.
I've been deployed. The last time was in 2007 when I spent a year in Kosovo, in addition to several months in mobilization status away from my children and my home. Fortunately for me, I did not spend the year getting blown up by IEDs and dodging bullets, despite the fact that Kosovo was still considered a hazardous duty zone. I did not see friends blown up, or hold people with whom I served and loved in my arms as they died, but I saw my fair share of heartache - caused by separation, depression and loneliness. I saw friends who found out their spouses went off and cheated on them as soon as the plane landed in Pristina. I saw children heartbroken, and spouses unable to keep it together while their loved one was gone for more than a year. Sometimes the pain and loneliness for my kids became overwhelming - so overwhelming that the only way to keep going was to spend several hours at a time at the gym or working nonstop just to make the time pass.
Depression is not uncommon in the military - especially in families with multiple deployments under their belts - but it's worse for those who have come back from active combat zones...
... those who have seen their friends bleed, and those who have lost sight, limbs and the ability to function. One of my friends - a man who was always characterized by his kindness and optimism - came back from Afghanistan and became a bitter drunk. He didn't care for the taste of food. Seeing his children and his friends did not make him happy. There was no making him smile. The joy of seeing old friends did not materialize in his eyes upon his return. The photos he shared with me were of blood in the streets, mangled vehicles and wrecked lives.
He needed help, and luckily he got it.
Many come back and seek help. They have trouble adjusting to normal life. They have to fit back into their family's routine - a routine that has changed while they have been away. It's awkward and sometimes overwhelming. They feel disconnected. This does not mean they are violent or dangerous. They seek help, because they recognize they have a problem and they understand they need support fixing it. This points to personal responsibility and the ability to reason, and yet, these are the very same people the current efforts to disarm those considered "mentally ill" will impact in droves.
How many times have we seen the self-appointed experts on post-traumatic stress (PTS) in the media blame bouts of violence on PTSD, in a futile attempt to find a reason - ANY reason - for the horror? The "ticking timebombs" are a convenient excuse.
But fact of the matter is that the vast majority of veterans with PTS are not violent, do not present a danger to themselves or others, and do not deserve to have their confidential relationship with their doctor violated and their right to keep and bear arms dismantled by power-hungry politicians with tyrannical agendas.
People with PTSD avoid certain activities and environments, are hypervigilant, have intrusive memories and are often depressed. Anger, hostility and aggressiveness are less common symptoms. Headaches, troubled sleep, poor attention and muddled thinking are the hallmarks of mild traumatic brain injury. Impulsive behavior is sometimes seen, too.
The prevalence of PTSD in combat veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars varies from 9 percent to 31 percent, depending on whether severity of impairment is included in the measurement.
But that doesn't matter to the mediots, who are only too happy to promote the "crazy vet" meme in their zeal to find a scapegoat to explain away the unexplainable.
So what will happen if mental illness becomes a factor in determining whether or not someone can purchase a tool of self defense?
Will this prompt those who would otherwise seek help not to do so?
Will it allow perfectly healthy people, who may need help with some emotional problems, to continue to suffer in silence?
Will it prevent those who were honest enough with themselves, and responsible and rational enough to recognize their troubles to seek help from exercising their rights and reward them for their integrity and honesty with a ban on armed self defense?
Will it deprive our veterans - the very people who have sacrificed and served our nation and taken and upheld their oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, including the constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear arms - of the very right they fought to defend?
These questions are tough to answer, but it is likely that all of the above could happen.
However, we do know one thing: legislation to include mental health information in NICS background checks will not prevent dangerous people from obtaining firearms. It will only hinder the purchase from licensed dealers, and it will not block straw purchases, black market buys, or theft - which account for the majority of guns used in crimes.
Given this cost/benefit analysis, it is clear that the cost is simply too high.