Veterans and gun rights | The Firearms Lawyer

Have you ever noticed how everybody claims to honor our veterans? Even the anti-war activists that despised President Bush proclaim that they “support the troops.”

Such “support” is often expressed as concern about the levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experienced by returning veterans.

Veterans often deal with high levels of stress due to a number of factors. The public’s perception, fostered by the New York Times, that veterans may harm themselves and others can contribute to stress. A spokesperson for a local mental health provider that works with the VA and veterans recently told me that veterans’ gun rights are nothing compared to the need to ensure that vets do not blow their brains out. Why should a veteran trust such professionals who regard constitutional rights with such a cavalier attitude?

Returning veterans are justifiably upset. Legislation has already been proposed at the federal level to deprive those with PTSD of their gun rights based only upon the assessment of a doctor. At present, the only procedure for depriving an individual with mental health issues of the right to possess firearms is a finding of mental illness by a judge. There are many anti-gun zealots (many in government) that believe the road to hell is paved with such safeguards.

Veterans considering counseling for mental health issues are asking whether medical providers may be required to disclose mental health records to government bureaucrats at some point in time. Aren’t disgruntled veterans with guns the people that Homeland Security told us fit the profile for lone-wolf terrorists? The health care system, including the private sector, is on its way to a brave new world of uniform record-keeping that will interface electronically with the federal health care system.

Many doctors (especially within the public health sector) are already asking patients questions dealing with whether the patient has guns in the home, how guns are stored and whether trigger locks are utilized. Once the federal government gets involved with the allocation of medical resources, all kinds of safety issues suddenly become relevant because of the economic interest that the government has in allocating scarce hospital beds.

Although there are HIPAA laws that keep such records confidential, the federal government has passed many laws that are buried in thousands of pages of legislation — already passed so quickly that even the sponsors of such laws have not had a chance to read them. I advise veterans and others not to seek counseling from mental health professionals where the federal government can gain access to any records, now or in the future.

Studies indicate that returning veterans experience stress at least partly as a result of family and friends that imagine a propensity for violence on the part of a veteran; i.e., the perceptions of others toward the vet. Ironically, our modern repugnance to any armed force stems from the fact that most of us take for granted our settled way of life for which veterans fought, killed and died.

One antidote to PTSD is deep religious faith that recognizes and honors the values demonstrated by warriors on the battlefield.


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