Saturday, June 25, 2016

This News Terrified Me, and I Don't Even Own an AR-15

Photo by Rick Gravrok Photo © Rick Gravrok

I had a dream about guns yesterday. I was being visited by a fifty-something married couple and they asked me if I had a gun. I told them, “Yes, I have a rifle in the back room,” which is odd because I don’t actually own a gun or rifle in real life. At any rate, the wife was shocked since my youngest daughter lived with me and suddenly, as is the way with dreams, my living room was filled with social workers, religious leaders, and school administrators! All of them began trying to convince me that the rifle was a bad idea and reflected poorly on my parenting. One of the officious people demanded to know why I felt justified to own a gun. I then related warm memories from Boy Scouts when I attended a turkey shoot. It’s OK. We shot targets, not turkeys.

I found myself defending my gun ownership by having to recount how much I trained myself, how often I practiced, and by sharing details about the gun handling lessons I took. Again, this is all strange to me because I haven’t fired a weapon since the 80s. Paint guns don’t count.

Not everybody in the room was anti-gun, but the anti-gun officials ruled the conversation. I eventually started chatting on my couch with a pro-gun woman, but then the dream ended uneventfully. Nobody took my dreamworld rifle. Nobody took my dreamworld child. In fact, nothing was decided except that one group felt my rifle was evil while the other group respected my desire to own one.

Here in real life, I don’t own a gun, but wish I did. I fancy owning a Walther PPK. You may recall them from old James Bond movies. I like the sleek design of them as opposed to the blocky functionality of typical pistols, but there are various reasons why I never got around to buying one. Safety for my youngest child is my main concern. I’d like a rifle, too, because I really did attend a Boy Scout turkey shoot when I was in high school and, if I recall correctly, my brother, Phil, and I scored so well that we won a coupon to a local gun range which my mother refused to let us use. (So mean…)

Imagine my surprise when I discovered Scott Adams’ blog on gun control soon after waking up. Not only is his article delightfully satirical, but it also concisely explains why gun control isn’t going to happen anytime soon. I don’t generally give dreams much weight, but if I needed an interpretation, Adams’ article is the best I’ll likely find.

I liked the article so much that I read it to a friend later that day. It’s good to have a friend I can call at obscenely late hours and laugh with about politics and pop culture. Socializing is one of the tools I use to manage my depression. However, while talking I noticed a news article that took our conversation in a new direction. Hawaii not only added all their gun owners to a FBI database, but also put into effect a law that “requires firearm owners to surrender their weapons if diagnosed with a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder.” It was like my dream had never ended. One of the hot debating points in my dream was whether I was mentally stable enough to own a gun. Their concerns weren’t based on any adverse behavior I had exhibited, but on my diagnosis: Clinical Depression.

I don’t know enough about Hawaii’s law to comment on it intelligently, but I can comment on my concerns with such a law if it ever made its way to Utah. “Mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder” is a very sweeping description. That’s how the article describes it. I’d have to look up the actual legislation to know the true wording, but legislation disallowing people with depression or ADHD has been proposed in congress before. Legislation like this raises questions, and likely will spawn lawsuits. Who decides for the state how impaired a person is? How do they quantify the disorder? Is general depression, or clinical depression actionable? Do women who experience postpartum depression have to surrender their firearms? Do people who experience depression after the loss of a loved one have to surrender their firearms? Does the government compensate these people for their weapons? Do people who recover from depression ever get their firearms back? Do they get their rights back? Maybe their rights will languish in limbo on an eyes-only list somewhere for the rest of their lives.

I am uncomfortable with the idea that these laws make me guilty by reason of depression before ever committing a crime. I am uncomfortable about the rights of the mentally ill being taken away unilaterally through legislation. However, what I worry about more is how this legislation raises a new barrier for people struggling with depression. If there was stigma before, think of how reluctant people will be to seek psychiatric help now because doing so will cost them their guns and put them on a list. The very people the politicians hope to control will avoid detection at all costs now! They’ll purchase their firearms used, or worse, on the sly. While politicians enact feel-good policies that appease their voter base, they erode the rights of others based purely on fear. What other rights can they take away because depression can be stigmatized via legislation?

I don’t know why I had that dream about the rifle except that AR–15 rifles have been in the news lately. I thought it was a silly thing when I first woke up, but after reading the news today, I realize that it was a nightmare.

If you like debating about gun control, then you’ll love my book on fighting suicidal tendencies. It’s weaponized with words.