Thursday, November 19

Vets and guns: dv implications?

I recently saw an article on Mother Jones and felt the need to comment.

Apparently Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) think that gun laws in this country are too restrictive. He thinks that certain veterans in particular are unfairly denied access to guns, and his "Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act" is necessary to protect their rights.

I wouldn't usually comment on a gun rights issue, but this one is really troubling. There's a pretty good reason that some veterans cannot purchase guns: they have been found to be 'adjudicated as a mental defective.' This means that they have severe enough psychiatric problems that the army believes it necessary to put them on what amounts to a special list.

I really don't understand why Senator Burr thinks that providing these veterans with guns is a good idea. Especially since we already know some terribly disturbing things about military personnel and violence.

For one thing, domestic violence in the military is on the rise. Recent estimates suggest that domestic violence in the military rose from 18.6 per 1000 in 1990 to 25.6 per 1000 in recent years. With the rising number of soldiers serving multiple tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and other combat zones it's likely that this number will continue to rise.

The has also been serious concern about the rising rates of PTSD and other mental health disorders in returning soldiers. Modern warfare practices have also led to an increase in the number of soldier suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

Do we really think it is a good idea to put more weapons into the hands of veterans who are already more likely than the average person to engage in spousal abuse? If the army finds it necessary to provide a special label indicating a certain level of emotional distress, I think it's pretty fair to withhold the right to own a gun. Not only would relaxing this rule put domestic partners and family members in danger, it could also impact suicide rates. We know that veterans are already far more likely to die of suicide than non-veterans in the general population, with firearms the most common method being used.

I think Senator Burr should be spending his time writing bills that would provide better mental health services to our veterans.

Instead of providing them with easier access to guns, he should be focusing on how to protect families from domestic violence and veterans from committing suicide.