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Feinstein, Veterans and PTSD

MH900422326What shall we make of Dianne Feinstein’s latest (thoroughly predictable) contribution to the gun debate? Not the gun ban effort itself, that’s old news; rather, what she is saying about veterans?

March 7th, 2013 Senate Judiciary Cmte:

What we did in the other bill was exempt possession by the United States or a department or agency of the United States… that included active military. The problem with expanding this is that you know with the advent of PTSD, which I think is a new phenomenon as a product of the Iraq War, it’s not clear how the seller or transferrer of a firearm covered by this bill would verify that an individual was a member, or a veteran, and that there was no impairment of that individual with respect to having a weapon like this. So you know I would be happy to sit down with you again and see if we could work something out but I think we have to — if you’re going to do this, find a way that veterans who are incapacitated for one reason or another mentally don’t have access to this kind of weapon.

(Link: CSPAN she begins speaking approx 42:00.)

Let’s first examine her statement on the advent of PTSD being post-Iraq, and question whether she is ignorant of history, or being willfully dishonest to further her position. Even under it’s modern medical name, PTSD has been used as far back as the 1970’s referring to Vietnam veterans.

Does Feinstein think human psychology is somehow radically different today that it was 50, 100, or 2500 years ago? Examples of combat stress-related symptoms have been documented as far back as Ancient Greece.

It strikes me that she has a motive for trying to present this as a “new condition.” If PTSD was unknown in the time of the Framers, the Government might conceivably argue to restrain gun ownership on this “new” basis. Conversely, if it was known to the Framers, and that condition conferred no authority upon the government to prevent gun ownership, we might want to ask why.

Another red flag is that it is unclear to me where the burden of proof would lie for restrictions on gun ownership. Would Feinstein’s approach assume that all veterans are likely to have PTSD, or likely NOT to have it? If “likely to have it”, the burden of proof would rest on veterans to demonstrate that they did not actually have a disqualifying mental illness — a “prove you’re not crazy” test.

It would be a startlingly powerful disarmament tool for government if they could cast an arbitrarily wide net — defining mental illness in the broadest possible terms — identify legal gun owners within that scope as a threat, and “legally” disarm them by force of law.

Certain lawmakers seem less interested in saving lives, (Fast and Furious anyone?) than in projecting domestic government power. If you rule over a neutered people, they will have to do whatever you tell them. This, it seems, is the goal.

Either this is an outrageous accusation, or it is borne out in fact. You could ask Lynette Phillips, or her husband whether I am exaggerating. She voluntarily checked into a mental hospital (which she says was related to a medication she was taking) for two days. Since then, State officials have seized her husband’s lawfully-owned firearms.

You might ask homeschooling Orthodox Jewish mom Eileen Hart, about her experience: where challenging of the doubling of her property tax value (sight unseen) ended with criminal charges, and the confiscation of her legal guns.

You might ask the citizens of Maryland, where they are proposing that police, educators, and licensed health care providers can identify anyone as a threat, and have their guns confiscated.

Some of you will read that last sentence and think that’s a reasonable power to give such people. If that’s you, you must also think it’s reasonable that a teacher confiscated a camera — CAMERA! — with a photograph of a BB gun that the 15 year old had been saving up for. That teacher went through all of the kid’s photos, and called his mental health into question.

Add to this the lockdowns, warnings, suspensions or expulsions for “finger-guns”, Pop Tarts, bubble guns, Nerf guns, water pistols, t-shirts or even drawing a gun, and do you really want these people having the final say on your liberties? Shall they also define your free speech limits?

There are a wide variety of mental illnesses, and some do create a genuine risk of harm to themselves or others. But, just like restricting peoples’ ability to drive, or manage their own finances, there needs to be a demonstration that such people are — objectively — unable to do so. The burden of proof must always fall upon the one who would diminish your rights.

But, as I said after the Aurora shootings, and what was hinted at in another in-house article, the problem goes deeper than mental illness. It has to do with ideology, with the nihilistic belief that life has no objective value and meaning. It’s about the values of the killers themselves.

They make a deliberate choice to sin. Our attempt to solve violence by uniformly charging it against mental illness does two grave disservices. One to the real mentally ill, and two, the victims of murderers who deliberately made evil choices.

Wes Walker

Wes Walker is the author of "Blueprint For a Government that Doesn't Suck". He has been lighting up since its inception in July of 2012. Follow on twitter: @Republicanuck

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