Updated on March 13, 2013
I’m writing this letter to take exception to comments you recently made before the Senate Judiciary Committee about PTSD. In response to an amendment offered by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) that would have exempted military personnel from the provisions of your Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 you made the following comments:
“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 transfer of a firearm covered by this bill would verify that an individual was a member or veteran and there was no impairment of that individual with respect to having a weapon like this. I think you 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.”
With all due respect, that is one of the most ignorant statements I’ve heard come out of the mouth of an elected official in a long time.
PTSD is not limited to troops and it’s not “a product of the Iraq War.” In fact, it’s not at all limited to war. Rape victims are often afflicted with PTSD as are car crash survivors, natural disaster victims, abused children and ugly people. You even used an example of a person with PTSD when you invited the Co-Founder and Executive Director of MomsRising.org, Kriten Rowe-Finkbeiner, to give testimony before the Committee on February 27.
In that testimony, Ms. Rowe-Finkbeiner shared the following statement from a woman named Susan from Westminster, Maryland:
“There are NO words to truly explain how a parent feels when you are told that your child has been shot! Even now writing this nearly 9 years later, [after her daughter was shot] I have PTSD and am in tears!…There is NO reason that anyone, aside from a military person, should have an automatic weapon that shoots so many rounds.”
I can’t help but wonder if you’d advocate taking away weapons from this mother?
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that can occur after you have been through a trauma. A trauma is something horrible and scary that you see or that happens to you. During this type of event, you think that your life or others’ lives are in danger. You may feel afraid or feel that you have no control over what is happening.
I know that you and your friends in California like to paint veterans as unhinged extremists prone to PTSD by virtue of their military service, but that doesn’t mean that veterans are any more or less dangerous than a mother who saw her kid murdered before her eyes. I know there is a predilection among your political persuasion to label us “rightwing extremists,” but in order to effectively remove the stigma associated with veterans’ PTSD we first need to have an honest conversation about it.
There are many problems that people afflicted with PTSD experience. Feelings of hopelessness, shame, despair, depression or anxiety are the most common. If the person does not find a positive way to deal with the traumatic event that caused the PTSD he may develop drinking or drug problems or physical symptoms like chronic pain. These lead to employment problems and relationship problems, including divorce. However, PTSD does not make someone a killer and does not prevent someone from leading an optimistic, rewarding life. And it surely doesn’t mean that they should be barred from exercising their constitutional rights to keep and bear arms.
In 2009, I was officially diagnosed with PTSD. I’m also a gun owner and own many guns that would cause you to lose sleep at night thinking about them. I am a concealed handgun license holder in several states and I rarely, if ever, go anywhere without being armed.
I’ve been involved in many arguments with people while armed and never even THOUGHT to reach for my firearm. I’ve experienced highly stressful events while armed and, likewise, never reached for a violent solution to dealing with it.
The fact is that the overwhelming majority of troops (and the general populace) are effectively living with PTSD AND own weapons of various types, calibers, and lethality without committing a crime. When you read about a killing or violent crime committed by a veteran with PTSD, he didn’t commit the crime because he had PTSD. He just happened to have PTSD when he committed the crime. That’s no different than blaming Levi’s if most shooters are wearing their jeans when they commit their crimes. And it’s just as ignorant.
Most people that get treatment for PTSD will get better. “Getting better” means different things for different people, and not everyone who gets treatment will be “cured.” Even if he or she continues to have symptoms, however, treatment can help him or her cope.
How much more should our troops endure? Is it not enough that our tuition assistance benefits are being cut? Is it not enough that our budgets are being cut? Is it not enough that our health care benefits are being stripped? Do our elected officials really need to add insult to injury by insinuating that our troops can’t be trusted with weapons? Are we not capable of enjoying the same right and liberties we fight to protect?
Your comments about our veterans is a virtual smack in the face to the thousands of veterans suffering with PTSD. It disrespects the selfless service of every service member that fought our nation’s wars and were physically or mentally damaged from some of those experiences. And they deserve a formal apology.
This post is solely the opinion of the author and do not reflect the position of any branch of government.