I recently read an article in Vogue called “Gun Control: Why I Want My Son on the Background-Check List.” In it a concerned mother talks about her sons mental health struggles and his violent outbursts and how, as a mother, she feels powerless to prevent her troubled son from owning a firearm.
I could relate. I have two young children on the autism spectrum. My daughter is severely affected and frequently causes injury to herself and others. My son is on the Asperger’s side of the spectrum, and is frequently violent and extremely defiant. I worry, as all parents do, about my children’s future. Will they be employed? Will they live independently? Will they be able to manage their own affairs? It’s just too soon to tell.
Our family also grapples with another question. How much involvement should our children with special needs have with firearms?
What Should We Teach Our Children?
My husband and I are both firearms enthusiasts. My husband served in the Marine Corps as an Infantry Assault-man. I am a survivor of physical and sexual assault, and this has made me a concealed carry advocate. Firearms are a huge part of who we are. Both of us have our concealed weapons permits and carry daily at home and in the community, and we train regularly to be proficient in their safe and effective use.
We used to dream about passing along this tradition and skill which we are both so passionate about to our children; buying them their first youth model rifles and target pistols, and shooting together as a family. As time goes on however, we are realizing that those hopes and dreams may never come to be.
We’re okay with this. We have to be, because a huge part of our responsibility as responsible gun owners is keeping our firearms out of the hands of unauthorized users. We keep them locked in safes to attempt to keep them from being stolen by thieves. Knowing our children mentally are incapable of safely handling firearms, we keep them out of their control.
We still attempt to teach them gun safety. We’ve purchased toy rifles and pistols as training tools, and we don’t allow the kids to freely access them. Instead, they’re kept in our safe and we bring them out and demonstrate how to safely handle firearms. We go over the safety rules and try to explain the importance of each rule, in a way that’s understandable to them. Even with this continued education, there is still a lack of awareness as to the serious nature of the capability and purpose of a firearm.
Should We Be Able To Restrict The Gun Rights Of Individuals?
So, I can identify with the mother in the article. Though my son has never made statements like the boy in the article, I do worry about the extreme anger and violence my son displays. We are working multiple agencies to get him the help he needs to become as successful and independent adult as he can be. His anger is an issue we are working with mental health care workers on, and we will continue to monitor it because it’s our duty and responsibility as parents.
I commented on the article in a Facebook group that I’m a member of. I stated that I could relate and that I felt badly for the mother, and how in the future I would probably do the same. According to my understanding, people who are unable to take care of their personal affairs were already barred from owning firearms. It’s a current law, right?
I was surprised by some of the responses I received, there was debate whether we should have the ability to prevent others from owning a firearm, how far should those laws be allowed to reach and just what provisions were there in current law to prevent an individual with mental health problems from owning a firearm. Moreover while my children who are on the spectrum may not be competent, I would not wish for everyone on the spectrum to be considered incapable of responsible gun ownership. Similarly I have a friend who is bipolar but whose condition is extremely well controlled and they are a responsible gun owner, the laws must take that into account.
Was my position on this subject supporting government overreach? I thought I was doing my due diligence to society. After all, it pisses me off to high heavens every time a kid or young adult goes on a rampage with a firearm, they got at home, at a school or out in the community. Didn’t those around them see any warning signs that their loved one was disturbed? In most cases we find out there were glaring signs. Why did these law abiding gun owners, allow these children/young adults access to their firearms?
What Can We Do Within The Current System?
I needed a legal expert’s opinion, so I contacted pro-Second Amendment attorney and author of the book, Infringed, Alexandria Kincaid of Alex Kincaid Law.
I wanted to discuss the validity of certain statements made in the article, particularly:
“We cannot take away his rights to gun ownership unless he has been arrested for being dangerous with one,” the officer tells me.
“But I don’t want it to get that far,” I say. “I want to prevent violence.” I start to explain.
“It doesn’t work that way,” says the officer. “Unless he is in front of us on a 5150 with a gun in his hand, we cannot legally put him on the background-check list.”
First, while the police do not have the right to confiscate firearms without a court order (unless you’re in California) all the mother had to do was to apply for conservatorship. A conservatorship is a court case where a judge appoints a responsible person or organization (called the “conservator”) to care for another adult (called the “conservatee”) who cannot care for himself or herself or manage his or her own finances. The article stated that he was in a program designed for him to “develop enough skills to reside semi-independently in an assisted-living facility” so he obviously was incapable of taking care of himself. If she had all the documentation from her son’s doctors, then he would be “adjudicated mentally defective” and be put into the NICS background check system. Why didn’t she do that?
“And due to Second Amendment rights, a concerned family member cannot put his or her own relative on this list, the officers explain. The qualification must come from a court or other lawful authority.”
First of all, thank goodness for this! The possibilities for abuse are overwhelming. California recently enacted a law that allows concerned relatives to ask a judge to remove firearms from an individual’s home, it will be interesting to see how badly California’s new law will be abused by those who dislike or were spurned by gun owners.
“The only way someone can get on this list is if the person commits, or attempts to commit, a violent crime.”
This statement is blatantly false. There are many ways a person can get put on the background check list that don’t involve committing or attempting to commit a violent crime.
IF my son reaches the age of adulthood, continues to have violent tendencies, and cannot manage his own affairs, we have already made the decision to apply for conservatorship. Most gun owners I speak with agree that there are some people who should not possess firearms. I’m not asking for expanded background checks or a new law to be passed. It comes down to personal responsibility.
If we want to enjoy the freedom to keep and bear arms we must exercise that right, and do so responsibly. Who is responsible for care for an individual? Either themselves or another person entirely. In any case, SOMEONE is, and must make these decisions for a given individual. Do my children enroll themselves in school, help to pay the mortgage that puts a roof over their head, or even consistently remind themselves to go potty? No – they do not, no matter how much I ask. I’m sure that if one of them injured themselves (or someone else) you would find ME responsible, and rightly so. It seems as though this great power to protect ourselves and secure our rights comes with a large burden of responsibility, but I would not have it any other way.
We as a community must police ourselves.
As a a rape, domestic violence, and stabbing survivor Autumn promotes and advocates for self-defense training, concealed carry, firearm safety, and continued firearms training. She hopes that by sharing her experiences, she will help change the public’s perception of who a gun owner is, and why the Second Amendment is so important for all Americans, especially women.
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