My Experience Concerning Mental Illness and Guns

I hope it’s pretty obvious that I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I believe in the importance and power of prayer, and since I pray about pretty much every aspect of my life, I also pray for guidance about what I should write about here.

I was praying about it this morning and felt like I needed to share my personal experiences about guns and mental illness. Please know that this is something close to my heart. I am in no way trying to start a debate. I’m not a fan of confrontation. I’m happy to have a civil discussion, but the moment it gets unkind, hurtful, attacking, or unintelligent, the conversation will end.

My dad was diagnosed as a manic-depressive in the 80s. I’m pretty sure today he would be called bi-polar. I remember him going to a place to get better, which I can now only assume was some sort of mental health facility. He came home and I remember him not having sugar because it helped him not lose his temper or something. I was young and don’t know full details, and don’t really care to make my mom dig up what must be very painful memories.

He was great to me. I have memories of him carrying me up to bed, I snuggled with him in his big recliner, and he took me hunting, fishing, camping, and for rides on his motorcycle. I idolized him.

What I didn’t see or chose not to see or have repressed somewhere is the angry side of him. He would lash out irrationally at my older siblings and mom. There was abuse in many forms. But I wasn’t old enough to have it directed at me.

He was transferred to Washington state for his job in 1989 and was shortly thereafter in a serious motorcycle accident which caused some severe head damage, both physical and mental.

We owned guns. Prior to our move to Washington, we lived in Wyoming and every fall included getting an antelope to put in the freezer for winter. We would practice shooting pistols and I remember being a pretty good shot. I’ve shot rifles that knocked me on my butt. Guns were a part of our life.

But guns should not have been in our home. My father should never have been allowed to purchase a firearm.

He was physically abusive and had been diagnosed with a mental illness. There was no way he should have been allowed that right.

And he did use them to do harm.

The most horrific time I can remember him using a gun as a threat was when he and one of my older siblings got into an argument. I have no idea what it would take a child doing to feel you needed to threaten them with a firearm, but he got out a shotgun and chased that sibling through the yard with it. Fortunately, that sibling was smart and fast and ran into the woods and my dad was practically blind and disabled and couldn’t follow.

The last time he used a gun to do harm was when he ended his life. My mother had finally filed for divorce or was on her way to file after a what must have been an ugly fight. I remember being mad at him that morning and didn’t give him a kiss when I left for school. I’m sure the argument continued until my mom finally left to go to the grocery store. When she got home, he went out behind her car that she had just taken a load of groceries into the house from and blew out the back of his head. In the driveway. Right where she was coming back to get another load. You can’t tell me that wasn’t done out of anger and spite. I’d like to say fortunately he only hurt himself, but anyone who has had someone close to them commit suicide will tell you that the mental anguish and blame they have gone through is truly like a hell.

On top of all that, my youngest brother got off the school bus to paramedics and ambulances and brains in the driveway.

He never recovered from that.

Yes, you could argue that my father could have killed himself in a variety of ways, but there are all sorts of studies about ways people commit suicide and what their chosen method says about the psychological state they were in when they did it.

He wanted my mom to suffer.

So, I support gun control. I support Obama’s attempt to close the loopholes about reporting mental health statuses to the NICS database. And if that means that the government has access to my medical records, then so be it. I have nothing to hide. And if I can’t get a gun because my father was bipolar and it can be passed on hereditarily, I’m OK with that also.

I also support guns rights. I totally support hunting and understand shooting for sport. I acknowledge that people own weapons to protect their homes and families. I just don’t want to be a part of it.

 

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9 comments

  1. I loved Denny. My memories of him are very few but I remember him being a funny and kind man. Listening to him and my dad joke around and laugh while cutting firewood. I remember well when he took his life, how my heart broke for your family, but mostly for you my dear friend. I couldn’t find words to try and comfort you. Watching you walk down the hall at school and people whispering as you walked by. I knew they were most likely feeling the same inadequacy I felt. Everyone really liked you and they were hurting to see you hurt. I totally understand your reasons to support gun control laws. My hope is that those with mental health issues will have more help available to them and less chances to get ahold of a gun. My husband owns quite a few guns and I know his strong views on this issue. I can see good and bad on both sides. I personally feel safer having a gun in our home for protection, but I’ve never been in a situation like yours thankfully. I think you and Brandon are amazing parents simply because I know who you are as individuals. You were two of my very best friends growing up. I loved you both so much. It’s a difficult thing to express how you feel when there are so many people who choose not to be respectful. But I don’t think you need to worry about people being nasty with their comments concerning this post. We all love you and have a huge amount of respect for you!

  2. I loved your post. I don’t think I knew youthat well when your dad committed suicide. I heard my mom talking about it and learned there were other issues I.e., the mental illness. I am grateful for your openness and honesty. I’ve decided there isn’t a “this is the only way” answer to this debate. I think there are obviously issues that need to be resolved but taking away everyone’s right to have a gun and banning guns from everyone but law enforcement is absurd. I appreciate your thoughts and feelings. It takes amazing strength to put your personal experience out there. Sending you a huge hug my Mormon lady friend!

  3. So brave and full of faith to share this with us. I can remember clearly the night my Mom decided to finally leave my abusive dad. While she was gathering my brother and I, he had tampered with her car, and when she tried to start it, he appeared in the doorway with his gun. Pointing it at my mom. I don’t recall what happened after she threw herself on top of us. No one fired a weapon that night, but just so, damage was done. I have spent many years completely terrified of guns, wanting nothing to do with them. Who knew I would marry a gun loving Marine. I am still for gun control. Though just like everything else, it can be taken too far. I’m not the best person to say where that line lies…but as a person who in the past struggled with mental illness myself, was hospitalized to receive help for that illness…should I decide I want to conceal carry a weapon for protection and because of my health history be denied, or that my husband or children would not be allowed to own a gun because of my past struggles, it would leave me feeling like some kind of a criminal. Blacklisted… Just my thoughts ♡

  4. The problem with politics, is that both sides feel they need to be so extreme. Extremity on either side is never the answer.