By Jay Kirell
By all measure, I’m the type of person who would not be questioned when purchasing a firearm in America.
I’m an honorably discharged military veteran.
Anyone looking at me in my normal casual attire – Old Navy shirts and jeans – would assume I’m just like anyone else interested in firearms. Maybe I want to own a gun to keep my shooting skills sharp. Maybe I want something for home protection. Maybe I just want to own a gun just to own a gun and don’t feel the need to provide a further explanation.
Nothing about my outward appearance would send up a red flag. Likewise, nothing in my background would send a warning to anyone trying to sell me a firearm.
And that’s the problem. Because I shouldn’t, by any reasonable measure, own a firearm.
I have post-traumatic stress disorder. It was diagnosed from the VA a few months ago and it was caused by the things I experienced in Afghanistan. Horrible things. Visions of death, violence, pain, agony.
Visions that I can’t stop from entering my head when I don’t want them to. Memories of events long over that your brain hasn’t figured out aren’t still happening.
The reasons I have these visions aren’t my fault. I didn’t ask for them to occur and certainly didn’t ask them to linger. But even though the damaged state of my brain is not of my doing, I am responsible for how I prevent it from becoming someone else’s problem.
And step one is to recognize that my right to own a gun is outweighed by the public’s right to have as few people as possible with mental problems walking around with hand-held death machines.
I shouldn’t have been able to walk into any of the dozens of gun shops near Fort Campbell, Kentucky (where I was stationed) and hand over a copy of my orders and $500 and within minutes, walk out with my choice of handgun, shotgun or long rifle.
I shouldn’t be able to hide my PTSD evaluation from a background check because of HIPA laws.
For the last two years I was walking past gun store after gun store with undiagnosed PTSD and nothing preventing me from taking all the steps necessary to follow in the footsteps of recent mass shooters other than my own disposition against guns and violence.
Now, keep in mind, a disposition against guns isn’t exactly the default setting in most active duty service-members and veterans with combat-related PTSD. I served with 20 or so people in my platoon in Afghanistan, 15 of whom are out of the army now and have diagnosed PTSD. Of those 15, I am the only one who doesn’t own a gun.
And while I’m sure there aren’t many, if any, congressman in Washington with the balls enough to go up to a combat veteran and ask them to hand over their guns - I’ll do it for them.
Hand them over now, before something happens and you (and everyone else) regret not handing them over later.
I have no gun to give up myself, but I’m more than willing to give up the right to purchase one in the future. That’s my sacrifice. That’s how I’m willing to protect America here at home now that I can no longer do it on the battlefield.
This nation owes us a debt for all we sacrificed in the wars we’ve fought in. Unfortunately, the sacrifice we made in our mental health causes us to make yet another sacrifice, [this time for one of our basic freedoms] for the greater good of society.
If anyone should stand up and lead the way in this effort against gun violence, as well as the effort to understand and treat mental illness, it’s our veterans and the people we’ve entrusted to keep us safe since our nation’s founding.
We answered the call once. Time to stand up and answer it again.