Interesting Point of View - Gun Control & PTSD
I asked my daughter who was around 16-17 years old at the time, about her thoughts on gun control, and she said that former veterans should not be allowed to own guns. I was taken aback by this view, as most people have the opposite thought when it comes to guns and veterans. I reminded her that, I’m a veteran so that would include me. Now, both of my children are very intelligent individuals, so I knew this was going to be good, and then I asked her to please expand some for me. And that she did, and after a lengthy conversation, I can surmise that her belief is that many veterans have PTSD and it would be dangerous for them to own a gun. Now she isn’t wrong, as many of us veterans do suffer from some form of PTSD. Be it, combat, or some event(s) that occurred while stateside.
Her point of view, made me do a little research into mass shootings to see if there is a military connection.
Sure enough, a quick search on Google “mass shootings veteran connection“, and I had many results. But I want to expand on this and explain some of this if at all possible.
Stick with me, this will be interesting for sure.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is actually very common. PTSD is a disorder in which a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. The condition may last months or years, with triggers that can bring back memories of the trauma accompanied by intense emotional and physical reactions. Symptoms may include nightmares or unwanted memories of the trauma, avoidance of situations that bring back memories of the trauma, heightened reactions, anxiety, or depressed mood. Treatment includes different types of trauma-focused psychotherapy as well as medications to manage symptoms.
The key is “terrifying event“, as something you see as terrifying, might not be terrifying to someone else. About 6 out of every 100 people (or 6% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives. About 12 million adults in the U.S. have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through trauma. I personally thought Marine Corps boot camp was easy and somewhat comical at times. I know other Marines that will tell you that it was the most difficult thing that they ever experienced. For some boot camp might be a “terrifying event“.
Most veterans, regardless of being in combat, have some form of PTSD. Those that saw combat certainly have it worse than those of us that didn’t see combat. I served from 1988-1998, during a time of peace, as the U.S. was not at war with anyone during that time frame with the exception of Operation Desert Storm ( 17 January 1991 – 28 February 1991). But I’m here to state that there is a connection between veterans, PTSD, mental health issues, and violence. As President Trump stated about Ian Long (Borderline Bar and Grill Shooting in Thousand Oaks, California), “He was a war veteran. He was a Marine. He was in the war. He served time. He saw some pretty bad things, and a lot of people say he had PTSD, and that’s a tough deal”.
If someone suffers from PTSD, that doesn’t mean that they are broken forever, if they can get proper treatment, then most can go on to live healthy, happy, and meaningful lives. And that is the root of the problem (access to proper treatment).
Some veterans are not diagnosed as they are either really good at hiding how broken they are, or they refuse treatment (trust me, many of us are really good at hiding things like that). Some don’t know that treatment is available and others can’t afford treatment. I know fellow Marine Corps veterans that live 2-3 hours away from a VA Hospital and until recently, that meant that they don’t have easy access. If a VA hospital is 3 hours away, you are talking about taking an entire day off from work and maybe an overnight stay in a hotel. You are talking about a 3-hour drive and several hours of waiting for your appointment that was scheduled for several hours ago. Then you are talking an hour or more with the doctors and then if you are lucky you can leave and go home. The VA system is broken, period, and that is a topic for another post, now back to PTSD.
Non-Combat PTSD Stressor
A stressor is an upsetting or distressing event that caused post-traumatic stress, which eventually develops into post-traumatic stress disorder. Some examples include being exposed to death, violence, or sexual assault in a direct or indirect way (i.e., as a witness). Non-combat PTSD is a manifestation of stressors that creates anxiety, panic, and distress. Some root causes are related to physical or sexual assault while serving, witnessing a fellow soldier’s death or suicide, or motor vehicle accidents. The non-combat PTSD stressor differs for each veteran. However, the impact of non-combat PTSD stressors tends to generate familiar patterns of symptoms. And if you haven’t served, then you have no idea what types of non-combat stressors we are subjected to.
I spent a little over 10 years in the Marine Corps, I witnessed some of the abuse in boot camp. When I say abuse, I talking about fights between recruits, a blanket party against a recruit or two. I’m talking about PT’ing on the quarter deck of the squad bay with all the windows closed. I’m talking about being physically abused at the hands of Drill Instructors. I’m talking about the duck walk around the squad bay while carrying your foot locker, I’m talking about all those great fun and games. I witnessed the games that Marines played on the junior Marines straight out of boot camp. I witness the aftermath of several attempted and successful suicides.
As barracks NCO, I witnessed several illegal sex parties, an attempted suicide, many fights, someone getting hit by a car, and long nights calming down fellow Marines, and keeping them from committing suicide. I have helped many Marines, put their lives back together after their spouse left them. And let me tell you, these were not simple “Dear John letters“. I’m talking about the next day after he leaves for deployment, she has a yard sale, and everything that was his is for sale. I’m talking about everything, right down to the clothes in his dresser drawers (this was sadly too common of an occurrence). There are some very heartless people out there. There were many things that I witness while in the Corps and these are just a few of them.
I was an “A” and “C” (Basic and Advanced) school instructor and we were running on the beach (beach runs suck, period) and there was a female Marine dropping back. My job was to pick up the run drops. This young female Marine stopped in knee-buckling pain and when I asked her what is wrong, she proceeded to paint me a graphic picture. She said that she has been spotting and bleeding out of her cycle (her menstrual cycle) and that she is having extreme pain in her abdomen. I inquired to see if she has seen a doctor. Keep in mind, she is on her knees buckled over in pain, in tears, face beat red, she is in obvious pain. She stated that she hasn’t seen a doctor and asked me to please not report her, as she struggled to get up to her feet and shuffle a few more steps, before falling to her knees in tears. I questioned her about that last statement (reporting her) and I soon found out that in MCT (Marine Combat Training battalion) she was told that if they go to the doctor or the like, they will be dropped. MCT is combat training that every Marine after 1990 time frame (after my time, as I never attended MCT) attended directly after Boot Camp to train for combat. Dropped meant that they would be booted out of the Marine Corps. I know for a fact that isn’t the case, but that is what they were telling their students, and when I reported this to my chain of command, a formal investigation was launched.
To be clear, an investigation wasn’t launched until after another incident where a young Marine had a broken bone in his foot and he was continuing to act as if nothing was wrong. When the Commanding Officer addressed the Marines, it was discovered that about 15% of the class had been hiding medical issues in fear of being kicked out. These Marines were afraid to go to medical out of fear of being kicked out of the Marine Corps. The female Marine I mentioned earlier, ended up being diagnosed with cervical cancer, which is extremely serious and should have been treated at the first sign. An investigation was not my choice or my preferred method, but having a medical issue is usually not directly related to being kicked out of the Corps.
I’m sure that I actually suffer from some level of PTSD dealing with all the mental, physical and sexual abuse I and my siblings endured growing up. I was about 10 years old when I witnessed my best friend being hit by a car right in front of me. I watched him fly some 15-20 feet into the air and then land with an audible thud as he smacked back into the hard concrete road. I was about 5 or 6 when I witnessed the neighbor’s dog (Shep) get hit by a car, right in front of me, I still can hear that dog crying as it lay there dying. Those all add up and somewhere there is a tipping point. That tipping point varies from person to person. Some people never reach their tipping point, others reach their point really quickly.
For some people, an automobile accident might be a stressor that could cause someone PTSD.
Combat PTSD Stressor
You have to understand that if a person goes to combat, they will come back forever changed. Photographer Lalage Snow embarked on an 8-month-long project titled “We Are The Not Dead“, which featured portraits of British soldiers before, during, and after their deployment to Afghanistan. The photos alone clearly show how much a person is changed by war.
That also applies to things like, going through 3 months of intense mental and physical training, called Marine Corps boot camp, that you come out on the other side a changed person. I know that it forever changed who I was. In fact, that is the goal of recruit training, to change you to become a Marine, a Drill Instructor breaks us down and then builds us up as Marines.
- So far we have established that the Veterans Affairs system is totally broken, but that is for another post
- We have established that many veterans regardless of when or where they served have some form of PTSD
- Being a Marine, you are prone to violence, It doesn’t mean that you are a violent person, It means that you are surrounded by it all day long, and that is the nature of being a Marine. You want us to be violent and cold-hearted when we are facing the enemy, that is what you pay us for, you may not want to admit it, but that is exactly what you pay us for
- Many Marines are put into positions of authority before they are ready, at 19 years old you might be responsible for several million dollars of equipment, be responsible for the safety and the lives of others
- I also know that many Marines own guns and they love to recreationally shoot, that is also the nature of the beast that is the Marine Corps.
ABC News reported in 2018 that three of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern history were at the hands of a veteran.
- The Sutherland Springs church shooting in 2017, left 26 people dead
- The shooting at Luby’s Cafeteria in California in 1991 where 23 people were killed
- The University of Texas tower shooting during which a former U.S. Marine sniper killed 14 people
The Sutherland Springs church shooting was carried out by an Air Force veteran (The sad part, which I have talked about before, was he was known by local police and the FBI). The Luby’s Cafeteria shooting was carried out by a Navy veteran, and the University of Texas tower shooting was carried out by a Marine veteran.
That is just the top 10 deadliest mass shootings, where 30% were carried out by veterans. 30% doesn’t sound like a high number but when you figure that 7% (of the adult population) serve or is serving in the military, then that is a high number. This prompted me to see how many mass shootings from 2018 to 2022 involved a veteran. I found one, that was the 2019 Virginia Beach shooting was carried out by a Virginia Army National Guard veteran. So I went back a little further and found:
- Micah Johnson killed five police officers in Dallas, Texas, in 2016 – Army Reserve veteran
- Ivan Lopez-Lopez killed three at Fort Hood, Texas in 2014 – Army Veteran
- Aaron Alexis killed 12 at the Washington Navy Yard, in 2013 – Navy Veteran
- Radcliffe Haughton killed 3 at a spa in Wisconsin, in 2012 – Marine veteran
- Wade Michael Page killed six at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, in 2012 – Army Veteran
- Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 – Army Veteran
- Robert Flores killed three in Tucson, Arizona, in 2002 – Army Veteran
- Michael McDermott killed seven of his co-workers in Wakefield, Massachusetts, in 2000 – Navy Veteran
- Timothy McVeigh killed 168 in Oklahoma City, in 1995 – Army Veteran
- George Jo Hennard killed 22 in Killeen, Texas, in 1991 – Navy Veteran
During my research for this post, I ran across article after article, describing the U.S. military as this killing machine. Stating that many of the killers listed above joined the military as they are attracted to violence. And that they were trained in the art of killing and that they are disinhibited from killing. Here we go again, the whole stupid “baby killer” bullshit argument.
Survivor’s guilt is a response to an event in which someone else experienced loss but you did not. While the name implies this to be a response to the loss of life, it could also be the loss of property, health, identity or a number of other things that are important to people.
Alright, enough, time to get back on track with veterans not owning guns. So there is some validity to what my daughter said, but with 30% of the shootings, it just doesn’t hold that much water.
But it does support that this country has a mental health problem and it has very deep roots in the military.