Gun ownership is a hot-button issue in the United States right now: after multiple mass shootings that clearly involved perpetrators with mental health problems, many wonder whether or not EVERYONE should have the right to bear arms.
For the purposes of this blog, I will make a few quick points to get the politics out of the way. I’m NOT here to discuss politics. This blog is about helping individuals and families afflicted by Borderline Personality Disorder, a serious mental health condition.
1. Rights are not unlimited. All rights come with responsibilities. Decades old legislation and supreme court decisions have already excluded certain populations of people from owning firearms. Contrary to popular belief, this hallowed right is technically “infringed” upon quite regularly. Even the first amendment is constrained: you can not spew hate speech or incite violence without being held accountable. Like it or not, ALL of our rights as Americans have limitations.
2. If you have ever been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility, you might still be able to legally buy a firearm depending on your state’s laws and the specifics of your committal. Privacy laws with respect to mental health are complicated. In most cases, you’re only flagged for “mental health” in the Federal background check system if a court of law determined you to be incompetent. Otherwise, if you were horribly depressed and cutting yourself, and were subsequently sent to a hospital per order of your psychiatrist, your name will probably never make the Federal database. Emergency commitments are different than legal commitments (please consult an attorney for further guidance).
3. “Locking up the crazies” is not the answer. The people spouting this nonsense typically have a few screws loose themselves. Statistically speaking, the vast majority of people with mental illness NEVER harm anyone. Some might not even self harm. Mental illness is not always permanent, and when treated correctly, people can lead full, normal lives. People with mental health challenges are more likely to hurt themselves before anyone else. Although there have been a few noteworthy cases of people with BPD who have committed murder, they represent a miniscule percentage of the entire BPD population.
Don’t confuse anger and emotional instability with a lack of empathy. People with BPD aren’t necessarily psychotic or sociopaths. Quite the opposite: most people with BPD have a keen sense of empathy (understanding the feelings of others) but are operating from an extreme emotional handicap that prevents them from interacting with people normally.
All of that being said, if you have a BPD diagnosis or know someone who does, a firearm/gun should be given to a trustworthy individual for safekeeping until further notice.
Suicide is often highly impulsive. Having a gun within arm’s reach makes suicide quick and easy. When someone is prevented from committing suicide, they often wonder what they were thinking after a couple weeks of emergency therapy. When abated, suicidal impulses will pass. This is well documented medical fact. People can eventually live happy, productive lives.
Of course, people will say suicide prevention is useless, since there are a myriad of ways to kill oneself. This is an intellectually dishonest position that fails to take into account the complications of jumping off a bridge, slitting one’s wrists, overdosing, or stepping in front of an oncoming train. When attempting suicide “in public” there’s a good chance others will stop you from being successful, hence the conclusion that suicide attempts are actually “cries for help” more than actual death wishes. Overdosing requires easy access to lethal medication and the ability to go absent long enough to die. Slitting one’s wrists is extremely painful and one can lose consciousness, and then wake up hours later in an emergency room after being found by a loved one. Suicide by firearm is extremely efficient and much different than other methods.
People with BPD are also prone to rages during which they will act violently, perhaps temporarily falling into a state of psychosis when under extreme emotional duress. Quick access to a firearm can have deadly consequences for a lover, friend, or family member unlucky enough to be in the path of a full blown BPD explosion. Yet, hours later, the individual with BPD will realize that their homicidal impulse was wrong and completely irrational. With therapy and medication, rages can be less violent and prevented. Like suicide, access to firearms makes homicide profoundly easy.
I have officially had BPD for 13 years. I do NOT own a firearm. I have self-harmed and acted violently, but never hurt anyone physically except for myself. There are a few scars and burn marks on my body to prove it. The damage I have done to others is mostly psychological and emotional. That doesn’t make it better than physical harm or “right”, but it does mean I still have a chance to salvage the relationships I have ruined.
If you have BPD and own firearms, large knives, lethal medication, or any other dangerous object, please give them to someone you trust during a moment of clarity for safekeeping.
If someone you love has BPD and they have access to dangerous objects, remove these items from their possession.
You will thank me later, especially if you or someone you love is suffering horribly at the hands of Borderline Personality. Firearms only complicate matters.