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People with Disabilities: Firearms & Self Defense

  • Synopsis: Published: 2015-12-10 - Thomas C. Weiss writes on people with disabilities, gun ownership, firearm safety, and self-defense training - Thomas C. Weiss (Disabled World).

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Quote: "Studies have revealed that mental illness of itself is not statistically related to violence and that people with serious mental illnesses are much more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than the perpetrators."

People with disabilities and seniors tend to be victimized far more often than other populations of people. Their need for self-defense training is great, yet many people are not strong enough physically to pursue serious martial arts training. Many people attempt to train in self-defense classes and then re-injure themselves. The solution is not to remain vulnerable to criminal or terrorist attacks.

If a physically strong, able-bodied criminal attacker launches an attack on a person with disabilities or a senior, the notable disparity of force in the attacker's favor places the target of the attack at an incredible disadvantage. Opportunistic criminal victimization is increasing in America. In order to even the odds and avoid being victimized, if the potential victim is unable to retreat, they need an effective force multiplier they can operate, such as a firearm. The reality; however, is that a handgun or any other firearm is not a kind of, 'magic talisman.' If a person is not proficient with their firearm, it is nothing more than a costly piece of metal or plastic that might be used against them.

Guns and People with Mental Health Disabilities

One of the arguments that has arisen following seemingly endless attacks by violent people with their own itineraries is that people with mental health disabilities are either responsible, or do not deserve their right to bear arms. The arguments range from statements that terrorists simply must have a mental health disability to the argument that people who have been diagnosed with mental health disorders are unfit to own firearms and protect themselves against violent offenders or terrorists.

In the state of California, which recently found a major center for people with disabilities being attacked by Jihadi terrorists, there are some different laws related to gun ownership and people with mental health issues. Under law in California, it is unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person, 'has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.' Under this law, it surprises me there are no restrictions on people such as the couple who killed many others at the center for people with disabilities in San Bernardino. A person in California is barred from purchasing, possessing, receiving, attempting to buy or receive, or having control or custody of any firearms if they:

  • Have been found mentally incompetent to stand trial, unless there is a subsequent finding that the person has become competent.
  • Are currently under a court-ordered conservatorship because they are gravely disabled as a result of a mental disorder or impaired chronic alcoholism.
  • Have been found not guilty by reason of insanity of enumerated violent felonies. A person who is found not guilty by reason of insanity of other crimes is barred from possessing firearms unless a court finds the person has recovered his or her sanity.
  • Have been admitted to a facility and are receiving in-patient treatment for a mental illness and the attending mental health professional opines that the person is a danger to themselves or others. The prohibition applies even if the person has consented to treatment, although the prohibition ends as soon as the person is discharged from the facility.
  • Has been adjudicated to be a danger to others as a result of a mental disorder or mental illness, or has been adjudicated to be a mentally disordered sex offender. The prohibition does not apply; however, if the court of adjudication issues – upon the person's release from treatment or at a later date, a certificate stating the person may possess a firearm without endangering other people.

In California, a person shall not have in their possession or under his or her custody or control, or purchase or receive, or attempt to buy or receive, any firearms whatsoever or any other deadly weapon for a period of six months whenever the person communicates to a licensed psychotherapist a serious threat of physical violence against a reasonably identifiable victim or victims. Licensed psychotherapists are required to immediately report to a local law enforcement agency the identity of a person who has communicated a serious threat of violence against a reasonably identifiable victim or victims.

Gun Laws are Anti-Disability

Studies have revealed that mental illness of itself is not statistically related to violence and that people with serious mental illnesses are much more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than the perpetrators. Despite the facts, many lawmakers and journalists continue to stigmatize people with psychiatric disabilities as the main concern related to gun violence. Lawmakers who are serious about reducing gun violence need to concentrate on the main causes of gun violence, not people with psychiatric disabilities. It is time to stop scapegoating people with psychiatric disabilities while pursuing easy solutions to the complicated issue that is gun violence.

Although fixing our broken mental health system is an imperative, we should do so separately from the gun debate as mental health reforms are likely to have little impact on gun violence. We know that services such as mobile services, housing, supported employment and peer support services are highly effective in enabling people with psychiatric disabilities to succeed. The technologies are also less costly than psychiatric hospitals, emergency rooms, shelters or jails. Yet they remain unavailable to thousands of people who need them.

Fear and Ignorance-Driven Policies

For many lawmakers in America, it is very easy to point a finger and say, 'that person is not sane and should not have a weapon.' It is easy for lawmakers to point and say, 'no sane person would do something like that, ' when faced with repeated cruel and horrifying mass attacks. As a part of the disability community in America, people with psychiatric forms of disabilities are one thing - blaming this segment of society for all of America's weapon ills is ridiculous.

Many people with a variety of forms of disabilities in America do indeed own firearms. We pursue training on how to use these weapons. We feel the need to possess a firearm because the leadership of this world has let down everyone, to include people with disabilities. We feel the need to own a firearm because we understand the lawmakers, military, police forces and other government personnel and organizations do not have the ability to keep us safe and never did.

Learn More About Disability and Gun Safety

  • Firearms Safety Certification for Adults
    www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/firearms_isa/index.html
  • Wrong Focus: Mental Health in the Gun Safety Debate
    www.bazelon.org/News-Publications/Press-Releases/4.17.13-Gun-Violence-Press-Release.aspx
  • Coping with Physical Disability in Concealed Carry and Defensive Handgun Training
    https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/coping-with-physical-disability-in-concealed-carry-and-defensive-handgun-training/

Related Information:

  1. People with Intellectual Disabilities and the Prison System - Disabled World
  2. Police Assault on People with Disabilities and the Dogs We Love - Disabled World
  3. People with Disability Experience Double the Rate of Violent Crime - Bureau of Justice Statistics


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