Considering Veterans' Mental Health and Gun Control

Aaron Alexis, the perpetrator in the recent Navy Yard shooting this week, had a record of gun violence and a history of mental illness. He was also an honorably discharged veteran. In 2004, he shot out the tires of a construction worker, was arrested and let go. In 2010, he fired his gun into the apartment floor of his upstairs neighbor, was arrested and let go. He was discharged from the U.S. Navy and was seeking treatment for mental illness. Yet he still managed to clear a background check and purchase a shotgun in Virginia, before turning the weapon on workers at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., and killing 12 people Monday.

If you currently wear or have worn any uniform in any branch of the U.S. Military, you can be authorized to carry a concealed pistol in over 1/2 of the United States.  Tennessee has reduced the mandatory time spent in the permit course by 1/2, for active or discharged individuals who can show proof of pistol training completed while in military service.  Florida will issue a resident or non-resident license to carry weapons, to active or discharged military individuals who send in a copy of their DD-214 with their application and fee.  Many other states have similar measures that make it easier for active soldiers and veterans to obtain a weapons license or permit.

With nearly 30 percent of the 834,463 Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans treated at V.A. hospitals and clinics being diagnosed with PTSD, it is important to consider if our veterans' ease of access to weapons is wise. 50% of service members and veterans with PTSD do not seek treatment, and of the half that seek treatment, only half of them receive adequate treatment. Deployment-related mental health problems have increased over 42% since the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan engagements. Since 2004, alcohol use has increased 33% and drug abuse has quadrupled. Nationally, suicides are occurring at a rate of nearly once a day among active duty and 22 each day for veterans.

As a veteran, I value my right to own a weapon. However, when I came back from a tour in Iraq in 2010, and it was easier for me to buy a gun and receive a concealed weapons permit than it was for me to renew my drivers’ license, someone should have been asking some questions.

Ariel Goolsby- JPACC VetCorps Coordinator & OIF Combat Veteran