Right to Arms and the Mentally Unfit

20130908-223043.jpgMany supporters of the Second Amendment will preach that the document offers Americans complete firearms rights, that can not be infringed. This may sound good in theory, but then I hear the story like the one I heard last weekend, from a woman at the beginning of a heated divorce.

She is an accomplished businesswoman in Atlanta, whose marriage had turned unhealthy. As she began to file the necessary papers, she gave her small collection of guns to a friend for safekeeping. The only pistol she is keeping in her possession , is a 38 revolver which she doesn’t even like to shoot, (and does not practice with) for her protection. Her, soon-to-be, ex-husband, has a history in the military and a history with multiple forms of mental health illnesses and treatments. She has been made aware, by a friend, that her husband has privately purchased at least one firearm, and this makes her extremely uneasy.

As you might imagine, I too, am concerned for her safety. I have discussed with her, potential classes beyond the usual and have also talked to her about shopping for a a gun that will suit her better. However, what can be done about this potentially unstable man with at least one gun? As much as this man can cite his Second amendment rights in his purchasing of a firearm, personally, I believe it would be better if he didn’t have the option.

I am keenly aware of the tightrope I walk in the gun blogging community. “Moderate” is not a word we use to often, but it is genuinely the way I feel about the issue. If I have anything to say about it, this woman will receive the best defense education I can find for her, but ideally I’d like to see the threat neutralized. As always, I welcome your thoughts.


  1. Define “crazy”.

    And why can a person be deemed “too crazy to have a gun” but oh no, you can still have that car and go to work and be a good little taxpayer.

    Sorry, the state cannot have this power. I suppose some system might help, but because everything is politicized it’s just one of those “nice things we cannot have” all because of people.

    1. Agreed. If you are 100% positive that the husband will be a danger to the wife, then you have all the proof necessary to put him in jail where he cannot harm her. If he’s shown a mental deficiency that indicates he has the ability to harm others, then the correct course of action is not to take away a single tool at his disposal, but instead put him into confinement until his ability to harm has been dealt with.

      Very few voices in the gun community believe in “a gun in every hand”. That’s a load of BS the anti’s peddle to make us look like we want crazy people to have guns. The problem is that the only option seems to be “well, we have to let the crazy people walk free, so let’s just make a single thing difficult for them to obtain that won’t stop anything, but at least we look like we ‘care’ by agreeing with it”.

      Your best course of action in regard to this woman is teaching her how to remain aware of her surroundings. Being able to shoot a gun does you no good if you walk around in condition white, thinking nothing could possibly go wrong (and at the other end, you cannot function if you believe that there’s danger lurking under each and every rock).

  2. If the ex-husband is mentally sick the kind thing, nevermind the safe thing, is to get him professional help.

    There is a process to have someone declared a danger to themselves and others in every state, a process which provides due process for the individual involved. She needs to look into that process for her well-being and his.

  3. “history with multiple forms of mental health illnesses and treatments”

    If the illness is being treated, where’s the problem? It would create a nasty dilemma if people had to give up rights to get help for mental problems.

  4. As the laws currently stand (form 4473), one must be found mentally unfit as written in the law. For further clarification, search Form 4473 and look at Question 11 F, it explains all the details of mentally defective.

    1. And as we know, it is up to me, behind the counter to judge whether you’re lying or not, when you answer the question.

  5. Unfortunately, the mental health arena is not so simple or cut and dry as people think. And the laws could be different in each city, county, state.
    DISCLAIMER: The following statements are not offered as legal, mental, or self-defense advice. It is meant for informational use only. I STRONGLY SUGGEST each person research the laws in their area.

    A psychologist must interview an “attacker” to determine mental stability/danger. Any half-sane person can act “sane” for a couple hours.

    If there is significant evidence of a person being a danger, at best the person will be placed in an institution for a day or two. The result: 1) longer stay; 2) release after holding period over. Local laws determine requirements for getting someone “observed”.

    The best option any of us can do is cover all our bases (legally, emotionally, physically) and be prepared to defend ourselves as best we can.

  6. Has he exhibited aggressive behavior towards her in the past? There are so many different types of mental health issues that are not of a violent nature. If he isn’t violent than she shouldn’t have much to worry about. If he IS, then a restraining order is in order, and self-defense training is paramount.

  7. As a psychologist who works for the Army, let me offer my thoughts.

    Without more information about the specifics of her relationship turning “unhealthy” we have no reason to believe that her husband is any more of a danger to her than when he was living with her and the “small collection of guns.” Taken at face value, we have a woman who keeps a firearm for her protection, but then gets scared when her husband purchases one, quite possibly for his protection. We have no information about what, if any, weapons he had before. Perhaps she took all of them when she left, leaving him without a weapon to defend himself. Are we that bad that we are suddenly going to jump to the conclusion that any man being faced with divorce is suddenly a potential murderer? What evidence do you have to drive your concern for her safety beyond the drum beat from the media that all men are one step away from being wife beaters/murders?

    As to the issue of him being in mental health care, we again don’t know the reasons. Could be anxiety, depression, etc. Where is the concern for his safety? I see no concern that he might have gotten the weapon to commit suicide….all the concern is for her. But we have no evidence that is the case either, just the emotional “feelings” of one person. Honestly, I see this too often…the wife wants a divorce, and suddenly there’s all this “danger” from her husband….it’s a prelude to the restraining order and the lawyers milking him dry without any evidence beyond the wife’s “fear.”

    Most states require a judge to declare you “insane,” as insane is a legal term, or that you have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution…again something a judge does before you are prohibited from owning guns. A temporary hold by a MD or voluntary admission to a clinic/ward/ etc does not count. Without either of those, someone is not prohibited from owning guns.

    I’m about as pro gun as you get, but I do at times encourage my patients not to have them around for a while.

    My thoughts are no more valid than any other, and without more details of the situations, we’re all just making stabs in the dark.

  8. David’s comment above is right on the mark.

    Gabby – you have presented us with a one sided story. Why is she “afraid” of him? Did she cheat on him with his best friend? Flush his life savings down the toilet? Sell his rare collection of Single Action Army Colt’s. None of these acts permit violence (in America) but one side of the story can leave a lot open to interpretation.

  9. If she can prove that she has cause to fear him, then she can file a restraining order. Once that’s done he becomes a prohibited person and is no longer allowed to have access to firearms. In many places this will mean that the police confiscate his weapons until the order is lifted.

  10. If the ex-wife KNOWS he is a “prohibited person”, then he cannot possess a gun, whether or not he bought it before being prohibited, or even if he bought it “off paper”.

    She can rat him out for being a prohibited person in possession. Done.

    Of course, if he ISN’T a prohibited person, then she doesn’t get to arbitrarily strip him of civil rights without meeting a fairly high standard of proof that he is too crazy to be allowed his freedom.

    We do not lock people up because their ex-spouse (or soon to be ex-) says they should be locked up, but cannot offer the proof. Not even if the ex-wife is a really nice person, and teh ex-husband is a genuine dirtbag (but still, has NOT demonstrated a threat sufficient to have a COURT proclaim they are dangerous).

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