Memorial Day is about honoring and remembering our war veterans for their service and for those who were killed in the line of duty. The photo is one I took when we visited the American cemetery at Normandy. I will never forget seeing all of those crosses and the reverence felt while visitors walked amongst the graves of the soldiers whose lives were lost during the D-Day invasion that was the beginning of the end of World War ll.
My dad was a World War ll veteran who served in North Africa and Italy. His PTSD became noticed by my brother and me as we grew old enough to understand what those middle of the night panic attacks meant. Neither my mom or my dad mentioned the attacks to us as if we couldn’t hear him struggling to breathe in the quiet of the night. Today I remember him and his service to the country when it called. He enlisted in his 30s and risked his life for the cause.
My dad was a hunter and avid outdoorsman. He taught me how to shoot at targets when I was a teen-ager. I think he really wanted me to hunt with him and my mom, also an avid hunter. But I didn’t really like the feel of shooting a gun so I never did hunt with them.
My brother, on the other hand, became the hunter that I was not. He spent a lot of time with my mom and dad walking the woods partridge and deer hunting. There was a deer shack somewhere in the woods of northern Minnesota that hosted my family and their friends. They had fond memories of those days.
My brother is a veteran of the VietNam war and now lives with Parkinson’s Disease, loss of vision and PTSD, among other things, at a Veterans’ home in Minnesota. He never got over what he experienced in VietNam. When we sold the house where he lived with my mother, we discovered his collection of hunting guns and one pistol. Given his difficulties with panic attacks, alcoholism and PTSD, we decided to keep his guns at our home, locked and unloaded. There is no question in my mind that he would have used one of those guns on himself if they had been available to him.
Since our older sister had been shot and killed in a domestic shooting, certainly the last thing we needed was another family member killed by a bullet. He knew we had the guns and agreed that we should have them. After we moved from our own home, his guns were given to a friend where they are stored safely. I asked that he not sell them or give them to anyone without a background check, and given that he has common sense, he said he would comply with my request.
On this Memorial Day, I honor the service of Americans whose lives were taken in the line of duty. War left many, including my own family, with the mental scars that affected their lives forever. Neither my brother or my dad were interested in guns for self defense. They were hunters and it did not occur to them that they should have guns around the house for self defense. But neither of them stored their guns in a safe either. That was not thought of much in those days but now we know more about how easily guns are accessed by kids and teens who use guns for suicide or in unintentional shootings. And we know personally how guns can be used in domestic disputes.
Veterans commit gun suicides with alarmingly high frequency. And guns are the most often used method. From Giffords:
Today more than 6,000 American veterans die by suicide each year, and nearly 70% of these deaths involve firearms. From 2005 to 2017, the veteran suicide rate increased by nearly 41%. We must do more to protect the veterans who risked their lives to protect us.
Our factsheet outlines ways in which we as a nation can do better.
Research suggests that having a gun in the home triples a person’s overall risk of suicide, and nearly half of all veterans own firearms. Because 85% of gun suicide attempts end in death, when individuals in crisis reach for a gun, they rarely
Easy access to guns is clearly a risk factor.
Over this week-end there is no doubt that more people will lose their lives to bullets. Two Miami area teens were killed in “accidental” gun discharges. There are no accidents with guns. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. From the article:
“This is a tragedy that should not happen and cannot happen again,” Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said. “Please be mindful of weapons in your house, the fact that the kids are home, they’re being schooled at home, they don’t have a lot of extra activities to be doing, they become curious and these are the things that can happen.”
Yes, these things can and do happen. Responsible gun owners keep their guns stored safely away from the hands of kids and teens and others who could be a danger to themselves or others. And, of course, storing guns in a safe prevents stolen guns from being used in a gun crime or shooting.
Please stay safe on this Memorial Day and also stay healthy from the spread of coronavirus. Remember to practice gun safety, social distancing and wearing masks. What we do individually is also for the common good. And common sense will save lives.