Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What would you do?

This post is NOT about general gun rights or concealed permits.  It is about when to say, "This is no longer safe."

I'm acquainted with an elderly man who owns several guns and has a concealed carry permit.  He bonds with family members over weapons and safes and target practice for recreation.  These guns are not used to hunt to provide food for the family.

When he first started collecting, he made sure they were put away in the gun safe and that the gun safe was locked and everyone was safe.

Things have changed.

He has had dementia for several years, and it is progressing.  His decline has come with cognitive deficits and he now sometimes forgets to close the safe ... and/or the garage where the safe is ... which means the guns and ammunition are accessible to anyone in the neighborhood -- children, criminals, depressed people, whoever.  He has frequent visitors to his home, including children, one of whom is very curious and has cognitive delays.

In the last few months, he has unknowingly misplaced at least two of his weapons, which were located by family members who share his home.  One was a loaded handgun, found on the floor of the garage.  The other was a rifle.  He didn't miss the loaded handgun for a couple of days and still has no idea the rifle is not in the safe (although he misplaced it and then went out of town and is not home yet).

This person has expressed his own concern when he has learned that people with mental illness have owned guns, but if anyone suggests that his gun ownership might not be safe anymore, he perceives that as an attack on him as a person.  Not on the disease that is taking over his brain.  He very much has emotional ties to his perception of himself as a safe gun owner and cannot view this problem from a rational perspective.

This is beyond gun rights:  This is a safety and liability issue.  It is worse than if a gun owner doesn't have a safe -- he counts on the fact that everything is locked up, but he is not really locking them up.  If someone were to come across that open safe and steal one (or all) of the weapons registered to his name and later use that weapon to commit a crime, he would have some liability.  So would his wife.  One of the small children who visits his home could unintentionally kill themselves or someone else.

If this was your father, brother, uncle, grandpa, friend, when would you say enough is enough?  And how would you facilitate the change and still allow him to have his dignity?


Diana said...

Make sure all the guns are locked in the safe and change the lock on the safe. He still has the guns, but no access to them, thus becoming a safe gun owner again.

Northern Lass said...

My Dad had dementia. They took away his driving licence. If you're not safe to drive, then you're not safe to have a gun. Especially as they often forget who's who. A family member or friend they've forgotten could get shot as they think it's a stranger. And the not locking them away is a danger to others.

Northern Lass said...

If he's still sometimes lucid talk to him about what could happen.
If he wants protection, would he use pepper spray? Ok, he could still spray someone he knows, but it's not being shot.

Northern Lass said...

My mum had to to hide all the scissors and knives.....

Amy Bruce said...

Who is the caregiver? Can you discuss the situation with them?

Amy Bruce said...

The way I'd facilitate the change and still allow him to have his dignity is through a referral to Adult Protective Services. Clearly changing his relationship with guns would be a huge loss for this individual. An intervention coming from outside the family is more likely to be effective. This is a public safety as well as a personal safety issue, and police may get involved on that basis, but I'd start with APS. This is sad and scary for everyone involved. Can't bear to think of one of those curious children being hurt or worse. :(