PTSD Veteran Loses Concealed Weapons Permit
Jim Strickland investigates how one PTSD vet in treatment lost his CWP.
06.19.09


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Editor's Note from Larry Scott, VA Watchdog dot Org ...

As you read Jim's article, keep in mind this is NOT about purchasing a firearm and being cleared through the NICS database.  The vet in this story still owns his guns and still has the right to buy guns.

CWPs are issued at the municipal, county and state levels and the rules vary and do not follow federal guidelines, as you will find out.

The only reason a person, veteran or civilian, can be denied the right to buy a firearm for mental health reasons is by getting on the NICS "no buy" list.  The ONLY two reasons:  1. Have been adjudicated a mental defective (incompetent).  2. Have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution (voluntary commitment is not a disqualifier).

Treatment for PTSD or any other mental health condition will NOT prevent someone from clearing a NICS background check.

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When the veteran told me that his local sheriff had revoked his Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP) for no reason other than the veterans PTSD treatment, I was skeptical.

Gun control discussions often become as heated as talking of abortion or religious freedom. We Americans are passionate about our rights to stock our homes with high powered weapons and fill our cabinets with cases of ammo. Hey, you never know when there may be a revolution.

For all you know a circus elephant may break free and then you'll be glad I had the old elephant gun handy!

OK, I'll fess up...I'm one of those. Over my lifetime I can't recall a time that I haven't had a loaded gun by my side. Except when I was in the Army. I was a hospital medic and not unlike Barney Fife, they didn't trust us with loaded weapons. During our drills and field exercises we would be issued the weapon but Barney had it better...we didn't get a bullet to keep handy.

I have mixed emotions about that though. I wish I didn't feel a need for a weapon but those old habits...you know.

In any case, I believe the law is the law and we citizens have a right to keep and bear arms except in some unusual circumstances. To have a permit pulled because the vet has a bit of PTSD from his honorable service alarmed me. Something wasn't right here.

He told me that as he was renewing his CWP, a ritual he had to go through every few years, he received a letter. In the letter a deputy made reference to his mental health records and informed him that his CWP would not be renewed.

The veteran sent me a copy of the letter and I started to investigate. Larry joined me and we brought into our circle a friend...a "Go-To" lawyer who we trust to think these things through with us. I contacted yet another lawyer outside the circle.

We decided to do a bit of a 3rd degree on our veteran friend to make sure he hadn't forgotten to mention anything that may have precipitated this adverse action by the sheriff. You know how that can happen, "Sorry Jim...I would have told you but I didn't think my history as an ax-murderer was relevant. That happened a long time ago."

We satisfied ourselves that our Vietnam vet was truthful and as open about his history as could be. He had no law enforcement issues, not even a speeding ticket. He's a quiet man who keeps to himself. He's rated 100% IU...he can't keep employment because of the PTSD. He's never been told he was a danger to others, he attends his VA provided mental health care sessions and is a good American citizen who fought for his country.

The next step seemed obvious; we had the veteran send a letter to the sheriff seeking an answer to why this had happened. We decided to wait 6 or 8 weeks for a reply. During the waiting we looked at CWP application procedures from different states and counties across America.

Contrary to popular belief and the Internet rumor mill, the feds have darn little to do with how you and your guns come together. Your gun permit is often controlled by the county you reside in, other times by a state process or maybe both. There are plenty of federal laws and guidelines but the real nitty gritty of how you and your gun are controlled will be found in your back yard.

Rumors about gun control abound. Larry called a halt to one rumor just days ago
( http://www.vawatchdog.org/09/nf09/nfjun09/nf060409-4.htm )

The rumors are nothing mew. When it comes to scare tactics the gun lobby is well practiced at propaganda. Each administration has something to say about gun control and each administration wishes they had never said whatever it was they did say. Neither of the extremes on either side will be placated...not ever.

As we developed our data, we noticed that applications for a CWP varied from place to place. Many were minimalist and only wanted the basics. Some were more intrusive. Others were much more intrusive and probing and even asked for permission to review mental health records if they existed. Some insisted on a written note from your mental health doctor.

Louisiana, for example, wanted a lot of data ( http://www.lsp.org/handguns.html#apply )

Michigan wants to know if you're being treated for a mental illness but they don't ask for permission to get into your health records ( http://tinyurl.com/luxv3t )

South Carolina is similar to Michigan ( http://tinyurl.com/llec4a )

Our veteran is in North Carolina and that state requires that; "The applicant does not suffer from a physical or mental infirmity that prevents the safe handling of a handgun. The Sheriff will require the applicant to sign a release authorizing the Sheriff to receive physical and mental health records from a health care provided (sic) who has ever provided treatment or care to the applicant." ( http://tinyurl.com/kw42f9 )

So we investigated, we pondered and we waited.

The sheriff apparently worked for the VA at one time so keeping in tune with that training he didn't bother replying to our veterans inquiry. As we approached our deadline, we were caught wondering what to do next. If we lawyered-up and hit the sheriff with something formal, there's little doubt he'd go to a defensive mode and do the same. While we all live far away, our veteran has to live right there so there's a reasonable question of how much sand to we want to throw around in his back yard?

As a rule in life you really need to use caution about who you pick fights with. A North Carolina country style sheriff is often a good one to avoid.

While we debated our next steps, the veteran wrote to tell me of his recent visit with his VA psychiatrist. As a part of his visit, he told the shrink that he was experiencing an issue with his CWP and that it was an upsetting event.

His doctor replied that most mental health professionals, himself included, didn't believe that mental health patients who were taking psychiatric medicines needed a gun.

When I read that, I knew we had our answer.

Our veteran was renewing his permit. He had signed an application that gave the sheriff or his designated representative the authority to review his mental health history. That apparently hadn't been done in his previous years of holding a carry permit but that's of no consequence now, this time his mental health status was lawfully checked.

Although the doctor didn't tell him this, it's likely that the deputy responsible for the due diligence actions spoke directly to the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist probably shared his belief that no psychiatric patient undergoing treatments with powerful medicines needs to have a weapon handy.

The renewal to carry a concealed weapon was denied.

Whether you agree or not, it's clear that the law of that land was followed. As we reviewed this later, even the veteran confessed that he saw the logic. His only complaint late into the game was that someone should have informed him and answered the question "Why?" without his having to ask. If either his doctor or the sheriff had told him what was happening and why it was happening, he may not have liked it but he would have complied. Hey, he's a law abiding man.

The vet has decided he won't fight it although he has opportunities for appeal. He likes his doctor and feels good about the care he receives so he's made an informed decision and he'll live without the CWP.

Thinking it through, I know a number of PTSD veterans who I believe are better off without guns nearby. I also know non-vets who are angry people who I feel that way about. While we may feel strongly about our right to bear arms, are we foolish enough that we can't understand that not everyone should have one?

There won't be any easy answers of right or wrong as we go along in our violence prone society. I want my guns, I'm not so sure about you and yours. Yeah, you.

I do know this for a fact...spreading rumors about how the Obama (Bush, Carter, Clinton, Kennedy or any other) administration is taking your guns won't help.

Our knee jerk response was to call in the cavalry and get this veterans CWP back to him because they can't do that to a veteran! We were wrong and we're glad we spent enough time that we arrived at a good end to our story.

As one of the attorneys who consulted to us on this one said, "Society has to balance the right to bear arms with the 'right' of people to be protected from people who should not be trusted to have weapons."

In all of the above, the only wrong that was perpetrated on the veteran community was the panicked email about how we were all losing our rights to guns. That was a lie, plain and simple. Often enough the truth is right in front of you. You may have to squint and try hard to bring it into focus.

This time the system worked flawlessly. Were it only that easy every time.

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