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by Dr. Paul Gallant and Dr. Joanne Eisen

Reprinted with permission from Guns & Ammo Magazine, December, 2000.
Copyrighted 2000 by EMAP-USA, Inc.; All rights reserved.


"As far as we know, misuse of firearms by demented persons is rare".
~~ Robert Green & Arthur Kellermann, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 1996

Dementia is defined in the Merck Manual as a "permanent or progressive decline in several dimensions of intellectual function that interferes substantially with the individual's normal social or economic activity."

And it's a term that soon may be added to the lexicon of American gun-owners.


On June 22, 2000, WordlNetDaily ran a story by Jon Dougherty disclosing that, under a provision of the Brady Law, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) had provided the FBI's National Instant Check System (NICS) with the names of 88,898 veterans and their dependents who have been declared "incompetent".

According to Sec. 103 of the Brady Law:

"notwithstanding any other law, the Attorney General may secure directly from any department or agency of the United States such information on persons...who [have] been adjudicated as a mental defective...".

At first blush, the FBI's request for such a list may seem prudent. Surely, no one - not even us - would advocate putting firearms into the hands of a demented person, or hesitate to remove them when necessary.

The dilemma lies in the knowledge that the goal is not the protection of Americans from their grandparents, but, instead, our eventual disarmament. The mechanism placed in the hands of the FBI is easily subverted to that end.

And that puts people like us in a Catch-22: we can either abide something that's fundamentally wrong, or challenge it and be perceived as the "incompetents" who are already losing their guns.

Just how "reasonable" is this provision of the Brady Law? Shouldn't the responsibility lie with the family, as it always has, rather than in an unconstitutional empowerment of the Federal government? And exactly what is the problem?

In 1996, a paper entitled "Dementia and Guns" was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. In it, Dr. Mario Mendez cautioned that

"given the wide availability of guns and the aging of the population, there may [emphasis ours] be an increase in gun-related incidents among patients with dementia".

Logically, there should be. Eventually, there may be. But, in America today, there isn't. And the proof comes from the very same issue of the Journal in an editorial entitled "Grandfather's Gun: When Should We Intervene?"

According to Drs. Robert Green and Arthur Kellermann,

"clinical experience at our Center [Emory University School of Medicine] with more than 3,000 demented older patients living in the community suggests that families are relatively sensitive to the presence of firearms in the homes of older relatives with cognitive impairments and often preemptively remove or disable them."

If the name "Kellermann" rings a bell, it ought to. He's a politically-motivated "researcher" with an anti-gun bias, and would have loved to find the problem Mendez warned about documented somewhere in the literature. But no matter how hard he and Green searched, they came up empty-handed because there simply is no such problem.

Nevertheless, that didn't faze Kellermann and Green one bit. They took the warning that Mendez offered up and ran with it, recommending that

"homes with a demented or cognitively impaired adult should probably be added to the [list]...of particularly dangerous places to keep a gun".

The further recommendation by Mendez, that, "in addition to removing access to guns, there could be a re-evaluation of gun permits held by patients with dementia", provides the slippery slope to confiscation of firearms already possessed by the elderly, whether demented or not. And that could be easily accomplished from the list the FBI is now compiling.

With anti-gun hysteria rampant in America today, something that seems so reasonable has enormous potential to be abused - just as have all other "sensible" gun laws. For who defines "incompetent"? Who decides what level of "cognitive impairment" is unacceptable? And when - not if - will the next "common sense" gun law serve to remove even more decision-making from the rightful domain of the family?


Originally, the FBI had asked the VA for medical records on those patients classified as "incompetent", but the agency balked at that request, and provided only names and identifiers like social security numbers. And it has bent over backwards to ensure that those patients it declares to be "incompetent" have gone through several layers of appeals for reversing such a determination, if a person so classified had wanted to.

We can safely assume that by the time patients have been declared "incompetent" by the VA, they have probably forgotten they ever owned a gun in the first place, and don't care to purchase a new one, either. But the label is indelible, for even if competency is restored, the restriction is permanent.

For the time being, a veteran seeking psychological or other medical treatment at the VA doesn't face the threat of the loss of his or her Second Amendment rights. But the track record of federal bureaucrats is such that if they don't get all that they want the first time, they'll do it incrementally. And when it comes to firearms, that pattern is a certainty.

More than a quarter century ago, former West Yorkshire (England) Metropolitan Police Superintendent Colin Greenwood observed:

"One is forced to the rather startling conclusion that the use of firearms in crime was very much less when there were no controls of any sort and when anyone, convicted criminal or lunatic, could buy any type of firearm without restriction."

While some may be tempted to brand Colin Greenwood a lunatic, his observation was right on the money!

Dr. Paul Gallant is engaged in the private practice of Family Optometry, Wesley Hills, NY. He is Chairman, Committee for Law-Abiding Gun-Owners, Rockland (LAGR), a 2nd Amendment grassroots group, based in Rockland County, NY. FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: LAGR P.O. Box 354 Thiells, NY 10984-0354

Dr. Joanne D. Eisen is engaged in the private practice of Family Dentistry. She is President, Association of Dentists for Accuracy in Scientific Media (ADASM), a national organization of dentists concerned with preserving the integrity of the professional dental literature, against the politicization which has corrupted America's medical literature.

To read other writing from these fine Americans, go to


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