by Dr. Paul Gallant and Dr.
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
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
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
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
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
"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
Nevertheless, that didn't faze Kellermann and
Green one bit. They took the warning that Mendez offered up and ran with it,
"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
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?
THE "FIX" (IS IN)
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
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 http://www.KeepAndBearArms.com/Gallant.