Robert Farago (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

I took my daughter and six of her closest friends to see Maleficent yesterday. When the family reconciliation scene arrived – and it always arrives in Disney movies – tears rolled down my cheeks. As usual. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not prone to blubbering. It’s just that Walt’s movie makers are masters of emotional manipulation. And yes, I’ll admit it: I’ve got a lot of sadness locked up inside . . .

Especially lately. A few days ago, I ferried my second ex-wife to rehab. Again. Still. And I still haven’t gotten over the forced estrangement from my ex-step-daughter. I feel badly for my 10-year-old, who’s growing-up without a mother or on-site siblings. All that “baggage” sits on top of the stress created by running this site and another business, playing Mr. Mom and looking for an Israeli supermodel (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) with which to share the last quarter of my life.

And yet, through all that and more, I keep and bear arms.

Gun control advocates would (will?) see my sometimes turbulent emotional landscape as a reason to deny my gun rights. You know; for my own good. Because if it all gets on top of me, if the black dog sinks his teeth into my flesh and I can’t cope, I might not have the sense to seek help (no small thanks to the inhibitory effect of their anti-gun mental health jihad). I might eat my gun. Which I couldn’t do if there wasn’t a gun for me to eat. In which case gun control would save my life!

Yes, well, suicide’s not in the cards. For one thing, I’m not going to abandon my daughter to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortuneFor another, I have access to a fantastic farrago of coping mechanisms: Dan, Ralph, Little Feat, Vizcaya, Rocky Patel, Mercedes CLS55, Amazon Kindle, miniature schnauzers, Gold’s Gym, sashimi, Match.com, writing for this blog and shooting.

OMG! You shoot guns to chase the dog away? True dat. There’s nothing like busting a few caps to get the endorphins inside my head to do front flips and other crowd-pleasing tricks. Equally, when I’m shooting a gun, I’m not thinking about anything else (nor should I). The task at hand banishes all thoughts of ex-wives, alimony, kids, work or unique visitors per month. The idea that guns aid mental stability may be an anathema to the antis, but there it is. And in this I’m not alone.

More to the point, how often do you hear Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and the rest of the gun control industrial complex single out a firearms-related suicide and say “See that grieving parent! That’s the NRA’s fault! We need gun control!” Never. They mention gun-related suicides in the abstract; often tacking-on the issue to [half-baked] stats on the danger of keeping a gun in the home. This despite the fact that suicide accounts for half of American gun-related deaths.

In truth, they don’t care. Also true: tens of millions of Americans – including tens of millions of gun owners – take anti-depressants. We can argue about SSRI’s side-effects, their long-term impact on health, and the worrying fact that many if not most spree killers were taking anti-depressants when they committed their heinous crimes. But people wouldn’t be taking anti-depressants if they didn’t work.

These pill poppers aren’t abusing their gun rights. They’re taking their meds, coping with stress, packing on a few pounds and doing whatever it is they need to do to put food on the family’s table and get through a day. They have guns for sport, hunting or self-defense. They are not criminals nor proto-criminals. They are honest, hard-working, tax-paying, loving adults responsibly exercising their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.

FWIW, I don’t take drugs. I don’t need to. After some insanely turbulent years dealing with the chaos of my wife’s alcoholism, I made the life changes I needed to make to gain enough emotional equilibrium to carry on. So to speak. As I made this life journey, I didn’t shoot anyone – myself included. At no point did I even think about shooting someone – myself included. Why would I? Why would anyone?

That said, some people do. Some people murder other people with firearms. These killers are a tiny minority of the general population and the gun-owning population. You can round to zero the percentage of people who take a gun and shoot themselves or other people – including bullied teenagers, gang bangers, spree killers, wife beaters, children playing with guns and yes, armed self-defenders.

As tragic as most of these firearms-related deaths are, as willing as the pro-gun side is to discuss ways to reduce the death toll (and we are willing), it’s clear that society doesn’t need any more gun control laws to protect me, you or the rest of America from gun owners with “mental health issues.” The laws put the cart before the horse. They don’t work. They infringe on Americans’ gun rights. And that’s the truth, no matter how you, me or anyone else feels about it. Or feels, generally.

 

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73 Responses to Random Thoughts About Depression and Guns

  1. Boy, does this resonate with me. Messed up ex, raising my kiddo as a single parent, work stress, acquainted with the Black Dog. And yes, I’ve found healthy ways to manage. (One of them being target shooting.)

    And yes, when discussing issues of mental illness, we need to be extremely careful to make sure rights aren’t being infringed upon.

  2. I’m the same way, I’ve had a pretty shitty couple of years, but nothing puts a smile on my face like shooting up a 24 pack of Dr. Thunder with my mosin.

  3. While depression is insidious in the way it sneaks up on you, the thing to always remember is that it can go away.

    John Lee Hooker shares a little truth . . .

  4. this piece made me realize something… i don’t recall ever giving firearms a thought at a time of mourning, anger, or stress. meaning, it’s never been a part of method of “coping” with life’s ups and downs. i think people who do resort to such measures are probably not playing with a full deck to begin with. just a thought.

    • Disagree.
      In order to cope, people do things that they enjoy, whether it’s shooting, fishing, birding, qigong, parties with friends, volunteer work, gardening, going to a big concert or an NBA Finals game, taking a trip. This is common sense.

      Like many activities, shooting can be both relaxing and exciting. It can have a zen quality that relieves stress. You should try it sometime.

    • Personally I find a trip to the range pretty damn therapeutic in rough times, it’s a good way to regain focus, clear your head and get out of the house when depression and anxiety make you feel like you’re constantly dragging an anchor around. I know exactly what Robert’s talking about here and your comment about our mental states would be better received in a HuffPo comments section, maybe you should try it before you judge.

      • like most anyone else, i also enjoy some range time when i need to relax and unwind. my statement concerning “mental states” was in regards to abusing these potentially lethal tools at a time of mental anguish. just wanted to clarify.

    • Well mb; it’s probably just projection on your part. You might want to re-examine what your thought process is when it comes to your guns. For me, I shoot because it’s fun, a challenge, a group outing with fellow gun owners to practice the art of using a gun that could save a life someday. It’s the one right and freedom that defines a free person versus a peasant, peon, subject and virtual slave. A right denied to over 6 billion fellow human beings living in the darkness of subjugation, oppression and the potential and actual situations of mass death.

      What is it about this process and practice that would not make a person feel better about being alive and being an American?

      Yep, mb, I’m thinking it’s more about your own issues about what a gun means to you than anything else.

      • yeah, this is getting a bit too dr. phil-esque for me.
        refer to the clarification of my comment above.
        if that doesn’t jive with you, it’s cool. leave me to my “issues”. 😉

        • Look at the time stamps on your reply (16:28) and ThomasR’s comment (16:27). You both were typing at the same time. He didn’t see your reply and you didn’t see his comment until you both had already hit the Post Comment button. This happens a lot on a blog…

  5. Damn, RF. good on you for laying it out there, but I do question the wisdom of bringing up your ex-wife’s dependency issues on a public blog, but maybe she’s that open about it, or you’re that pissed off at her.

    To the point; As counterintuitive as it may be, target shooting and clays are absolutely the path to Zen for me.

    Pretty much every time I come back from the range, my wife will note (a bit incredulously, since a trip to the range for brush up practice on her pistol is viewed as a stressor and an inconvienant if necessary intrusion on an otherwise pleasant day off), just how relaxed and peaceful I am.

    I contend that there is something about the pressure wave from the boom sticks that jogs loose scrunched up endorphins in my brain, but no one else seems to be buying in to that theory.

    • Yes, sound and movement can move emotional energy. The secret is to do that movement within your own loving self-acceptance. There’s no such thing as a “bad” feeling; those feelings are telling you about a bad situation, which it’s intellect’s job to figure out by understanding the message that the emotion is trying to bring to consciousness.

      FWIW, I’m a non-practicing alcoholic who has two failed suicide attempts under my belt. The last one, my reaction was, “God dammit! I can’t even do THAT right!” I think I got turned around when, absent anyone else to blame for my problems, I decided to kill God. 😉

  6. I started as a commentor, worked my way up to staff writer and now I’m a coping mechanism on a par with raw fish and a defunct art house rock band.

    I gotta go bust a few caps.

  7. This is… something I find myself thinking about often. I’ve been through a lot and have been damaged by it. Both emotionally and physically. In fact… I’m currently trying to recover from a near fatal brain tumor. Fortunately not a cancerous one, but… well it was a meningioma in my temporal lobe about the size of an orange. By all accounts it is a flat out miracle that I’m able to communicate as well as I can. Took me several months to be able to do so. And to go along with this there’s also the ‘fun’ fact that serious brain injuries tend to cause emotional problems. As has been the case for me. And they’re… pretty significant. I went so far as to seek a little help to try and talk out my problems. Which did actually help… but then the psychologist over my treatment decided that I wasn’t making enough progress and prescribed me that is apparently a high dose of SSRI. Can’t remember if it was Zoloft or Paxel. His justification that I’ve had several family members on them means I’ll probably react well to them. Problem there is that NONE of my family members have done well on them. His response was to try them anyway. This was also the LAST time I went to this facility.

    I tell my story as a way to show that just because you’ve been hurt or are hurting doesn’t mean you’ll automatically make that jump into violence. Either against one’s self or others. My own personal reasons being both a moral imperative to not hurt others and a lack of violent tenancies. I’ll… not lie and say that I’ve not had some thoughts of harm to myself. But my family (although I use the term family in perhaps a different way that others… my ‘real’ family is tit on a bore hog useless for helping me get through problems) have helped me get through. And I personally think a supporting family is the BEST medicine for when you’re hurting.

    • a very close mentor of mine recently had a malignant tumor removed from his brain and is now going through his second dose of chemo. like yourself, he’s going through similar difficulties, but the support of friends and family from near and far has helped him get through these tough times.

      i wish you all the best on your path to recovery. take care.

  8. As someone who suffers from depression and has been on Prozac for years, taking away my guns would be the last thing my family would want to do. Shooting is one of the few things that will instantly restore my mood and spirit and leave me relaxed and happy.

  9. For many, anti depressants take away the anger and make them more peaceful than they otherwise would me. It is only those that are not properly treated or let loose on society when they have declared their evil intentions, that are the dangerous ones.

  10. The feeling of relaxed contentment after a good session at the range is truly one of life’s great pleasures. Therapy in 115 grain packets.

    • Ha!
      Doses may vary.
      90, 124, 168, 300, and 750 grain “pills” available.
      Side effects may include cursing, grins, laughter, head scratching, guffaws, fist bumps, fist pumps, high fives, and occasional shoulder pain.

  11. I have read that a day shooting, hunting, etc. yes is good way to blow off some steam . Makes you feel better . Why? It’s the skills used does help your mind , as they say use it or lose it .. the mind.. so guns are good meds.

  12. Thank you for sharing that, that was very personal and intimate. I feel like I know you better for this. I thought I had a crap day but I am humbled by this. You are quite right, you are the last person who would kill anyone so why a self-professed ‘expert’ on murderers would take away your rights is unbelievable. Oath Keepers would have something to say about that, anyway.
    I let off steam by using a punching bag and eChess. The tactics and the skills for eChess and the brute force of the punching bag required are great calming tools.

  13. I have a God daughter. She was the highest ranking pilot in the Army, now works for a contractor overseas. She is very alone and we are the only family. She’s hard working, and not bad looking. Loves kids none of her own. I understand the Jewish people as she is and it is hard to find someone who understands, harder for a woman who can’t sit still long enough to clean a house. She can’t find a man who is smart and not lazy. She’s not into military men with a lot of baggage. She is independent and takes care of herself. She’s given up trying to find someone
    I keep telling her not to stop looking because for the same reason you can’t. People love you and want you happy.

  14. Haven’t had as many problems as you but I can relate. Still am not 100% good, probably will never be. Still, you gotta keep going. Not like you can give up, or at least live with yourself giving up. There is always something good waiting, though you gotta get to it.

    Shooting does sharpen the nerves, regaining focus. Time slows down, the world ceases to exist, BOOM! Your mind is clear for a moment. Rinse and repeat as necessary until you can function as a normal human being again.

    Reminds me how I haven’t shot in a while, mainly because of school. Luckily summer vacation is soon.

  15. Does the government have a duty to prevent suicides? Perhaps this is outside the boundaries of a gun blog, but I feel it is something that should be discussed more openly. There are certainly other societies on this planet where suicide is not automatically a bad thing. Not that we want to lose Robert, he still has a lot of work to do.

    • “Does the government have a duty to prevent suicides?”

      FUCK NO!!!!!

      Government’s only duty is to secure the property rights of the citizens, and provide for the common defense.. Of course, with universal carry, “the common defense” becomes moot, because a rifle behind every blade of grass. This terrifies the protectors, because it means they have no reason to be.

  16. Robert and the others. Such honesty is an act of strength and even of hope. God bless and uphold you guys. Through whatever.

    Gotta say, as a guy who fired my first rounds at age 60+, TTAG’s been a ‘mucho gusto’ experience. And that endorphin thing at the range is real. Phenomenal way to enjoy a couple of hours. I’m still new enough at this to enjoy a decent group on the target or just chatting with the guys at the next station. It’s good.

  17. When I returned from 12 months overseas I was devastated to learn my wife at the time was going to move in with her boyfriend she had while I was gone. My friends started getting together at the range and brought me with them so I wasn’t sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. It was two hours of not thinking about anything but having fun. I went and bought my first handgun after thst. I called it range therapy. I bought two mosins not long after that it really helped give me something to focus on. Weekly range sessions were something to look forward to.

    I’m sure antis would love to see people be unable to even buy guns while going through a divorce. Now my Seco d wife wants to get I to shooting and I am excited to take her to the range!

    Oh and to the comment earlier, how is someone not playing with a full deck if going to the range helps them out? Would I also not be playing with a full deck if I also worked on my cars during that time for weekly trips to the drag strip? What an ignorant comment.

    • woah. we’re still on this?

      when did i ever say that those who seek therapy or relaxation through time at the range are not playing with a full deck? quote me on it, please.

      in hindsight, i understand how my initial statement could have been misunderstood so i amended it – twice. i’m assuming you didn’t see my follow-up comments so i thought i’d re-state myself a third time.

      also, if i really did hold such views, a gun forum would be the last place i’d come to express them. so how about we call off the witch hunt and take a chill pill, mkay?

  18. i’ve been reading ttag for a little under a year now and i must say this is one of my favorite posts. i think it really displays that human element which the anti-gun campaigns and propaganda machines try to distance from the potg.

  19. On a lighter note:
    “I cried because I didn’t have any shoes, until I met a man who had no feet. I said, ‘Hey, got a pair of shoes lying around that you’re not using?'”

    “Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes!”

  20. Contrary to what modern life in America is and isn’t supposed to be, periods of sadness are a completely normal part of life. I hate the idea that we’re supposed to 100% happy every single moment of our lives… it’s not realistic, nor is it healthy.

    1 There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    2 a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    6 a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    8 a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

    The beauty of life isn’t that we’re happy all the time – it’s that inspite of times of grief and hardship, people find a way to endure and find happiness. Thanks for sharing, RF.

    PS.
    If you want some unbelievably sashimi / sushi, come through Seattle and visit Shiro’s – the head sushi chef is a former protege of Jiro Ono, of JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI fame. Omakase at Shiro’s is as good as it gets!

  21. The treatment for depression is antidepressants. The worst outcome of depression is suicide. Blaming the medicine for suicide is like saying that aspirin causes heart attacks.

    • Some people react poorly to medicines. In some people SSRIs can produce strange thought patterns, even suicidal or homicidal urges in people who did not display such before. Thankfully it’s not very common. Neurochemistry is still poorly understood, what has one effect with one person may have a very different effect with others, and we’re still not entirely sure why.

    • Drugs are poison. When a Doctor prescribes a drug, he is assuming/hoping the therapeutic benefits will outweigh the known/unknown common and uncommon side effects. Some are worse than others. Drugs are poison. Some work but are later found to be counterproductive to their mission. Drugs. Are. Poison.

  22. I think there’s no shortage of PotG who have had emotional struggles. I’m among them, though for privacy’s sake I won’t be sharing details, only to remark that it has caused me no end of trouble. What I think is truly unfortunate is the way we have been forced to hide our struggles in order to protect our ability to enjoy our favorite pastime, and exercise our right to defend ourselves. This presumption that anyone who has gone through a rough patch is somehow “broken” and therefore “dangerous” ends up doing more harm than good. There is strength in solidarity, in knowing that others have gone through what you’re going through, and that they’ve survived, and even thrived. Shame on the anti-gunners for stealing that from us.

  23. I think it’s insulting that a lot of gun control advocates would probably generalize depression and say that those with depression shouldn’t have access to firearms because GOD KNOWS EVERYONE WITH DEPRESSION IS GONNA KILL THEMSELVES! Not everyone is so, honestly, weak as to not be able to deal with their pains and kill themselves. It’s condescending, like they know better than the individual without ever holding a conversation with them. And regarding the comment on SSRIs, I think people only take them because they THINK they worked since doctors push them so hard. At first I didn’t realize it, but eventually, after about six years of taking them I realized they might be fucking with me, mostly because I felt like I was dizzy a lot and it was messing me up in a few other ways, and what ended up happening is I managed to get myself MUCH more under control. Before that, I was prone to angry outbursts. I’d never hut anyone, or throw pots or anything, but I had kicked doors and tossed plastic bottles into a wall because I just couldn’t handle it, and when I got off SSRIs that never happened afterwards. I think they mess with peoples’ inhibitions and that’s what opens up the ability for these mass shooters, in part. Mass medication is a pretty lousy idea.

  24. Related to this topic, have you read the disastrous 7th Circuit court decision about unwarranted entry & search?
    They say it’s OK as long as cops claim it’s for the person’s own good. Don’t need a warrant, even if there’s plenty of time to get one. (In the case under discussion, 9 hours.)
    I know you’ve interviewed Krysta Sutterfield before; should contact her about this one, esp. since it’s going to the Supreme Court.

  25. A good cigar is typically the way I go when I start feeling crappy, then again I also smoke them when I’m happy…..

  26. “OMG! You shoot guns to chase the dog away? True dat. There’s nothing like busting a few caps to get the endorphins inside my head to do front flips and other crowd-pleasing tricks. ”

    Same here!

  27. Great article, and courageous.

    Suicide rates in many gun-restrictive countries are much higher than in the United States. People who decide to suicide will find ways of doing so, even if they don’t have access to the “easier” method of using a firearm.

    Even so, I think it’s wise for parents to restrict access to their firearms (safe storage in a gun safe, for example). Even smart, usually-responsible, and mentally healthy adolescents can behave irrationally at times, over-reacting to emotional stress. Peer rejection feels like the end of the world, and some kids just can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Also, it is very difficult to predict whether a kid is just moody from hormone surges or whether he/she is dealing with depression or other mental health issues. And if your kid doesn’t have any problems, what about your kid’s friends who come over to your house?

  28. My deepest condolences good sir, keep up the good fight.

    I have been there, dealing with my mothers alcoholism for years on end, her final decision to leave, and helping my father cope with being alone. he has been taking it the hardest, i think.

    But the range trips help. they help so much. when you are out there, its like the rest of the world just dissapears, its just you, your sights, and the target, a sort of nirvana. for that moment, nothing else matters, its quite the relief.

  29. Another mind/body whole experience in motorcycle riding. There is a saying that you never see a motorcycle outside a Psychiatrist’s office.

    I have had ME (known pitifully as CFS in USA) for 17 years. My GP didn’t believe in it or understand it, so he gave me Prozac for 6 months. This made me feel even more ill and damaged my liver, but it didn’t improve my mood. I then tried St John’s Wort, which made me much more cheerful, but gave me migraines after three months, so I stopped. No problems with mood since, except when ill with regular bronchitis.

    When I started going to the rifle range a few years ago, this was most satisfying. Every trip was a pleasure, no matter how good or bad my shooting on the day.

    Other problems continue, but shooting always brings a smile, even in recollection. Maybe one day I’ll get my motorbike back on the road for some more thrills. In the meantime, shooting will suffice. No thoughts to self harm – I fought long and hard to live this long, and I don’t want to give any of my many critics the satisfaction.

  30. Thank you Robert for taking the time to be “real.” I grew up shooting and the sport is part of my identity. Insightful doctors realize that loss of a part of identity is actually provocative of suicide, so taking guns away can actually worsen some peoples’ mental status. Just like losing a loved one, this is a loved part of life, symbolic of so much – freedom for instance.

    I have struggled with serious depression all my life and it’s not until the last 18 months that a really good drug therapy has been determined for me. Yet all those years, shooting was an avenue to reward and happiness – tying a national champion in a leg match, winning my master card, etc. I’ve been lucky to have a doctor who recognizes that the sport has been a positive for me. Some doctors would hear I have guns and refuse to treat me until I’d disposed of them. Others would go so far as to have me picked up (read: SWATed) for a “protective” hold.

    With all the pressure for “meaningful” background checks and “fixing the mental health system,” I fear there’s a time coming when being treated for depression is going to become a serious issue. They won’t be able to make it an automatic disqualifier due to the number of people being treated, but I think they are going to want access to doctors’ records and possibly require doctors’ certifications – which will be damn hard to get given the liability concerns.

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