“Sheriff’s officials say an 83-year-old Florida man fatally shot a woman after her daughter and brother-in-law knocked on his front door while searching for a missing dog,” abcnews.go.com reports. “Manatee County Sheriff’s officials tell local news outlets Eugene Matthews opened the door about 7 p.m. Tuesday and started firing a handgun. The bullets struck 64-year-old Rebecca Rawson who had stayed in the car parked outside. She was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.”

While we don’t know the whole story, let’s assume the killer was an elderly gentleman who’d become addled, mistaking the knock on his door for a lethal threat. This kind of mental confusion and degradation is hardly unusual for people reaching the end of their lives. (It was, in fact, my father’s greatest fear.) Should the shooter have had access to a firearm?

Don’t get me wrong. All Americans have a natural, civil and constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms, regardless of their age. The government has no right to take an American’s firearm until that person has been proven to be a danger to themselves or others. And maybe not even if they’re suicidal.

And there are plenty of 83-year-olds who are very physically and mentally fit. Ninety-year-olds, too. But there may come a time in your life, or the lives of your parents or other loved ones, when old age has taken its toll to the point where it’s time to put the gun down. How do you know when that is? If it were your parent, would you insist? How?

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57 Responses to Question of the Day: At What Age Do You Put Down the Gun?

  1. I’ll put mine down when they pry it from my cold, dead hands.

    Plenty of young people do stupid things with guns. Fewer old timers do. So maybe we should just STFU about old people and guns.

    Now that I’ve given ageism a richly deserved back of my hand, maybe we can have a heartwarming conversation about the right color, gender or religion for gun owners.

    • A little silly to ignore the issue completely. Just because you’re really old doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile discussion.

      Truthfully it’s not strictly an age related one as much as it is a disease related one. If my dad develops dementia then I don’t want him to have a gun. I wouldn’t take it away because he was “old,” I’d take it away because he was no longer mentally competent.

      Nice try though. I believe this is much better handled at an individual level than at a government level.

      • Yeah, I guess that young people never develop mental problems. It’s entirely the province of the old.

        At least it is on Pwanet Pwinky.

      • I agree. Guns are no different than car keys. At some point a person’s faculties drop below a threshold where those around them recognize it’s time to make some changes. The keys are no longer available; the car disappears. The door to the basement gets locked. Mom moves into her daughter’s home.
        Usually, when this happens, the disabled person is no longer up to calling a lawyer and fighting for his view of his Constitutional rights to liberty and property. It all happens quietly enough.
        What we don’t need is to open this can-of-worms in a government-control way. We don’t want government standing in the way of adult children taking the car keys away from their elderly parents after these parents have lost the ability and fight to call a lawyer themselves. We know very well that the government won’t do a more effective job of preserving public safety. Instead, they will disrupt a system that’s been working pretty well by itself.

        • Just remember that these are the scariest words ever uttered: “I’m from the Government, I’m here to help”–Get the hell out!

    • (low whistle)… this is a tough call…
      Just as we’ve all encountered some individuals of advanced age who should have had their car keys taken away by their kids long ago… we’ve all also encountered the geriatric we would declare is desirable to have at our backs in a fight. This can only be addressed on a case-by-case basis; and I daresay none of us imagine ourselves being in that condition someday,but many of us will be.

  2. Yeah, there is no age limit. Young or old, if a person is or becomes incompetent, you have to intervene, or ask the local sheriff (not PD) to do a welfare check.

  3. Given my experience with some family elders, those who become incompetent don’t know that they are incompetent. They often think everything is fine. My father-in-law, didn’t suffer from Alzheimers, he was fine. He didnt know who anyone was, but he was no unhappy. It was his family that suffered.

    When that happens, at some point, the family needs to take the car keys and guns.

  4. Same as with what age is appropriate to pick up a gun. It depends on the individual. Same with car keys. If you’ve become a danger to yourself and others, it’s up to your family to persuade you of reality. If you don’t concede, well, then it comes down to how you want to interact with your loved ones in your final years.

    Do you want to be in court defending yourself from being declared incompetent? Do you want to argue about it nonstop at every visit? That’s even assuming there are visits.

    Do you want not to see your grandkids, anymore? Do you want everyone to mock you for the fool you’ve become, while suffering your presence in equal parts pity and terror?

    Play the “My right!” card all you want. Others will play the hand they’re dealt, too, and you may not like it. It’s up to you, pops. How do you want to play it?

  5. Tough call. I was OK with dad being armed until the day he went into the hospital.
    A month later mom starts telling me about the odd behavior dad was exhibiting a couple of months before his death last year at 84.
    Had I known then, I would have quietly and surreptitiously disarmed him.

    • Years back I worked with a guy who’s mom was going senile and having violent fits of rage.

      They took her gun and she flipped out demanding her stolen gun be returned. She just would *not* let it go.

      After a few weeks of her not changing her position, the family made an appointment for a gunsmith to remove the firing pin from her gun.

      Next doctor’s appointment, the smith dropped what he was doing to perform the surgery. Granny was none the wiser, and peace at home was restored…

    • That is exactly what we did to my grandpa as his Alzheimers advanced. It was very easy to remove the guns when he wasn’t looking. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy to get his car keys, and we waited too long. He pulled out in front of someone on the highway without looking and totaled his truck. Fortunately, no one was killed.

      As others have said, this is a mental issue, not an age issue. And the Fed needs to implement a procedure to allow family members to take possession of incapicated loved ones’ firearms without needing to do transfer. I know we didn’t fill out any paperwork or go through an FFL, so I have no idea whether what we did was legal in Illinois (don’t tell anyone). Some of my grandpa’s guns were antiques, and there was no way we were going to let some sheriff come and take them away.

      • Private transfers in Illinois had no background check requirement until the law changed in January 2014. Under the new law, the buyer needs to get approval by entering the seller’s FOID card number on the State Police web site, but transfers to immediate family members are exempt.

        I think you’re in the clear, legally speaking. Just make sure all the new owners of Grampa’s guns have FOID cards.

        • Every time I read “FOID” the image of some twit extending the middle finger of friendship is the 1st thing that comes to mind.

  6. Regarding the video at the top: It appears that the muzzle climb on that MP40 sends several rounds well over the range’s backstop. The four rules still apply, no matter what your age!

    • “Regarding the video at the top:”

      Seeing that vid reminded me of a dirt pawn shop on Nebraska Ave. in Tampa, Florida.

      Every time I would walk in, behind the counter in a wheelchair was a guy who was 90 if he was a year.

      He never said a word, he just sat there with a MAC-10 in his lap…

  7. My uncle took my grandmother’s gun away. It was the right decision. She is in her early 90’s and is more and more checked out as time goes on. She has in home care, and I believe that it is possible she could shoot her caretakers thinking they were home invaders. I don’t think it is likely because she just thinks that they are maids. She can’t remember who her great-grandchildren are anymore. She knew who my niece was last year, but couldn’t remember her this Christmas. If she lives long enough or her condition progresses fast enough, she may not be able to remember her children, and that could dangerous if she were armed.

    Ten years ago, we were worried about her driving because of her physical condition. I never heard anyone even suggest taking her gun away at that point.

  8. Right idea, wrong question.

    Age is irrelevant. Ability is.

    A more better question is what is a suitable criterion for evaluating gun ownership in elderly people.

    The second part of the question is are we suggesting guidelines for family and caretakers? Or is this some sneaky way to get more gun control?

  9. My Grandfather was a highly skilled gun maker/gun smith for decades. In his later years when he didn’t have the desire or the equipment any more, he had a revolver that was giving him grief. He gave it to my uncle to have someone take a look at it. Upon returning it to him, he took the revolver, aimed outside, and pulled the trigger. He fired a round through his sliding glass door and into the siding of the neighbors house. He immediately realized he had just violated several of the rules and had nearly caused a major incident. He handed the gun back to my Uncle and that was that.

  10. Don’t forgot that some older people have little or no choice but to move to some type of group living (nursing home, retirement home, assisted living) where guns are forbidden. This includes independent living facilities. We went through this with my Dad, who was mentally very sharp but had serious health problems. He found a retirement community he liked, but insisted that he would take a few of his guns there. He never would accept parting with all of them. He died fairly suddenly before he took any steps towards moving.

  11. Never ever, I don’t put down my friends and relatives either. If your old, then your cold. Older is a much wiser word! I love my M1 Garand, works and shines like a new born babe!

  12. I love how Farago lambasts anyone who considers taking guns away because jews, then writes an oped saying ban guns bc old. Mmmmk. Isnt it time to post another Cabot abomination?

  13. A lot to do about nothing. From the CDC: In 2014, more than 5,700 older adults were killed and more than 236,000 were treated in emergency departments for motor vehicle crash injuries. This amounts to 16 older adults killed and 648 injured in crashes on average every day.

    Too bad the statistics on how many people THEY kill and injure weren’t there, but I’m sure it’s way more than those who they kill with firearms for knocking on the door or any other reason.

  14. When my father realized he wasn’t the man he used to be, he handed me the keys to the cars and the combination to the safe.

  15. My wife’s grandmother kept a drivers license until 98 which included annual doctors certification and road test by DMV. She was almost 102 when she died and sharp as a tack until a few weeks before she died.

    My mother got Parkinson’s at 80 and no drivers license etc after that.

    Firearms a very similar thing where people vary tremendously in how they age. Up to family to decide when maybe some people need more care or no guns. Please Note – I said family not government

  16. lets cut the B.S. if we want a safe america we take guns away from black people. they have proven they cannot handle the responsibility.

  17. It’s only “wrong” until one of your own family members is delusional bc of dementia and thinks you all are strangers in his house. This is a family matter, not for the daddy-gov to decide on. We’ve got enough broken families turning to the .Gov suga-daddy for all they ‘needs’ the last thing we need is more government intervention

  18. Mental degradation to the point that you can no longer safely have a firearm is like drinking and driving: by the time you’re too drunk to drive you’re generally too drunk to know you’re too drunk to drive. By the time you’ve degraded to the point that you’re a danger to others you very likely don’t know it. Outside intervention is required.

    “And maybe not even if they’re suicidal.”

    “Not even if they’re suicidal”. FTFY.

  19. I say my dad’s decision was right: if you can’t pass a driving test any more, you give up the guns. It’s one reason he supported a campaign to require both written and driving tests for those 65 and over.

  20. Raymond
    I am going to guess your fairly young.

    Even here in Australia you don’t need a doctors certificate until your over 75 to renew a driver license. Practical driving tests come in after your over 85 depending on which state your in.

  21. I have one that’s over a hundred years old, and it still shoots fine.
    Oh, you mean ME!
    Sorry, I misunderstood the question.

  22. My Grandfather’s firearms were removed after he had a stroke around 74 years old. A couple of years later his children realized he still had a BB gun hidden in the barn they weren’t aware of, until after he popped my Grandmother in her fortunately well padded hind end. At that point they had to pry it from Grandma’s hands and she was still quite alive.

  23. Driving involves some muscle coordination, awareness and the ability to make decisions based on the immediate situation.

    Plenty of people reach a point, mentally, where they can do all of the above quite well, but don’t recognize their own children. This presents a completely different sort of danger when firearms are available. You drop in to pay Gramps a visit and he throws some lead your direction, thinking you’re there to rob him.

    Keep in mind – half the trap ranges in the country would shut down if they didn’t have regular members in the 80+ bracket. Plenty of old dudes still love to shoot and do it safely.

    I do like the idea of covert firing pin removal. No danger, no drama.

  24. Once I start getting signs of dementia I’ll lock all my guns up and give my kids the key, and if they sell any of the good stuff I’ll come back and haunt them for eternity.

  25. Well my mother in law lived with my wife and I for a few years and slowly developed Alzheimer’s. And she had a revolver I never saw(my wife did). She knew enough to surrender her car. I can’t tell what happened to any gun. It’s all individual and NOT age related. You can get early onset Alzheimer’s at 50…

  26. Reminds me of the movie “Goldfinger” where the elderly lady shoots at the bulletproof windshield of James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 with her MP-40.

  27. No. If I ever get to the point where I really require assisted living to continue to actually live, I plan to swim out to sea, and just keep swimming until I get to Davy Jones locker. Laugh all you want, that’s my honest to god plan.

  28. Ask Jimmy Groover, who is 64. BTW: Although I am a devout Glock and 40SW guy, Jimmy Groover makes the case for the 1911 and destroys the stupid blog post floating around the net that the “45ACP is a lousy self defense round.”

    Watch this dirtbag Donavan Chopin literally get blown backwards, after pulling a 2nd pistol and dropping the mag out of it.

  29. In this specific case, I would say that these people do not have a right to knock on a stranger’s door looking for a dog that they actually lost.

    And in general, I agree with the article’s statement that “we don’t know the whole story.” What we do know is what the injured party told the police, what the police told ABC News, and then what ABC news saw fit to tell us. Their record for truth (and gun-friendly truth) is not so good.

    (This commenter works with hospice patients and dementia patients and does agree that there is a time to remove firearms from the vicinity, but just like morphene, needs to be decided on a case-by-case basis. It is not age-based, and it is not something that can be generally applied in a nation of 300-million+ people.)

  30. Alot of this depends on family relationships and if the person has family. I have a very good relationship with my Dad. About 10 years ago (when I was in my late 20s) he told me that if he ever became unable to be a safe driver to take his car keys. When my mom passed away two years ago, she was in very good health until the last two weeks and didn’t even know that something was wrong until she went for her annual checkup. If someone has firearms and is starting to loose their mental facilities the problem only arises if there is no family member to transfer them to or hold them for safety.

  31. When I was in my late teens I read an “Ann Landers” column that addressed when old folks should give up their driver’s license and car keys. Lander’s answer was that it was best handled by the family, that seniors should trust their family members to determine the time to stop driving, and respect their decision. I made up my mind those 45 years ago that is exactly what I would do. I have told my wife and children that when the time comes, just let me know, because I have already decided that I will trust them and not argue the point.

    Same thing with my firearms. We’ll divide them fairly or sell them, except my revolver. We’ll have a gunsmith remove the firing pin, but leave it with me to hold and handle and remember the good times as long as I can.

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