The guy wandering JC Penney a week ago with an assault rifle slung over his back has been pretty well beat up by now.
Deservedly so. His idea, allegedly, was to show that “good guys” could carry a gun in public in perfect safety. Anti-gun folks said he was scaring people, and pro-gun people told him to quit being a jerk, he was hurting the cause.
There’s one group of folks we haven’t heard from. I suspect this guy has no idea he was doing a great deal of harm to this group. Oddly enough, this group is people I bet you anything he claims to hold in highest regard.
It is our troops, the ones fighting and dying, as I am sure “Mr. JC Penney” would say, to protect his right to “keep and bear arms.”
More specifically, I refer to the thousands of troops who have come home from Iraq and Afghanistan horribly wounded by post-traumatic stress disorder. A lot of people have no clue how bad that wound is.
PTSD is a lifelong sentence of never knowing when something will kick off a furious “fight or flight” anxiety attack. It ruins lives, destroys marriages, causes suicides.
What kicks it off? Dr. Dawn Stewart, a psychiatrist who treats vets in Ogden, has clients who wake up in closets, no idea how they got there, the morning after Fourth of July fireworks.
I have a vet friend, Afghan and Iraq combat tours, who will not drive to Salt Lake on Interstate 15. A pile of garbage, a dead animal by the road, too many cars around, he’s back in Kabul dodging IEDs.
I mean that literally. Kabul is what he sees, not Centerville. He’s scared for his life.
Lots of things trigger PTSD: Erratic driving, crowds, loud noises.
Dr. Steve Allen was aghast that someone was wandering in public with an assault rifle. He runs the PTSD program at the George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center in Salt Lake.
PTSD, he said, makes victims “see other people as threats, so I would presume seeing someone carrying a gun, like that guy in JC Penney, would increase the anxiety of PTSD, because they don’t know that person, they don’t trust that person and they wouldn’t be armed.”
Make the vet feel better by letting him carry a gun too?
“One of the things that is common for soldiers from combat is that they want to carry their weapons with them,” he said. “That’s how they feel safe, but one of the things we work on with them is moving away from that combat mindset.”
Key word there: Combat mindset. Dr. Allen’s trying to help these people live happy peacetime civilian lives, not see a trip to the mall as a looming firefight.
Dr. Allen figures 14,000 Utahns have served in Afghanistan/Iraq over the years, some 4,000 of whom have been treated for PTSD. The terrifying fact that suicide is killing more of our troops than combat shows how hard his job is.
People wandering around in public, exposing their assault rifles, make Dr. Allen’s job harder.
Look, Mr. JC Penney, I can’t stop you.
Yes, you have the right to own that toy. Yes, you have the right under Utah law to carry it openly.
But think. These wounded soldiers are your friends and neighbors. They were wounded fighting for you and your rights. Don’t rub salt in their wounds. Leave the piece at home.