“Just so we are crystal clear: people with pre-existing mental health conditions have access to firearms, but not health insurance.”
That’s the post which has been circulating around Facebook lately. I’ve seen it at least 10 times. Since I am generally for both stricter gun regulations and universal healthcare, it might even be expected that I would agree with it. But I can’t. It’s personal for me.
Five years ago, I left an abusive relationship. Although I made it clear that I was more than ready to move on from him, he remained unwilling to let go. For months, he tried to worm his way back into my life. He would persuade family members who knew little about the situation to invite him to dinner without telling me. He got to my friends, convincing them that he was madly in love with me, deeply sorry, and that he only wanted a chance to make things right. More than once I went out thinking I was meeting a friend for coffee only to find him there waiting for me. In spite of the fact that he had a job and an apartment in a different city, he persisted in his pursuit.
His constant nearness terrified me. Throughout our relationship, he had made extreme threats: to kill himself, to kill me, to kill the people I loved. I grew increasingly paranoid. I wouldn’t let my dog stay outside for more than a few minutes, afraid my abuser might be out there lurking, willing to hurt an innocent animal to punish me. Once I came home late, after my parents were in bed, and I had to wake them up to confirm that he hadn’t broken in and murdered them while I was away. I held my breath every time I turned a corner, knowing he might be anywhere waiting for me.
After months of this fear, I decided I had to do something to reclaim my peace of mind. I was going to buy a gun, in spite of the fact that I had never believed in them. And once I made this decision, I felt safe again for the first time since leaving him.
There are people who would have denied me that option because at the same time, I was being treated for anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Some of these issues were caused by the abuse, while others have been ongoing throughout my life.
I am mentally ill, and I have never been a danger to myself or others.
Who is a danger? The man who beat and raped me repeatedly. The man who threatened my life and the lives of others around me. A man who was never charged with any crime because there was no proof. A man who, despite being obviously disturbed, has never been diagnosed with any mental illness. This man would face no obstacle purchasing a gun.
And as long as people like him have that right, so should people like me. We deserve to defend ourselves. We deserve our safety.