More must be done to keep guns away from the mentally ill

Tacoma News TribuneJune 19, 2014 

Re: “Deadly intersection of guns, mental illness” (TNT, 6-11).

I have a story which is very personal and haunts me daily regarding gun laws in Washington state.

My 52-year-old younger brother Chris suffered undiagnosed mental illness for many years. He lived all his life with my elderly parents, who have dementia and stroke disabilities. Over the years he became increasingly hostile and aggressive and isolated himself in his tiny bedroom with many guns.

Chris had domestic violence citations due to threats against neighbors and my parents. He once put a gun to his neighbor’s head, which landed him in court. He also had an arrest for a theft at a large store with a handgun.

In 1993 he threatened a neighbor and his friends with his rifle as he claimed they were making bad remarks to him. He had a ton of history with King County deputies due to this history.

In 2013, my elderly father finally was fearful enough to get a protection order against Chris and have him removed from the home. Of course Chris was furious. He left attended by sheriff’s deputies and took his personal belongings. The deputies also let him take some of his guns. He came back a second time with the deputies and took more of his guns.

During this time my brother was contacting my parents illegally asking for money. On Aug 20, at 1 a.m., Chris came to their home. They let him in, and a few minutes later he put a gun to his head and shot himself.

He was angry with the world, angry with them and had his gun to solve the problem.

Why did King County – which knew of Chris’ past behavior with guns and violence – allow him to take his guns with him? It seems to me complete insanity to have a “protection order” against a person with a history of aggression and allow him to leave a home armed and furious.

My brother had an obsession with guns; he detested government and the police and was a time bomb. I unsuccessfully tried to get him to seek mental health treatment.

It might be guns that kill, but it is mental illness that also needs to be addressed. It’s the mentally ill, angry person who pulls the trigger.

I’ve worked in mental health and have seen nothing but budget cuts to mental health programs and facilities. Washington has the worst mental health care in the nation with the fewest number of beds per capita than any other state.

We have a huge drug culture up here, depression is common in this gloomy climate, and the state does little to aid these people or protect our communities.

I grew up in a family where guns were used for recreation and for protection in our home. I always believed this to be our right. I have changed my mind completely, as I feel guns ownership should be restricted to persons who have no serious history of mental illness, violence or criminal behavior.

If a person has a protection order against him, he shouldn’t be let go with a firearm. This is common sense seriously lacking in Washington state.

Kathleen Jacobs lives in Federal Way.

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