(Photo: M. Spencer Green, AP)
“USA TODAY” By Lindsey Donovan
“Every day, 20 veterans take their lives — not surprisingly, two-thirds of them use a gun.
Yet in the midst of this crisis, our elected officials voted to remove from the background check system nearly 170,000 records of veterans with severe mental illnesses.
These veterans will now be able to purchase and possess firearms, even if they have been determined to be incapable of managing their own affairs.
I am a proud veteran of the Army. The seven Army Values are a part of my moral DNA. Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage are at the heart of who I am today.
These values serve as the backbone to every servicemember who has served or is still serving in our armed forces, and they deserve better than what our federal lawmakers have given them. Instead of protecting our most vulnerable veterans — men and women with severe mental illness — the House recently passed a bill that made it easier for them to get guns.
Our veteran population is facing a devastating suicide crisis
How did we get to a point where the gun lobby’s bottom line means more to our lawmakers than the health and safety of those who have bravely served this country?
This issue hits the raw nerve of individuals who have lost their husbands, wives, children and friends to suicide. For me, it’s personal. Though I am a proud veteran, I am also the proud wife of a U.S. soldier. My husband has completed three combat tours in Iraq and a fourth in Afghanistan. Anyone who has been a witness to what multiple wars and deployments can do to soldiers and their families knows that war is hell. We send them over to do a mission and welcome them back expecting them to go on as usual. But it never works that way. Transitioning back to “normal” is sometimes too much to endure and for some, in the blink of an eye, it can seem like the only way out is through the barrel of a gun.
My own experience is what fuels me to speak out and urge our lawmakers to take a stand against this very dangerous bill. Shortly after my husband’s last deployment, a soldier who served in his unit died by suicide with a gun. It happened a few days after we saw that soldier. The shock I felt was indescribable. And the pain and sorrow I felt for those left behind, I hope to never feel again. To this day I still think about that individual. I don’t so much concentrate on the why, but the how. It was the gun, a deadly means to a tragic end.
In basic training, I was assigned a “battle buddy.” We were each other’s keeper; we had a duty to one another, a bond cemented by a shared experience. I look at my fellow veterans in the same terms, staying true to the Warrior Ethos of “I will always place the mission first, I will never accept defeat, I will never quit and I will never leave a fallen comrade.” Granting access to firearms to veterans who have been deemed mentally incompetent by the Department of Veterans Affairs is not looking out for the men and women who so courageously served our country. It is a disgrace, and it is far from patriotic.
As a gun owner, a veteran and a volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, I know this is not a Second Amendment issue. This is an issue about common sense. This is an issue about moral courage and fortitude to stand up and fight to keep our most vulnerable veterans safe from gun violence. The House bill on veterans is the second attempt to roll back gun laws in Congress. Just last month, President Trump signed a law reversing a requirement that the Social Security Administration submit records of mentally impaired recipients to the gun background-check system.
I won’t sit idly by and watch this latest affront to our safety. Our veterans deserve better, our active-duty military deserves better, than lawmakers who cater to the gun lobby and ignore the crisis of veterans and suicide. The well-being of our veterans should be the priority, and our lawmakers should reject this dangerous legislation.”
“Lindsey Donovan, an Army veteran married to an active-duty soldier, is a volunteer leader for the Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety.”