by Bob Poliquin, Managing Editor ~
Life-altering bad things can happen quickly around water, fire, and firearms. We all have a story about each of those, but let’s focus for a just moment on the sensitive issue of elders and guns.
Some of us have been around guns our entire life. Hunting and shooting were normal activities of childhood and often continued into adulthood. Yet for others in our active-adult communities, firearms may be new hobby or a need for self-protection as we feel more vulnerable.
For those who grew up around guns, there is not much mystery to them. Like a car, a firearm is a machine. It’s a mechanical device designed to force a high-velocity projectile out of the end of a metal tube. For the adult in us, there may be the sense of security a firearm offers or the challenge of precision at the range. And for the kid in us, there is still the thrill of the noise, recoil, and muzzle flash. Nevertheless, there is respect for the machine itself and the damage it can do instantaneously to persons and property. Everything we do with and around firearms (whether the weapon is loaded or unloaded) is attentive and deliberate, which comes from good training and decades of safe habits. There is no room for being sloppy or careless. Ever.
Now let’s hit a nerve. What are some indicators that it may be time to give up your firearms or to take them away from a loved one who may not want to give them up?
Carol Bradley Bursack in her article “Armed and Aging: Should Seniors Be Allowed to Keep Guns?” says, “Many families are familiar with the dreaded process of taking away an aging loved one’s car keys. Whether an elder starts getting lost while driving, experiences a few fender benders or near misses, or their eyesight or reaction time is worsening, at some point it becomes clear that they should no longer be on the road. In my opinion, guns are in the same category as cars.” So, is your family is talking to you about giving up your driver’s license? Maybe it’s time to give up your firearms as well.
We all slow down as we age, but are your cognitive functions diminished in that it interferes with thought processing? Because safely handling firearms is a deliberate process that often requires complicated problem solving. Firearms malfunction for lots of reasons, both mechanically and by operator error. Resolving malfunctions safely calls for clear thinking.
The American gun culture is almost unique to the US; nevertheless, there are intelligent, informed, and well-intentioned folks on both sides of the debate. The right to bear arms is much different than the need to or the want to. The highly-charged difficulty comes in knowing the time to give them up voluntarily or the time to take them away.
Although Bursack admits she has never owned a gun, she wisely concludes, “Ultimately, no family member wants to infringe on a loved one’s independence, but at some point, we must take responsibility for their wellbeing and our own. Being a caregiver isn’t about doing what is easy; It is about doing what is best for those we love.”
We will discuss what to do with unwanted firearms and ammunition in a future article.