Can a Veteran With PTSD Own a Gun?

Can a Veteran With PTSD Own a Gun?

If you are one of the many Veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you are entitled to understand your Second Amendment rights. Every state has different gun laws and gun control rights, so it is essential to review local laws or consult a Veterans’ law attorney to determine if your PTSD could prevent you from owning or buying a gun from a firearms dealer.

Veterans with PTSD may have an especially difficult time when trying to own guns due to the nature of their condition through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).The symptoms of PTSD can make gun ownership a higher-than-average risk for some individuals. If you are a Veteran with PTSD and are interested in owning a gun, make sure you know how your state’s gun laws treat PTSD.

It is not unusual for Veterans returning home from active duty to want to own a gun for protection and recreation. However, gun rights can be complicated for those who are diagnosed with PTSD. To ensure that you are receiving the most accurate and correct information regarding your gun rights, you should discuss your specific situation with an attorney who understands Veterans’ disability matters.

Berry Law Firm was founded by John Stevens Berry Sr., Vietnam War Veteran and trial attorney. Today, we count many military service members among our attorneys and staff. We know what it means to serve, and we know firsthand the struggles many of our clients face every day. In this post, we’ll discuss some of the challenges that Veterans with PTSD face, including the difficulties related to gun rights and PTSD. 

If you are a Veteran suffering from PTSD, you may be eligible to receive disability benefits from the VA. However, Veterans who file disability claims for PTSD often find their claims denied. If you are struggling to get the benefits that you deserve from the Department of Veterans Affairs, one of our experienced attorneys may be able to help. Our firm is dedicated to helping Veterans get the benefits that they need for their service-related disabilities.

Veterans with PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common anxiety disorder that affects thousands of Veterans each year. There are many types of traumatic events that service members may experience during active duty that can lead to PTSD symptoms.  

There are four primary categories of PTSD symptoms:

  • Avoidance: Sufferers of PTSD often find it overwhelming to confront anything that reminds them of their traumatic experiences. Veterans who have PTSD may even isolate themselves to avoid any reminders of their trauma, including people, events, places, and certain objects. 
  • Negative Thoughts And Feelings: People with PTSD often feel intense guilt and shame surrounding their trauma. Many people with PTSD may even blame themselves for traumatic experiences that were completely beyond their control. Because of these negative thoughts and feelings, PTSD often coincides with depression. 
  • Arousal: People with PTSD often feel a sense of constant anxiety and being “switched on.” A traumatic experience can make it easy for someone to feel on edge all the time, even if nothing is wrong. 
  • Reliving: One of the most common types of PTSD symptoms is the intense memories that come back long after a traumatic experience has occurred. These memories may come in the form of flashbacks or nightmares, and they often make it difficult for Veterans with PTSD to function during the day and sleep well at night. Many Veterans with PTSD have insomnia as a result.

While the most common precipitating factor for PTSD is imminent threat to life or limb, Veterans may also be disturbed by witnessing horrific events, discovering inhumane circumstances, or being the victim of prolonged harassment or military sexual assault (also known as military sexual trauma, or MST).  Combat zones carry continuous risk, and PTSD can be caused by seemingly regular events because of their context.  For example, needing to change a flat tire while in a convoy through an actively disputed zone can be a triggering factor even if there was no engagement with the enemy.

PTSD can happen to anyone, and it is not an indication of a person’s strength or weakness or even their mental capacity.  Often it is a Veteran’s own strength that causes them to be in a prolonged state of readiness to fight that eventually manifests itself as PTSD.  Veterans who are exposed to trauma or have been injured in the line of duty are significantly more likely to develop symptoms of PTSD than the general population. 

PTSD affects an overwhelming amount of Veterans returning from active duty. PTSD symptoms may occur immediately or may lay dormant until months or even years after a Veteran has returned home to safety.  Once they appear, PTSD symptoms can significantly hinder everyday activity and make life difficult to manage. If you notice any of your family members who served in the armed forces are having any symptoms of the mental health condition or mental health issues, it is best to seek medical advice for a PTSD diagnosis and look into if they are eligible for VA benefits.

PTSD Veterans and Gun Rights

In the United States, there are few federal laws about possession beyond the Second Amendment’s overarching guarantee of the right to bear arms.   There are also prohibitions against owning a gun under certain conditions as laid forth in VA Title 18 U.S.C. § 922, such as that the applicant “has not been adjudicated as a mental defective or been committed to a mental institution,” but there is not a direct prohibition against firearm ownership simply on the grounds of having a mental health diagnosis.

There is an ongoing debate at the national level about whether or not the VA can declare a Veteran mentally defective or having a mental illness for whether or not they should be allowed to own firearms without any other due process or lawful authority(see Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act).  Even while under debate, it is important to note that there is a difference between the VA granting disability benefits for a mental health impairment like PTSD and the VA determining that an individual is mentally defective.  The most common situation in which the VA adjudicates a Veteran as mentally deficient is when they have been put in fiduciary trustee status.

Special Considerations For Veterans With PTSD

PTSD is one of the most pressing issues that Veterans face when returning from active duty. If a Veteran has PTSD and would like assistance, they are encouraged to seek help from the VA to provide them with proper healthcare. If the VA determines that a Veteran’s PTSD is service-related, then the Veteran is assigned a disability rating to determine the number of disability benefits due. 

When you receive a disability rating from the VA, this rating directly corresponds with the number of tax-free benefits you will receive each month. Veterans with severely debilitating PTSD symptoms can sometimes qualify for a 100% VA disability rating, which grants the highest levels of monthly compensation. However, the VA does not always grant a high disability rating to Veterans with PTSD. In fact, this condition is one of the service-connected disabilities most often inaccurately assessed and rated by the VA.

If you are a Veteran suffering from severe PTSD symptoms, you deserve to get the compensation that you need to support yourself and your loved ones. PTSD’s symptoms can make it extremely difficult to work, and function in everyday life and the VA’s accuracy in assessing a Veteran’s disability claim can have a life-altering impact, for better or for worse. If the VA has approved your disability claim but given you a rating that is too low, you can appeal their decision with the help of an attorney.

Veterans typically want to get the highest disability rating possible to qualify for the most compensation. However, Veterans with a 100% disability rating for PTSD may have severe impairments that hinder them from performing basic everyday tasks. Depending on state laws, Veterans with this high disability rating may face implications stemming from PTSD and gun rights.

Veterans with PTSD and Gun Ownership: Get Help Now

Specific gun laws differ in each state and often at the county or city level, so it is essential to review local statutes or contact a PTSD attorney to discuss the unique gun laws in the area where you reside. An attorney can ensure that you are given the correct information regarding your PTSD and gun rights.  During your consultation, it is important to bring all of your medical records, disability determination, and relevant paperwork that might assist your attorney in reviewing your case. 

After thorough research has been conducted, you may find that you are eligible to own a weapon, or your local laws may put restrictions on ownership or even forbid it. Either way, it is important to find out so that you can remain in compliance with the law and not risk a criminal charge for illegally possessing a firearm.

To speak with a member of our team about your gun ownership rights, simply call us at 888-682-0786 or fill out our online form now. Your consultation will be free, and it will allow us to get a better sense of how we can serve you if you need to appeal a VA decision.


Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law Firm are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

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