My son is also a gun enthusiast who used to go to the shooting range with his friends at least a couple of times a month. Oh how he loved shooting those guns and he was so good at it. Unfortunately, he found this hobby around the time that I was seeing symptoms that gave me pause. Incidents of delusion and increasing isolation had begun appearing, increasing in frequency over a period of about three years. All the while, he kept insisting that he needed his own gun and when the day came that he wanted to go buy a gun, I knew that it would be a mistake to give him unsupervised access to guns. Manipulating the situation, I used my own bouts of depression, telling my son that those with any mental illness are not allowed to buy or possess firearms. Not even knowing if it was true or not, I stood my ground and refused to allow a gun to brought into my home. He looked so sad and it broke my heart to have to take that joy away from him. My point is that even before my son's actual psychotic break and subsequent diagnosis of schizophrenia and even though much of my mind was in denial about the aberrant behavior I was witnessing, my instincts as a mother were dead on when it came to guns in the home.
A year or so after his psychotic break and diagnosis of schizophrenia, we were still battling extreme auditory and visual hallucinations. Contrary to what you hear on the news or watch on the latest movie-of-the-week about mental illness, patients with schizophrenia are almost always only a danger to themselves, not others. Not only do the voices keep a constant barrage of demands to hurt himself but the severe depression that accompanies schizophrenia makes him vulnerable to suicidal thoughts. I was never afraid for myself around him but was in constant fear that he would hurt himself permanently before we hit on the right meds to get some degree of control of his hallucinations. During a particularly bad week, on a very hot summer night, my son's worst fear happened as the voices almost became more than he could handle. That night my son grabbed my bedroom door and shut it, crying for me to lock it and not unlock it no matter what. For over an hour we sat on either side of a locked bedroom door while he wrestled demons in his mind who demanded violence against him...and against me. As his symptoms subsided, he cried and I cried but I also felt extreme relief that there were no guns in my home that night. Let me be clear - although it took many more months to hit on just the right combination of medications to get my son's symptoms under better control, I have never not felt safe in my home.
While we'll never know if the rampage in Connecticut was the psychotic break of a young man with undiagnosed schizophrenia, I will always wonder what was going on in the mind of Adam's mother as she witnessed behaviors that should have set off red flags. I keep going back to those guns... in that house... with a young man showing signs of mental illness... and policies that allow killing-machines to get in the hands of sick young men. Go ahead and ask me what I think about gun control. What was Adam's mother thinking? As a nation, what are we thinking?