I didn’t know it was a problem. I grew up doing tornado drills in school. Now, my kids do routine active shooter drills at school. In less than twenty-five years, school shootings have become a common tragedy.
More than 9,870 Americans have died by gun deaths since January 1st of this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. We lost 2,799 lives on 9/11. This means we’ve experienced more than three 9/11s since January 1st.
For the first time in our history as a nation, gun deaths have surpassed auto accidents as the number one cause of death for our children. Auto accidents had previously been the number one cause of death for children for more than 60 years.
Gun deaths are a problem — and we have waited far too long for a solution.
I served as a combat medic in the Army for eight years. I was trained to save lives on the battlefield from gunshot wounds, and I also qualified as a sharpshooter with my M-16 — the military version of the civilian AR-15.
I know guns. When I was deployed to the battlefield of Iraq for 397 days, I lived with one strapped to my hip.
Before we entered any chow hall for meals, there was a barrel full of sand where every soldier had to clear and discharge their gun to prove there wasn’t a bullet in the chamber.
Putting on the safety switch wasn’t safe enough.
The Army was militant about gun safety because they valued and protected their soldiers’ lives. They weren’t willing to lose a single soldier to an accidental gun death.
One day we were on a mission, and the chow hall was run by Czech troops. They didn’t require guns to be cleared and discharged before entering to eat. We were all so hungry, but none of us would go in. We wouldn’t risk it.
We valued our lives more than being in a room with a bunch of soldiers who didn’t follow gun safety standards.
We respected guns and their ability to kill.
In Iraq, whichever squad had the most dangerous mission got the Medic — me — to be in their Humvee, so if something bad happened, I would be right there to keep them alive and call in a medical helicopter.
I saw a lot of things I never imagined when I enlisted at 17 years old. And in this unlikely place, surrounded by things I never imagined, I found my purpose in life: to be a peacemaker.
On the battlefield, this meant that I would give my life or take a bullet for another soldier, an Iraqi, or even an enemy. But I would never take a life. And after I left the Army, this meant that I would seek out other ways to wage peace and fight for safety and security without violence.
So how do we wage peace in the wake of another shooting? What’s the answer to saving lives and ending the all-too-common tragedy of mass shootings and gun deaths?
I believe the Army can show us how.
The Army follows a number of gun standards that truly save lives in the military. Soldiers are held to a minimum safety standard — and I believe that every American who owns a gun should be held to the same standard. It’s not a high standard, it is simply common sense.
Let’s talk about these standards…
These Army gun standards can truly save lives:
#1. Annual Weapons Qualification Test
Every year, for the eight years I was in the Army, I was required to go to a shooting range and pass a weapons qualification test.
I would show up in person and an instructor would ensure I was physically and mentally capable of loading and unloading my firearm, obeying fast-paced instructions, and accurately shooting moving targets — all while maintaining safety for those around me.
Army gun standards required us to prove we are not a danger to ourselves or those around us.
A Pass means you are issued a weapons qualification card. A Fail means you aren’t issued a gun.
No loopholes, no entitlement, just common sense standards.
As a medic, we put the safety of the whole above the individual. And we were better off for it.
#2. 100% Accountability for Securing Weapons
During basic training, I was issued a gun — and that gun’s serial number was immediately connected to my social security number.
It was my gun — and my responsibility to secure that gun. If someone else had access to take it or use it, it was my failure, and I was 100% accountable for those consequences.
Usually, the consequences of not securing a weapon would be for it to be taken away for negligence — because it’s a lethal weapon with the power to cause catastrophic harm.
#3. Concealed and Open Carry Banned on Bases
Base law enforcement officers and military police are the only people permitted to both concealed and open carry guns on most bases, according to The Military Times.
In July 2015, members of Congress were pushing for troops to be allowed to carry weapons on base, but General Mark Milley, now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded by saying, “I don't think soldiers should have concealed weapons on base.”
Most bases do not allow any personal firearms to be brought on the installation or stored in base housing or barracks. Troops living in barracks typically must register and store them in a base firearms storage facility.
In 2023, a panel even made a recommendation to the Defense Department that an even further reduction in access to firearms on military bases could significantly reduce suicide rates among service members.
If soldiers don’t practice carrying personal guns on bases it begs the question of whether civilians might be better off without carrying firearms into Taco Bell or Walmart.
These are the gun standards my fellow soldiers and I were held to during our time in the Army, and I believe they served us well and saved lives — and continue to do so. They aren’t yet requirements for gun ownership in the United States, but countries around the world have implemented similar standards to great success.
Japan, for example, requires gun owners to attend an all-day class, pass a written test (similar to a driving test), and then achieve at least 95% accuracy shooting at a target. That’s on top of a background check, family interviews, and a mental health evaluation at a hospital. Guns are fairly prominent in Israel, but registration with the government is still required and there is a limit of one gun per owner. Many other countries have limited the types of guns that can be issued and require a gun safety class for ownership.
I believe we have an opportunity for the United States to join the rest of the world by implementing common-sense gun reform.
Adopting Army gun standards into law would ensure the Constitutional right to use a gun is connected to the public responsibility of owning a gun.
Minimum safety standards keep gun owners safe by requiring them to have and maintain the proficiency to protect themselves and those around them at all times.
In 2010, only two states allowed adults to carry a gun without a permit. As of 2023, 50% of states allow anybody to carry a gun — no permit, testing, or safety training required. This is dangerous. But, I believe we can still reverse course and implement common-sense reform.
To be sure, we don’t all have to hold the same opinions on guns, the military, or politics in order for us to agree we need to do something.
The people I served alongside in the Army held a wide range of political beliefs, but we shared the belief that we carry the responsibility to keep one another safe, even at our own personal sacrifice.
Unity is not conformity.
We can pass laws that regulate behavior, without requiring anyone to change their opinions or politics.
“Laws cannot change hearts but they can protect our children from the heartless” as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. says.
As a veteran, I know freedom is not free, and neither is personal freedom without public responsibility.
We want our kids to be free to go to school without fear. We each want to be safe to spend time in public without being afraid of another shooting.
Let’s take action today, for the tomorrow that we dream of for our kids. Call your representatives and tell them to pass military gun standards.
Diana Oestreich is a soldier turned peacemaker and author of the book Waging Peace.
She describes herself as a peacemaker, author, activist, veteran, and former sexual assault nurse. Speaking across the country she empowers audiences to “identify our own rural, urban, political, or religious divides to cross our own ‘enemy lines’ in order to remake the world and heal all that’s tearing us apart.”
She’s appeared on multiple podcasts and blogs discussing justice, faith, peacemaking, refugees, anti-racism, activism with kids, and how her posture of love shapes how she parents and shows up for her neighbors.
Diana, her partner Jake and their two sons, Bridger and Zelalem live along the shores of Lake Superior on Ojibwe land. They are an Ethiopian-American family woven together through adoption and a shared love for bad jokes and competitive card games.
You can get to know Diana, read the first chapter of her book for free, and learn more about The Waging Peace Project at dianaoestreich.com.
What is the veterans for gun safety reform? ›
Veterans for Gun Reform unites veterans in support of common-sense measures to reduce gun violence, including firearm suicides. Veterans for Gun Reform is a nonpartisan program of Brady that unites and mobilizes America's service members to address our country's gun violence epidemic.How many veterans support gun control? ›
57.5% of Veterans Think All States Should Implement “Red Flag Laws” 56.6% of Veterans Would Not Participate in a Gun Buyback Program. 36% of Veterans Don't Own Any Firearms At All. 58.8% of Veterans Surveyed Own Pistols, 37.2% Own Shotguns, 30.5% Own Hunting Rifles, and 22.5% Own “Assault”-Style Rifles.Can the VA take away my guns? ›
To be diagnosed as mentally incompetent, you must “lack the mental capacity to contract or to manage your own affairs, including disbursements of funds without limitations.” If this happens, the VA can take your gun, and it's the veteran's obligation to then prove they have the capacity to get it back.Can someone with PTSD own a gun in California? ›
Federal law also generally prohibits people from possessing firearms if they have been involuntarily hospitalized or committed to a mental health or substance abuse treatment facility by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority.What is the Veterans Mission Act? ›
The VA MISSION Act was signed into law to give more veterans access to medical care, whether inside or outside the VA.What federal law protects veterans? ›
As a protected veteran under VEVRAA, you have the right to work in an environment free of discrimination. You cannot be denied employment, harassed, demoted, terminated, paid less or treated less favorably because of your veteran status.Can a veteran own a full auto gun? ›
Automatic weapons, also known as machine guns, can be legally owned by private citizens as long as the weapon was made before May of 1986 and is registered with the federal government. Any machine gun made or imported after 1986 can only legally be owned by a licensed dealer, police, or military.How many FBI are veterans? ›
This Veteran's Day, the FBI honors all who have served the U.S. in uniform, including our nearly 6,000 veterans at the Bureau. Thank you for your service. ShadowWolf A Wilson and 1,969 others like this.Which state has the most combat veterans? ›
Number of veterans living in the United States in 2021, by state.
|Characteristic||Number of veterans|
Once you turn 55, you are typically "protected" and will no longer have to attend an exam to prove that your condition has not changed unless there is reason to suspect fraud. This is sometimes called the 55-year rule.
Is 70% PTSD a permanent VA disability? ›
The veteran's total disability due to PTSD is permanent with no likelihood of improvement. The 100 percent rating for PTSD is total, permanent, and static in nature.Does PTSD keep you from owning a gun? ›
Many fear that seeking disability for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will prohibit them from keeping their weapons. However, it's unlikely that a veteran diagnosed with PTSD will lose gun rights.How much is VA PTSD compensation? ›
Depending on the severity, a veteran's diagnosis of PTSD is eligible for VA disability rating of 100% ($3,621.95/month), 70% ($1,663.06/month), 50% ($1,041.82/month), 30% ($508.05/month), 10% ($165.92/month), or 0% (no payment).What do I say to get 70% PTSD compensation? ›
The 70% rating criteria for PTSD include occupational and social impairment and deficiencies. Veterans with a 70% PTSD rating show the following symptoms: problems in most areas of their life, such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood.What is the VA rating for PTSD? ›
What is the Average VA Disability Rating for PTSD? On average, most veterans who receive VA disability for their service-connected PTSD are rated at the 70 percent level.Why veterans do not use the VA? ›
Of the veteran and active service members who reported to the annual Wounded Warrior Project Survey that they have never used VA health care services, the most common reasons given included preferring to use other health care coverage and too much trouble or red tape.Do veterans like the VA? ›
The survey, which asked Veterans about their experience with VA health care since the MISSION Act was implemented, found that more than 80% were satisfied with their VA health care. Nearly 75% of Veteran respondents reported improvements at their local VA, and more than 90% would recommend VA care to fellow Veterans.What is the Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014? ›
The Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014 (H.R. 4810) is a bill that would allow United States veterans to receive their healthcare from non-VA facilities under certain conditions.What is a veteran but not protected? ›
What Is a Non-Protected Veteran? You are not considered a protected Veteran if you did NOT serve active duty in the U.S. military OR if you received a dishonorable discharge from the military.Who is not a protected veteran? ›
Not a Protected Veteran: A veteran who meets federal and/or state definition to qualify as a veteran but is not in the protected class of veteran for employment, reemployment or benefits. Additional Veteran Status is a supplemental box to Veteran Status.
Are US veterans a protected class? ›
Veterans Are a Protected Class
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA): Protects disabled veterans from workplace discrimination and guarantees them the right to reasonable accommodations.
The license required to sell these weapons is called a Class 3 Special Occupational Tax permit, hence the common name “Class 3 weapons.” Class 3 weapons, or Class III, consists of Machine Guns, Short-barreled Shotguns, Short-barreled Rifles, and Silencers or Suppressors.What does SOT mean in firearms? ›
Special Occupational Taxpayers are a group of Federal Firearm Licensees in the United States who manufacture, import and/or transfer NFA weapons.Can you have a loaded handgun in your car in VA? ›
As of July 1, 2010, a concealed handgun permit is not necessary when carrying a handgun while in a personal, private motor vehicle or vessel and such handgun is secured in a container or compartment in the vehicle or vessel. The term "secured" as used does not require the compartment to be locked.What are the 5 types of veterans? ›
Under VEVRAA, a veteran may be classified as a ''disabled veteran,'' ''recently separated veteran,'' ''active duty wartime or campaign badge veteran,'' or ''Armed Forces service medal veteran. '' active duty* in the U.S. Military?Does CIA prefer veterans? ›
We value the skills, dedication, and unique perspectives military veterans bring to the Agency. As part of our diverse workforce, veterans play a vital role in our mission.What are FBI soldiers called? ›
The Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) is the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) elite tactical unit. The HRT was formed to provide a full-time federal law enforcement tactical capability to respond to major terrorist incidents throughout the United States.Which branch of the U.S. military sees the most combat? ›
The Marine Corps is often first on the ground in combat situations.What city in the U.S. has the most veterans? ›
Colorado Springs, Colorado, tied with Virginia Beach and Jacksonville, Florida, for the city with the highest veteran population. The city ranked second for quality of life.What state has the least amount of veterans? ›
New Jersey had the lowest percentage of veterans, at 3.9%.
What is the VA 67 year old rule? ›
When veterans reach age 67, all VA disability payments would revert to the amount associated with the rated disability level, veterans who were 67 years of age or older, who were already receiving would no longer receive them at all after the effective date of the option.What is the VA 8 year rule? ›
8-year provision: VA provides an 8-year provision for surviving spouses of totally disabled veterans (including those eligible for TDIU).At what age does VA disability stop? ›
VA disability does not stop because of a veterans age. VA disability compensation benefits are for the life of the disabled veteran.Can you collect Social Security if you are 100 percent disabled veteran? ›
A Veterans Affairs compensation rating of 100% P&T doesn't guarantee that you'll receive Social Security disability benefits. To receive disability benefits from Social Security, a person must have a severe impairment expected to last at least one year or to result in death.What is grossly inappropriate behavior? ›
Grossly inappropriate behavior is a symptom of a severe mental disability. At first glance, it might seem like the word “gross” references a negative connotation while, in actuality, it is simply an umbrella term for different types of behavior.What will VA disability pay be in 2023? ›
|Dependent Status||70% Disability Rating||100% Disability Rating|
|Veteran (No Dependents)||$1,663.06||$3,621.95|
|Veteran with Spouse (No Dependents)||$1,804.06||$3,823.89|
|Veteran with Spouse and 1 Child||$1,907.06||$3,971.78|
|Veteran with 1 Child||$1,757.06||$3,757.00|
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness. You can develop it after experiencing something that you find traumatic. This can include seeing or hearing about something traumatic. The symptoms of PTSD can start immediately or after a delay of weeks or months.Can PTSD be used against you? ›
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder develops after an individual has experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. In divorce and custody cases, PTSD can be used against the individual.What crimes are related to PTSD? ›
Examples of violent offenses the veterans with PTSD involved include sexual assault on others, physical assault, and robbery with violence.What is the VA 10 year rule for disability? ›
TEN YEAR RULE -The VA 10 year rule means the VA cannot eliminate a rating that's been in place for 10 years or more. However, the rating can be reduced if medical evidence shows that the disability has improved.
What is the VA 5 year rule for PTSD? ›
The VA disability 5 year rule allows the VA to ex-examine your VA disability rating within 5 years of your initial examination if your condition is expected to improve over time. However, the VA may still change your disability rating past the 5-year deadline if your condition has significantly improved.Is 50% PTSD a permanent VA disability? ›
Yes, PTSD is considered a permanent VA disability. The Department of Veteran Affairs recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder as a serious, life-altering mental condition and will award disability benefits to qualified veterans suffering from PTSD.How does the VA verify PTSD claims? ›
To obtain a VA disability rating for PTSD, a veteran must generally establish the following three elements: (1) a current diagnosis of PTSD; (2) a corroborated in-service stressor; and (3) medical evidence linking the PTSD diagnosis to the stressor. Sizemore v.What is the average VA rating for depression? ›
The 70 percent disability rating criterion for depression and anxiety is the most inclusive insofar as it represents a wide array of symptoms, including a progression of symptoms noted in the lower disability ratings.How to get to 100% from 70% PTSD? ›
- Method 1: Appeal the Decision or File a New Claim. The most straightforward approach is to appeal VA's decision on the original claim. ...
- Method 2: Prove Individual Unemployability (TDIU) ...
- Method 3: File for a Secondary Service Connection. ...
- Assistance with Your Claims and Appeals.
100% – “Total occupational and social impairment, due to such symptoms as: gross impairment in thought processes or communication; persistent delusions or hallucinations; grossly inappropriate behavior; persistent danger of hurting self or others; intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living (including ...What are the 17 symptoms of PTSD? ›
- Agitation. Agitation is a feeling of anxiety or nervous excitement. ...
- Nervousness and anxiety. ...
- Problems with concentration or thinking. ...
- Problems with memory. ...
- Headaches. ...
- Depression and crying spells. ...
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts. ...
- Mood swings.
VA Disability Ratings and Gun Ownership
VA disability ratings for PTSD can be 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, or 100%. A Veteran's gun ownership is not restricted simply because he or she receives a higher PTSD disability rating, and Veterans with 100% PTSD ratings typically retain their gun rights.
World War I (April 6, 1917, to November 11, 1918) World War II (December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946) Korean conflict (June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955) Vietnam War era (November 1, 1955, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period.What are rookies and veterans? ›
The rookie builds their business on an original, untested model; the veteran builds on the groundwork already laid by other businesses who have been successful.
What did the GI Bill of Rights give to returning servicemen in the US? ›
The result was the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the GI Bill of Rights. This act provided returning servicemen with funds for education, government backing on loans, unemployment allowances, and job-finding assistance.What is the veterans 10 year rule? ›
If the Veteran's eligibility was due to a service-connected disability rated as totally disabling, they must have had this rating: For at least 10 years before their death, or. Since their release from active duty and for at least 5 years immediately before their death, or.Are all veterans considered soldiers? ›
Under US law, a veteran is defined as a "person who served in the active military, naval, air, or space service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.” With this definition, those who are actively serving in the military do not fall under the category of a veteran.What are 5 characteristics of a veteran? ›
The Army: Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, personal courage. The Navy and Marine Corps: Honor, courage, commitment.What was the benefit act of 1944? ›
Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 22, 1944, this act, also known as the G.I. Bill, provided World War II veterans with funds for college education, unemployment insurance, and housing. It put higher education within the reach of millions of veterans of WWII and later military conflicts.What benefits do World War 2 veterans get? ›
World War II Veterans may be eligible for a wide-variety of benefits available to all U.S. military Veterans. VA benefits include disability compensation, pension, education and training, health care, home loans, insurance, vocational rehabilitation and employment, and burial.
Officially the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, the G.I. Bill was created to help veterans of World War II. It established hospitals, made low-interest mortgages available and granted stipends covering tuition and expenses for veterans attending college or trade schools.