08 March 2013

Sen. Feinstein's insulting lies about veterans and PTSD

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has managed to stick her foot in her mouth in a very big and particularly insulting way. During yesterday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Senate Bill S.150 (The Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 [1], Sen. Feinstein made the following comments:

"with the advent of PTSD, which I think is a new phenomenon as a product of the Iraq War, it's not clear how the seller transfer of a firearm covered by this bill would verify that the individual was a member or veteran and that there was no impairment of that individual with respect to having a weapon like this... I think if you're going to do this you have to find a way that veterans who are incapacitated for one reason or another mentally don't have access to this kind of weapon." -Sen. Dianne Feinstein"

You can hear her words at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjR-UaLl5PM

Since this is not a political blog, I won't get into my feelings about gun control, and I ask my commenters not to. What I want to talk about here is Sen. Feinstein's inaccurate and insulting comments about PTSD and mental illness.

Every time a tragedy happens and someone says "Oh, she must have Postpartum Depression" or "Oh, he must have PTSD", I object, and I say that I think that mindset further stigmatizes mental illness, as well as causing people to buy in to the idea that if you have PPD or PTSD or any other mental health issue, you're a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off in a blaze of tragedy and homicide. I get so many arguments about it that I've written blog posts to further explain my point of view (these posts can be found here and here). Today, I believe that Sen. Feinstein has just proven my point for me.

I have several very big problems with Sen. Feinstein's remarks. One problem is that what she said is so incredibly insulting to veterans, whether they have PTSD or not. To assume that all veterans are just waiting for the right nudge to go murder someone is the exact opposite of the supportive attitude we should have towards those who volunteer to serve our country and, for many of them, end up in combat as a result.

On top of that, there's the fact that she has just assumed that PTSD means that you're a violent person. Sen. Feinstein's remarks are indicative of the problematic attitudes and stigmas towards mental health that make it so hard for people to speak up and say "Hey, I need help.". I mean really, who wants to seek help if it's just going to make people treat them like monsters, or mean that they get things taken away from them?

That doesn't even touch on the fact that her comments are factually inaccurate. PTSD is not a new phenomenon. Veterans of the Iraq War were not the first servicemembers to come home with PTSD. ALL wars have left servicemembers struggling to make sense of their experiences and left them with PTSD. I'd love to see Sen. Feinstein go tell the veterans of World War 2, Vietnam, Korea, the first Persian Gulf War, and every other conflict our country has been involved in that PTSD wasn't a problem for them. Please Sen. Feinstein, go ahead. Say that to their faces. I'll go along and hold the camera to record the reactions you get.

The other issue is that PTSD is not specific to the military or to combat. PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I will agree that a large amount of the awareness that the American public has towards PTSD now is due to the servicemembers who have come home with PTSD, but people who have never served a day in the military end up with it too. Rape victims, people whose houses burned down, people who survived 9-11, first responders who help at scenes of accidents, crimes, etc., survivors of Hurricane Katrina, people who lose a loved one unexpectedly, women who have a traumatic childbirth (Postpartum PTSD is a real thing), and so many other scenarios. Any traumatic situation can cause PTSD.

I worry that Sen. Feinstein's remarks may have done irreparable damage not only to the men and women who struggle with PTSD (or any other mental health issue) but to the very cause of fighting for awareness, education, and the destigmatization of mental illness.

I will be calling, tweeting, and emailing Sen. Feinstein to ask her to please apologize for her troubling and factually incorrect comments about PTSD and mental illness. Will you join me in contacting her? Here's her contact information.

Senator Dianne FeinsteinUnited States Senate331 Hart Senate Office BuildingWashington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-3841
Fax: (202) 228-3954
TTY/TDD: (202) 224-2501
Sen. Feinstein's website: http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact
To email Sen. Feinstein: https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-meTwitter: https://twitter.com/senfeinstein

Let's speak up and let Capitol Hill know that we won't stand for this type of blatant lying and misrepresentation. Let's speak up for the veterans who volunteer to serve our country, as well as for people suffering from all manner of mental health issues.

[1] Title of S.150 crafted by the bill's author, Senator Feinstein.



  1. Thank you for writing this. I did send a message to the senator. It disappoints me so much that she made these statements! I've voted for her! I understand she didn't mean offense but she seriously needs to educate herself!

  2. WTG Esther. Thanks for standing up to this bully. Ms. Feinstein is a huge embarrassment to the people of California. As a former resident, it's nice to know there are still plenty of folks like you who will proudly stand their ground against this stupidity.