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thedrifter
03-05-09, 09:31 AM
Published Thursday March 5, 2009
A marksman in Iraq; No gun permit in Omaha
BY KEVIN COLE
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER

Sgt. Tim Mechaley trained fellow Marines to fire .50-caliber machine guns. He qualified as a marksman. He fought in the battle for Fallujah, Iraq, and received a combat medal with a "V" for valor.

I was trusted by the {federal} government to carry a loaded weapon, but now I am not allowed to purchase one by my local government," he said.

Mechaley, 32, has received counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder related to his service in Iraq. While completing an application for a gun permit, he responded "yes" to a question that asked whether he was being treated for a mental disorder.

"I circled yes because I wanted to be completely honest," he said.

As explanation, he wrote "PTSD from Iraq Marine combat veteran" on the form.

Mechaley's application on Jan. 10 was rejected, he was told, because of that answer.

After talking with police, Mechaley said he had been "too truthful" on the application.

He started to research gun-permit laws and applications and concluded that Omaha's permit application was overly vague on its mental-disorder question.

"If I was actually mentally defective, it would have shown up on the (National Criminal Investigation Service) background check when I purchased my hunting rifle."

What the permit form should ask, he said, is whether the applicant has ever been pronounced mentally impaired or has been committed to a mental institution.

"That's what the (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) form asks, and that's a valid point," he said. "I feel the form at the Omaha Police Department is too broad and misses the point of our laws."

A psychiatry professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center said, however, that having guns on hand could be too big of a risk for some with severe cases of PTSD.

Dr. Carl Greiner said he wasn't familiar with Mechaley's case and couldn't comment on it.

In general, he said, "There would be some specific instances where I would be concerned about someone owning a handgun because of public safety issues."

Using alcohol or drugs to deal with PTSD is a sign of potential trouble, Greiner said.

"That could result in lowered impulse control and the person might be more likely to use a gun," he said.

A gun permit also shouldn't be allowed when someone suffering from PTSD has a history of violence upon awakening, Greiner said.

"If that were the case and someone wanted to keep a handgun under their pillow, it could be a risk to family, friends and others," he said.

Many veterans suffer from PTSD, said Dr. Ahsan Naseem, director of the Lincoln post-traumatic stress disorder clinic of the Veterans Affairs Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System.

"It would be uncommon for a combat veteran to not be affected by combat, which is not to say that each combat veteran would suffer from PTSD," he said.

Naseem declined to comment on whether PTSD should be considered in granting gun permits.

Symptoms of PTSD can include powerful, intrusive memories that drill into day-to-day life. Nightmares, flashbacks and problems sleeping are common, too, he said.

Mechaley said his PTSD symptoms have improved with counseling.

While serving in Iraq in 2004 and '05, Mechaley watched eight friends die in combat. When he returned home, he began to suffer from flashbacks and had trouble sleeping. He was diagnosed with PTSD and started going to counseling.

In 2006, he was recalled to active duty to help train Marines to shoot.

He still serves in the Marine Reserves.

"I used to go in (to see the counselor) once a week while I was in the service, but everything is so much better now," he said. "I no longer have flashbacks or trouble sleeping, and I see the counselor only about once every three months."

Mechaley compiled his gun-permit research into an appeal. He took a vacation day recently from his job as a computer technician to present his case to the city's administrative board of appeals. He documented his claims of weapon proficiency, military service and valor.

If he had it to do over again, Mechaley told the appeals board, he would not have circled yes in reply to the question about being treated for a mental disorder.

"Some of our brave police officers also suffer from PTSD as a result of trauma in the line of duty, and they are allowed to carry a weapon," Mechaley wrote in a letter to the board.

Police department representatives who attended the hearing did not oppose Mechaley's appeal.

Appeals board member Garry Gernandt, a City Council member, encouraged Mechaley to take up the issue of how the question on the permit application is worded with Police Chief Eric Buske.

"The citizen needs to work with the city in a case like this," Gernandt said.

Buske later told The World-Herald that in response to Mechaley's case, the police department is looking into changing the question "so it's not quite so broad."

"We are reviewing our policy to ensure it is in compliance with the city ordinance," he said.

The department handled more than 4,500 gun registration applications in 2008. Of those, 39 were rejected. Twenty-three rejections were appealed, and nine of those were reversed.

The appeals board needed fewer than 10 minutes before voting 5-0 to grant Mechaley a gun permit.

Mechaley was relieved with the reversal, he said, but still hopes to convince the police department to change its gun-permit request form.

"There are a lot of combat veterans like me out there who come back and need some help to get over the trauma of war," Mechaley said. "I hope that my going through this will make it easier for the next guy to get a permit."

World-Herald Staff Writer Jason Kuiper contributed to this report.


• Contact the writer: 444-1272, kevin.cole@owh.com

Post-traumatic stress disorder


• 23 percent of veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and were treated by Veterans Affairs were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

• 21 percent of Nebraska veterans of those wars and who received VA treatment were diagnosed with PTSD.

Source: Dr. Ahsan Naseem, Veterans Affairs Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System.

Ellie

usmc0331
03-05-09, 04:20 PM
I dont blame them for rejecting him. No offense but if you get mentally weak from combat and have ptsd from a war with very minimal actual hardcore combat you shouldnt be allowed to own one.

Yes combat is stressful etc and fear is good to have but come on........firefights and ambush in Iraq are minimal and cant compare to our grunts who fought against the VC, Korean war, somalia etc.

SGTBrentG
03-05-09, 04:53 PM
I tried to just keep on going.....but, I just keep coming back to this response. 0331, are you serious? Can you define minimal firefights and ambushes? Would that be something like they were shooting at you but weren't really serious? How many of those minimal firefights and ambushes were you in? What is minimal? Define hardcore. Are those the ones that are actually trying to hit you when they shoot at you? How many hardcore ones were you in? I've never been in combat, so I wont pretend to know. That's why I am hoping you can help me understand.