07 August 2014

Live Fire: Recreational Shooting and PTSD


The smell of gunpowder, the thunder of live rounds flying downrange, and the sharp ping of steel against a practice target brings thousands of gun enthusiasts to the range every week. The experience of shooting and drilling with personal firearms is intoxicating for many but the experience can be totally different for veterans. The noises can be a form of therapy, bringing soldiers together in sport like old times, or it can bring back memories of combat with traumatic reminders of violence and stress. 

Every year in Maine at the Williams Machine Gun Range a group of wounded veterans and gun enthusiasts gather to put thousands of rounds down range as therapy. It’s called the Wounded Warrior Machine Gun Shoot, and it‘s just one example of hundreds that take place every year across the United States. Obviously, these events are much easier in states with lax gun laws.

Owner Andy Williams thought of the idea three years ago, and it has grown to have sponsors and dozens of veterans. Williams is proud to honor participating veterans. He says “What we are trying to do is associate the gunfire with good feelings, instead of the battlefield. What this is, is getting past post-traumatic stress.” 

Events like this are hugely beneficial for the vast majority of veterans who seek therapeutic outlets to stress and trauma, but there are exceptions. One of the most notable instances of ‘ammo therapy’ gone wrong was when Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in American history, was killed by a fellow veteran on a gun range in north Texas. San Antonio-based psychiatrist, Dr. Henry Croft, reaffirmed the positive potential for range time for veterans with PTSD, especially in the company of soldiers like Kyle but acknowledged the potential for flashbacks, nightmares, ect. On February 2nd of 2013, Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield, brought Eddie Ray Routh, a retired Marine struggling with PTSD, to the range when Routh snapped and killed both with a semi-automatic handgun. Kyle was a true American hero and died in service to a fellow soldier. 

What do you think? Was the Kyle murder a freak incident in an otherwise harmless pastime, or do veterans need to take more precaution when reliving the sounds and smells of combat? Is this a viable therapy for Post Traumatic Stress?  

Weigh in on the discussion here and connect within the RallyPoint community.

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