I have suffered from depression for most of my adult life. And probably a significant portion of my childhood, although it was undiagnosed during those years. I received treatment for the better part of eight years, and at least six of those were medicated.
Most firearm forum people would consider me an owner of “many guns”. And my collection is ever-expanding, to the point that I am in process of becoming a registered firearms collector.
Yes, you can own a firearm as an individual suffering from depression and related illnesses. To claim otherwise is ignorant of the reality.
The process is fairly simple. You attend the mandated proficiency training. Then you apply for your competency certificate, and complete the section regarding mental illness truthfully. When you attempt to submit your application, the DFO will ask for a medical assessment from your treating doctor. Any doctor will gladly oblige this request if they do not object to you owning a firearm. I’ll elaborate on this shortly.
Your competency should not be declined on medical grounds if you are not considered to be a danger to yourself or others. Your history will show whether you are or not. The people interviewed by your DFO for your competency application must be honest during this process.
Once you obtain your competency, there is no difference in applying for a licence than there is for someone who doesn’t suffer from depression.
You are not required by law to disclose your medical history – you can choose not to declare that information. But you also declare the information in your application to be truthful to the best of your knowledge. So I strongly suggest you complete that section honestly and without fear.
The most important thing to consider when deciding to apply for a firearm licence, is whether or not you consider yourself ready and stable enough for the responsibility.
I delayed owning a firearm for many years, because I felt I could not trust myself to react rationally to situations at all times. This has since changed significantly. Sit down with your partner or spouse, parents, close friends and a doctor (individually), and have an honest conversation about your mental state and their perception of your preparedness for what is a big responsiblity.
This is what I did. And I set the bar high to begin with. If anyone raised a single doubt about my fitness, I would not have started the process. Everyone thought I was ready. And so did I.
The issue we have is that people who realise something is wrong and seek to resolve the problem via modern medicine are treated as outcasts – unfit to participate in normal life, according to many in the community. Yet many people walk around untreated and undiagnosed. And there is no outcry from this very same community about them having access to firearms. Because they have not sought help.
Don’t be afraid. You are who you are. Be honest, and then follow the process just like everyone else does.
Written by Corné van Driel
Corné is an active member of the South African firearms community. He has carried a gun for self-defense for a number of years, and regularly competes in IPSC matches. Additionally, he also runs a defensive firearms and training-related website, and regularly attends advanced firearm training.