A Mother’s Story: Why We Need Lethal Violence Protective Orders

My son Lex started buying guns on his 18th birthday. He was diagnosed with Autism when he was eight, and in his teens became increasingly reclusive and isolated. Lex refused to be evaluated, so we did not know that he was also living with undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenia.

What we did know was that he should not have had access to firearms.

Joe McBride, the owner of McBride’s Gun Shop, called me one day because Lex was trying to buy a gun. Fortunately, he would not sell Lex a gun because Lex looked like he was on PCP. Lex wasn’t on drugs, but his illness often made him act furtive and uneasy. After I picked Lex up from McBride’s, I called the Austin Police Department to request that they come over to stop Lex from buying guns. The two officers interviewed Lex and said that while it was clear to them that he was unstable, there was nothing they could do to help me. They told me that if Lex found someone willing to sell him a gun, he could buy one.

Over the next two years Lex bought many guns. There was nothing I could do to stop him, even though I knew he was potentially a danger to himself and/or to the community.

On Sept 18, 2013 Lex fatally stabbed his father to death at our home. Lex was subdued and arrested right after the murder.

Though it took a terrible tragedy, I was grateful that Lex was no longer able to harm anyone with his guns. Even though Lex didn’t shoot his dad, he clearly was extremely dangerous and eventually committed a murder. Despite his obvious instability, there was nothing I could do to stop Lex from buying guns.

I work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and know that there are many other families like mine in our community. Families who are afraid for their lives because they live with a loved one in crisis who is buying guns. I firmly believe Texas should enact an Extreme Risk Protective Order (also known as Red Flag laws) to keep our loved ones and our communities safe.

An Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) is issued by a court when there is sufficient evidence to believe that an individual is an imminent risk to self or others. The order temporarily suspends a person’s right to purchase or possess a firearm until a mental health evaluation is completed. If the person ordered was in possession of a firearm, the court would require an affidavit showing that the firearm/s had been surrendered and temporarily stored with law enforcement. After the one-year order, the individual could have gun rights restored if the crisis or threat to self or others had passed. As of April 2020, Extreme Risk Protective Orders laws have been enacted in19 states.

It is my hope that Texas will pass this law in 2021, to help prevent tragedies and save lives.