By Norris Burkes
Posted Oct 15, 2017
In the ancient biblical story of Cain murdering his brother Abel, Cain asks God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
It’s a question I can’t help but wonder whether Eric Paddock, the brother of Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, has been contemplating. While I can’t know Eric’s anguish, I do believe we share a few things as they relate to being our brother’s keeper.
First, I too have an older brother in Las Vegas whom I call by the nickname “Brotherman.” I phone him every morning to talk to the kindest guy you could ever meet. He’d give you anything if you just asked him. We end our daily conversations with “I love you.”
However, Eric Paddock and I also share the fact that our brothers are delusional. Fortunately my brother’s delusions became drastically noticeable. So, last year I literally became my brother’s keeper with power of attorney and placed him in a senior-care facility. I also confiscated his only gun from his bedside stand.
Brotherman believes the Earth is flat and that the government uses hurricanes as WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction). But worse yet, he believes that mass shootings are staged media events.
He gets these ideas from listening to the mentally deranged claims of internet radio personality Alex Jones. With several million listeners, Jones is a conspiracy theorist who is the breathing definition of Fake News. Among other things, Jones questions whether the Sandy Hook massacre of kindergarteners actually happened. If you’ve not heard of Jones, you should. Donald Trump listens to him and has appeared on his show.
So, given my brother’s tendency toward these Jones-inspired theories, my first reaction was to call and assure him that the Las Vegas shooting was a real-life incident. I was worried he might upset his caregivers or the other residents by questioning the reality of this atrocity.
He took a patronizing tone as he quoted more internet conspiracy garbage. He believes that there were more shooters and vaguely implied FEMA’s involvement. Before ending our conversation, he told me that he’s feeling persecuted and is possibly being drugged by facility caregivers.
However, the most worrisome thing I have in common with Eric is that Brotherman can legally purchase dozens of guns. Gratefully, he’s never had the money or the desire to make such a purchase. But he has a car and enough spending money from his disability check to buy at least one gun from a Wild-West Nevada gun show.
If we shared my home state of California, I might be able to prohibit my brother from making gun purchases. Under a California law passed in 2016, I could seek a temporary restraining order that would prevent him from owning a gun.
Unfortunately, he lives where poorly regulated gun shows and automatic weapon ranges are part of the daily landscape.
I had some hope for my brother in the common sense gun regulation implemented by the previous administration. The directive prohibited the purchase of guns by people who are unable to work because of severe mental impairment. However, Trump repealed that rule Feb. 28.
Gratefully, my situation is different from Eric Paddock’s in at least one way. My brother’s behavior was evident. If Stephen Paddock had shown more obvious signs, I’m certain Eric would have taken steps to stop him.
Given that difference, I remain committed to being my brother’s keeper. And it’s that commitment which marks the distinction between just having a brother and being a brother.
I love you, Brotherman!
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