Dementia & Guns: A Deadly Combination

01.12.2022 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

There is a side to gun ownership that is not often discussed: what happens when a gun owner is no longer capable of safely owning or using his or her guns?

It is tragic when an individual with dementia ends up shooting a loved one.

Individuals who develop dementia frequently experience hallucinations or have times where they do not recognize the people around them.  This can be especially problematic if the individual has access to guns.  The individual may incorrectly believe someone they know is a stranger and that he or she needs to defend themselves.  It is tragic when such an individual ends up shooting a loved one.  In West Virginia, a grandfather with dementia thought he saw intruders entering his home, so he grabbed his Glock that he kept under his pillow and shot his wife and granddaughter.  The granddaughter was able to call for help, but the grandmother did not survive. 

Unfortunately, this can and does happen not only in other states but also right here in Minnesota. For families of loved ones with dementia, we commonly grapple with the question of when to take the car away.  Families should also discuss when the guns should be removed from the home or stored in a secure location for safety purposes.  This is a difficult conversation and the loved one may be in the denial stage of dementia.  In situations like this, families may need to involve the courts to initiate a proceeding to have the individual’s guns confiscated. 

Decide what to do with your firearms.

To prevent court intervention, families should engage in the conversations early on in an individual’s diagnosis so that the individual can be involved in deciding what to do with the firearms, to whom the firearms should go after they pass, or whether to voluntarily give them up.  For caretakers and family members, it is best to get this plan in writing and signed by the person when there is a voluntary relinquishment of the firearms.  This will be helpful in the future should the individual forget about the arrangement and make accusations that someone stole the guns.

Families may be forced to deal with this situation before they can bring caregivers or home health into the home.  Such agencies have policies that require that any firearms or weapons in the home be removed before their employees can come to the home.  By having a plan in place and removing the guns before there is a need for home health care or in-home assistance, families can avoid additional stress. 

If your family has a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia, be sure to speak with physicians, elder law attorneys, or care coordinators to help you understand the ins and outs of what is to come. 

Our elder law concierge service at Henningson & Snoxell provides family with a personal touch to help navigate the chaos that comes with a loved one with a dementia diagnosis. Please reach out to see how we can help you and your family through this challenging time.


Rachell L. Henning

Rachell Henning is an Elder Law attorney that brings a wealth of personal and professional experience to her practice.  From an early age, Rachell has been dedicated to assisting elderly individuals and individuals with disabilities to live their lives to the fullest.

Elder Law | Estate Planning | Family Law | Rachell Henning

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