When I was a kid, I remember my parents talking about the advice given in the Dear Abby column of our local newspaper. It almost felt obligatory for a paper to run the advice column every day since it so often seemed to provide fodder for conversations. It is my long-held belief that some of the stories sent were made up just to see what the columnist would say in response to the bizarre situation. However, other bits are often too common to believe them to be fabrications.
I never agreed with every bit of advice, but back in the day it seems most of it was good.
However, the advice given to a recent individual is pretty problematic.
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have been friends with another couple for more than 50 years. The four of us have shared lots of good times together.
After recent open heart surgery, the husband became very depressed and talked to his wife about “ending it all.” She asked me to take the few handguns (all legal) they had in their home to be safe. I didn’t feel I could say no. I’m not interested in guns, but it seemed a simple request. So she “snuck” them out to me during our last visit.
When the husband discovered what his wife had done, she told him about my role in it. He now demands I return his guns and says he no longer wants anything to do with me. His wife wants me to hold onto them for now.
What should I do? — TORN OVER THIS
I’m not going to lie, that’s a tough situation. I’ve offered to hold onto friends’ guns in the past when they hit a dark patch. So far, few have taken me up on it, but none of them have taken their own life. Thankfully.
Now, I get where “Torn” is coming from, but Abby’s advice is problematic to some degree.
See, while she does eventually advise Torn to speak to the wife and advise her to talk to her husband’s doctors and pass along the number for the National Suicide Hotline, she also tells him to hold onto the guns.
Here’s the problem, though. At some point, this kind gesture can be construed as theft.
After all, if the man has the serial numbers for the guns, he can report them as stolen and tell the police where to find them. Sure, Torn took them with good intentions and plans on returning them, but the truth is that he still has property that doesn’t belong to him and isn’t returning them to the proper owner.
Not knowing which state this is, the very act of handing them over could well be criminal in and of itself. Universal background check states don’t necessarily carve out exemptions for doing what you think to be good deeds.
On multiple levels, the advice might look fine, but it’s not. Not by a longshot.
Especially since this is based on the wife claiming the husband supposedly telling his wife he wanted to “end it all,” a claim that could be suspect depending on the couple. I’ve known more than one family where the wife was less than thrilled about the husband’s firearms.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the claim was made up as an excuse to get them out of the house. Or, if not fabricated outright, perhaps embellished by a overly-worried wife.
Either way, Torn would do well to hand the guns back and advise the wife that if her husband is that much of a danger to himself or others, she should follow through with the legal options available. They’re already out there and they don’t require taking someone’s guns from them.