To say the past two weeks have been difficult would be a gross understatement. As most of you are well aware, the driving force behind Bearing Arms, editor Bob Owens died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on the morning of Monday, May 8, 2017. I think I can safely say I’ve experienced every emotion there is and possibly even a few that have yet to be identified.
As I told his wife Christine, although we may get more information in the days and weeks after his death, we’ll never get the answer we want. All we can try to do is make peace with the fact that he’s gone and band together to carry the torch he lit, continuing to light the way for others while working to advance suicide prevention efforts in our industry.
In the days after Bob’s death, I was very thankful for the advice of my friend John Tiegen: “Stay off social media,” he told me. “You don’t want to read anything they have to say about him.” Well, at least I tried to.
As I eased back on to read the touching messages and articles written about the man I was so proud to call my friend and mentor, an avalanche of emotions damn near buried me. I was thankful for the outpouring of condolences, disgusted by the vitriol, humbled by the votes of confidence, horrified at the accusations against him (and me, for that matter), rage at the social climbers using his death to gain attention, and sad that I didn’t have my friend to talk to about all of it.
The ignorant attackers were, for the most part, easy to dismiss. The fact is, although they believed their intended target was in their crosshairs, they weren’t wounding Bob, they were taking shots at his grieving family and friends. Those who gleefully used his own words to attack him (again – he’s gone and cannot be hurt) while claiming his previous comments were bad/wrong/insensitive/inflammatory/racist/cruel were making a conscious decision to behave the same way (if not worse) than they believed he had acted. Knowing it was hypocrites attacking innocent grieving victims definitely served to lessen the sting.
Delete, block, moving right along.
One message I kept seeing from friends and loved ones was a wish that Bob had reached out for help in his battle against the obvious depression he suffered from. As one of his best friends, I can tell you that Bob Owens was actively fighting this battle, and he most certainly wasn’t doing it alone. Not only was he in therapy, he also spoke with both John Johnston and myself almost daily. As Johnston put it, “Bob did everything there was to be done, and he lost. That’s not a reflection on Bob, that’s a reflection on what he was fighting.”
Last week, as Christine and I worked to organize some of the controlled chaos of his office, we found a list Bob had written just a few short weeks ago. In the tiny print of his scribbles, he shared things that were contributing to his stress, and I realized that Bob was more than likely suffering from a lot more than people were aware of.
PTSD and depression are liars, working to sell suicide to the lowest bidder. They silently creep into our minds and slither into our fears to punctuate our insecurities and stifle the truth until we’re left with an altered perception of reality where the only conclusion to be made is that our loved ones and this world would be much better off without us.
The reality is, we are all fragile – it’s as if we’re made of glass. At different times in our lives, we may crack and take on a stress fracture or two (or five or six), but without proper care and attention, those tiny crevices can eventually join together to rob us of our strength and allow lies seep in, further damaging our already vulnerable sense of self.
Unfortunately, it took hold of Bob just long enough to knock him down, smashing him to pieces and robbing us of the opportunity to protect him in his most fragile state. In the end, while we rejoice in the knowledge that our creator has healed Bob’s fractures, we’re still left to extract the shards of glass his death cast deep into our broken hearts.
At his memorial service, Bob’s brother Ricky expressed how humbled he was at the outpouring of condolences not only from friends and family but from so many people in the industry his brother was proud to be a part of. Visiting with his family after the service, Bob’s mother said she only wished her son could have seen how respected, admired, needed, and valued he was before his death – to which I quickly retorted, “I don’t know that he would have believed it.”
“Oh, you’re right,” she said. “Even if he could have heard it, I think he would have just dismissed it.”
That was Bob.
While it will undoubtedly be difficult to begin the journey, gone but not forgotten is my new credo, and I’ll work every day to deserve my role here because I know that without Bob Owens, I would not be where I am today. I would imagine quite a few of you feel the same way, whether it be in your Second Amendment advocacy, utilizing our easily-linked facts/stats and instances of how guns do save lives, your individual firearms training, or the ability to argue the right to carry.
Regardless of your position, no matter how much you don’t want to bother anyone, nevermind the effects it may have on your career or personal life – if you are struggling with suicide, I beg you to reach out for help. You are loved more than you know and whatever you’re struggling with today is not worth robbing your family and friends of your life forever.
God Bless Bob – may he rest in peace finally knowing how very much he was loved and respected.
*This article was written via iPhone on Mother’s Day during my flight back from Bob’s funeral. Upon returning to work, I was told “you are not allowed to publish this” on Bearing Arms and no article has been published about him on the site since his death.
After reiterating to Salem Media the detrimental effects their demands were having on BA editors, sharing Bob’s letter which explained this in detail over the first two pages, and demanding better working conditions for myself as Editor-in-Chief as well as all future editorial staff, I was informed my “position had been eliminated” effective immediately, and both Bob and I were promptly erased from their site.