NY Times Takes Another Stab At Guns And The Mentally Ill

This is THE Sunday story, featured on the front page at the top right

When the Right to Bear Arms Includes the Mentally Ill

(I’m skipping past the typical opening drama story)

A vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not violent. But recent mass shootings — outside a Tucson supermarket in 2011, at a movie theater last year in Aurora, Colo., and at the Washington Navy Yard in September — have raised public awareness of the gray areas in the law. In each case, the gunman had been recognized as mentally disturbed but had never been barred from having firearms.

After the Newtown killings a year ago, state legislatures across the country debated measures that would have more strictly limited the gun rights of those with mental illness. But most of the bills failed amid resistance from both the gun lobby and mental health advocates concerned about unfairly stigmatizing people. In Washington, discussion of new mental health restrictions was conspicuously absent from the federal gun control debate.

The bills tended to fail for three reasons: one is the stigmatization of those with mental illness (mentioned later in the article). The other is that Democrats tend to incorporate all sorts of over-the-top gun-grabby provisions in the legislation. Third, there was the notion that people who had done nothing legally wrong but had some sort of mental illness could see their rights infringed.

Many states have laws which allow the seizure of guns from “mentally ill” people who pose a danger, mostly for up to one year. Some have gone further

Several months after Officer Laird’s death, the Indiana legislature passed its seizure bill, giving the police explicit authority to search for and confiscate guns from people who are considered dangerous or who are mentally ill and off their medication. The police can keep the guns, upon court approval, for five years.

This year, in the wake of the Newtown shooting, in which 20 children and six adults were killed, the mental health debate in state legislatures focused largely on two areas: requiring mental health professionals to report dangerous people to the authorities and expanding the mental health criteria for revoking gun rights.

One legislature that ultimately did act was New York’s, which passed a far-reaching — and controversial — measure that requires mental health professionals to report to county authorities anyone who “is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others.” If county officials agree with the assessment, they must submit the information to the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, which alerts the local authorities to revoke the person’s firearms license and confiscate weapons.

This is a double edged sword: on one hand, people who make explicit threats or seem a danger should probably not own weapons. However, on the flip side, they haven’t actually acted on those impulses. Having a mental illness is turned into a thought crime, and the ever-expanding view of what is considered a mental illness could preclude people from exercising their 2nd Amendment Rights. There’s also a consideration that these laws violate their person privacy and the confidentiality between them and their doctor/mental health professional.

They should probably not drive, either, but they’re mostly still allowed to operate a motor vehicle. What of people without mental illness, say, all the Jihadis/Islamists who profess a love for killing infidels?

Here’s an interesting portion of a comment to the story

The problem is not stigmatizing the mentally ill, or the 2nd Amendment. The problem is the danger some people present to others. Any person suffering from such a mental illness who relies on medication to remain “stable,” such as the examples given, has no right to own or possess a firearm. Their stability only lasts for as long as they continue to take their medication, and therefore it is not sufficient to ensure their responsibility and accountability.

That’s an excellent point. But, much like handicap placards are given out for an ever-expanding list of “disabilities”, like someone not wanting to walk that far, mental illness is an ever-expanding list. Most people will not be dangerous. Do we take their guns away? Should we take all the knives out of their homes? Restrict them from driving? That’s why this is a tough issue. Making violent threats is not Free Speech, but usually threats are empty bluster and someone just speaking out with no intention.

Final thought: while this is an important issue, perhaps the focus should be on getting guns out of the hands of actual criminals who use guns all the time for crime. Not always shootings, but for robberies, rapes, and other crimes.

Crossed at Right Wing News.

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