Monday, December 17, 2012

No guns for the crazy?

Naturally, with Sandy Hook and the mall shooting and nail salon shooting and all the other lovely "massacres" that have happened this year, everyone on the left feels the need to pipe up and talk about how stupid America is for letting people have guns and the right feels the need to blabber on about how everyone should be able to have 50 machine guns if they want. A few people in between extremes will say things like, "No, we shouldn't have 100% gun bans, but we don't need assault rifles, machine guns, bazookas, etc. Some reasonable gun laws will help prevent another thing like this."

When asked what's "reasonable," one of the many suggestions that continues to reveal itself is that people with mental illnesses should not be allowed to have guns. While at first blush, it may seem reasonable, upon deeper reflection, there is nothing reasonable about it at all for several reasons.

First and foremost, most Americans, indeed most global citizens, are painfully ignorant about mental illness in
the first place. There is a stigma of extremes; that all mentally ill people are just one degree from boiling over, thus releasing the The Hulk who happens to be armed with a machine gun. Mental illness comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and degrees. There are perfectly normal people whom you'd never guess even have a mental illness because they well adjusted. The same folks, even if they go months without their meds or counseling still would not haul off and murder 30 random people at the Kwik-E-Mart because they ran out of cherry Icees.

Most people's mental illnesses aren't that severe. A gal could have a case of clinical depression that effects her in her private life, but that she doesn't open up about to most people. She goes about her life in the usual fashion. She's never been in prison, she's never been institutionalized, still get up and go to work every day, she still pays her bills, she still does everything else a "normal" decent citizen does, but she battles with extreme sadness and feelings of worthlessness that don't go away just because her period does. Should she be denied a gun because she's "crazy?"

Another thing people commonly don't understand about mental illness is that it never goes away. Despite all the medications and counseling people may endure, they never "get better." They may learn coping mechanisms, but they're never "cured." Addiction is a form of mental illness and an addict never stops being an addict, but merely learns to cope. Should a recovering alcoholic who's been sober for 10 years be denied a gun because he's classified as mentally ill?


Yet another mental illness that comes into question is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Perhaps there's a woman who has been brutally raped. Perhaps someone who lives in a dangerous neighborhood has seen people murdered before. Perhaps someone has been kidnapped. Perhaps a soldier in Afganistan witnessed a children's hospital be blown up. It would almost be a miracle if people in these situations didn't have PTSD, however, should these people have any less of a right to protect themselves than any other law abiding citizen?


Regardless of whether you believe all firearms should be denied to all mentally ill people, there's another civil liberties issue at hand. How do we get guns away from mentally ill people who already have them? Do we send the police to bust down their doors and confiscate them? Plenty of states don't require any kind of registration for purchasing firearms, so how do we even know which mentally ill people have guns? Do we assume the worst and just search the homes of all mentally ill folks? Am I the only one who sees a problem with this? Besides, even if that happens, they could likely find hiding places or just have friends/family store the guns until the buzz is over. Then what do we do? Send the police to search the houses of all their known acquaintances? Sounds a little SS to me.

Another question, how do we go about diagnosis before denying someone firearms? Is there some, "Are you crazy?" test that comes on a gun application? Is there to be a psychiatrist at every gun shop who is trained to give psychological evaluations of every customer that walks through the door? Could we even trust such a person to give an accurate diagnosis when she's surrounded by people who have tons of guns behind the counter? Would we send people off to some clinic for a psychological evaluation? Is there a mental illness background check? Do we break doctor/patient confidentiality to find out?

Last, and most dauntingly, wouldn't all that just prevent people who desperately need help from getting it? There are plenty of people LOOOOOOOVE their guns and will go through a lot to keep and/or get them, mental illness or not. If there is a sudden ban on them, I'd be willing to bet that many of those people will choose to remain undiagnosed and untreated if they know they can keep their guns and have access to more.

There is no feasible way to institute a policy that would prevent mentally ill people from purchasing firearms, or at least not one I can think of. I'd be sincerely interested to hear one if there is. Yes, it's a scary proposition, but so is life in general. You have much higher a chance of dying in a car accident with a drunk drier than you do of being shot in a mall. I don't see anyone campaigning for an all out ban on alcohol. Just sayin....


Image stolen from uncyclopedia.wikia.com who probably stole it from someone else.


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