by Elizabeth

Software engineer Christopher Lacy shot and killed California Highway Patrolman Kenyon Youngstrom during a routine traffic stop last week. And dailyrepublic.com set out to take the pulse of its Golden State readership in the wake of the murder. Here’s the poll question they posted: “Christopher Lacy, the man suspected of gunning down CHP officer Kenyon Youngstrom last week during a traffic stop, had been treated for mental health problems, according to his family. Do you think that alone should restrict someone’s right to bear arms?” . . .

If they’d been an attorney and posed that question to a witness in court, they’d have been flagged for asking an outrageously leading question. “Mental health problem” covers an almost unmanageably wide rage of conditions. The way the question’s posed, that could encompass anything from depression to paranoid schizophrenia. Should any mental condition cancel someone’s second amendment rights? Despite the way the question’s framed, it’s surprising that “only” 68% have responded that any mental illness should cancel your carry rights.

Lacy was actually bipolar with a history of hallucinations and paranoia, so yeah, no guns for him. But what about the person who seeks therapy for depression after a death in the family? Or someone who develops an anxiety disorder after a traumatic event? Should they be deprived of their Constitutional right to armed self defense? If we can’t trust a person with firearms because of mental issues, then that person shouldn’t be on the streets without a handler.

Where do you draw the mental health line where guns are concerned?

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109 Responses to Question of the Day: Where Do You Draw the Mental Health Line?

  1. I don’t draw the line. Should we draw a line for the 1st Amendment and mental illness? An ill person could easily kill someone with a hatchet, car, gasoline, crossbow, black powder revolver, etc.

    • So, you’re perfectly ok with allowing a potentially mentally unstable person to purchase and own a firearm? This is assuming they’re stable enough (at the time) to check the box on the form that specifically asks about mental health?

      Even if it means they might wig out one day (maybe they don’t have their medication with them or have a bad reaction to something) and use it to commit a crime in a moment where they were not in control of their mental faculties? I’m not saying it should be completely black and white, hence my suggestion for regular follow-up mental “evaluations” or updates for anyone currently seeing psychiatrist at the time of a firearm purchase. If at any point they have some sort of break, then they should probably have their firearms temporarily confiscated until they are deemed mentally “able” once again.

      What kind of light does that put the “responsible, legal gun owning community” in if we’re ok with allowing potentially mentally unstable people to directly own firearms?

      Doesn’t seem responsible to me. It’s not like I’m saying they should be outright banned from every using a firearm, they can certainly use one if they’re supervised by a mentally stable relative and friend. Nothing stopping them from enjoying firearms as a sport via proxy.

      The only downside is on the subject of personal self defense. Unfortunately, if mentally unstable individuals are not allowed to own or be in direct possession of a firearm, well that is the real subject here. Does mental instability override the fundamental right for self-defense?

      You simply have to weight the pros and cons. Is their mental condition such that they could use their legally owned firearm against law-abiding citizens if, say, they didn’t have their medication one day? What is the chance of that happening?

      You have to measure the likelihood of them having a mental break vs. the likelihood they may need to use their firearm in a DGU. And of course, there are lots of extenuating circumstances to consider. Do they have relatives or friends that legally own firearms? Maybe they don’t personally need one if they’re always in the company of people that have them.

      To me, it’s a sticky situation when you’re talking about the lone person that has mental issues and wants to own a firearm for whatever reason.

      • “Doesn’t seem responsible to me.”

        We aren’t supposed to be responsible for anyone but ourselves. That’s the cornerstone of liberty, individualism, and the American way.

        • Oh really? Is that why you refuse to conform in so many ways? You never wear a seat belt in the car, you don’t put clothes on when you go to the store because of how hot it is, you don’t step aside if a woman is pushing a baby stroller down the sidewalk.

          You just do whatever you want because that’s the true meaning of liberty, right?

        • Again, I bring up the “do you let your friends drink and drive” argument?

          Not a big deal if your buddy says they’re OK to drive, right? Yet drunk drivers kill thousands of people a year.

          Something isn’t adding up to the whole “cornerstone of liberty, individualism, and the American way.” reasoning when we’re talking about being responsible as a legal firearm-owning community if we’re ok with allowing people that are mentally distressed or currently seeing a psychiatrist for issues that may impair their judgement (including their judgment while operating a firearm).

      • Actually, yes. Even the mentally ill can have a real need to defend themselves. And I support the right of the first person he or she actively threatens to shoot the lunatic. There is no anger, hate, revulsion or vigilante “justice” involved, simply self defense and defense of the herd.

        Is it hard on the family of the mentally ill who get killed? Yes, of course it is. How hard would it be on YOUR family if he killed you? That’s not a choice I would want to make but if it came down to it I’m pretty sure which way I would choose.

        If you are a normal honest person how likely are you to go on shooting other people after the threat is removed? Can you say the same if he is not stopped? Unless you are prepared to take him or her under your total control and make every choice for them (custodial hospitalization) it is wrong to deprive them of their own choices and responsibility for them.

  2. I agree that a person who’s judged too unstable to own a gun should be supervised 24/7. Such a person left to their own devices can procur a weapon in any number of illegal ways and do much damage. The recent spate of mass killings in China using edged weapons proves this.

  3. When someone is committed because he or she is a threat to himself or herself or others, then no guns until that person has recovered to the point where he or she is no longer a threat. Other than such a commitment, I don’t see how or why a person could be deprived of a Constitutional right.

    And before someone me tells me that 2A is an absolute, I’ll note that if a person can be deprived of liberty, as in a prison sentence or an involuntary commitment, they can certainly be deprived of guns — unless you think that people in prison are entitled to be armed.

    • “…unless you think that people in prison are entitled to be armed.”

      I don’t, but it might cut down on that whole repeat offender problem we keep having. Just a thought.

    • “And before someone me tells me that 2A is an absolute, I’ll note that if a person can be deprived of liberty, as in a prison sentence or an involuntary commitment), they can certainly be deprived of guns — unless you think that people in prison are entitled to be armed.”

      Well put. I have struggled to come up with that line of logic.

    • “…unless you think that people in prison are entitled to be armed.”
      Well, that might cut down on the overcrowding problem. Kinda like escape from Manhattan.

    • There are folks who are functional while on their meds, but unholy dangerous while off, and the fact is we don’t have the will or the funds to commit them all. In a situation like that, I don’t think that actual custody or commitment should be a prerequisite for a temporary loss of your right to bear arms, but there should be a proper judicial process involved – it should not be at the whim of a local sheriff, and the loss of such right should not, at least in the first instance, be permanent – the state would have to come back to court and prove that the condition is incurable. Anyone who is judged to be such a danger should probably also forfeit their right to drive and have custody of their children.

      Of course, family annihilators seem to get the job done using cars, knives, shovels, cleavers, pills and other non-firearm weapons.

      • In CT 30 days in a mental hospital gets your guns and permit yanked. There is a firearms review board of which you can petition to have them returned only problem is it can take a year to get in front of the review board. However, if you are a habitual offender of not taking your meds, you fail the standard to show you are stable enough to have your permit or guns back.

        Depending on the mental illness, the individual and their family situation you may or may not be rejected. Anyone who is violent while off their meds is automatically disqualified.

        • So in CT gun ownership is ok with a gov’t issued permit, subject to the whims of a gov’t no-name employee, and can be removed or withdrawn at any time. Doesn’t sound like a GOD-given individual civil right to me.

    • The percentage of people in prison who ARE armed is probably about the same as the percentage of people not in prison who are armed. And they are in prison with someone else responsible for every decision. They may not be armed with guns but over the course of human history guns are relatively new and people have been killing each other since before they decided that they were people.

  4. The way the laws are written now requires an adjudication of mental illness and a danger to self or others. Most if not all states can lock you up against your will for appearing suicidal or crazy ( a 5150 here) for up to 72 hours, but this is not enough to deprive one of the right to bear arms, or at least never should be because there is no hearing or determination by an independent third party of the extent of the disability. whenever it comes to rights, due process must be observed.

    • The USSR was famous for declaring protestors crazy
      Putin has a different take, skip the mental health hearing completely, beat, murder dissenters.
      We no longer live in a democratic republic and this ‘debate’ is to cover Obama’s next E.O.

    • According to prominent DNC members, Republicans already qualify as insane and should be rule unfit to participate in the election processes.

      Contrast that with the ever-popular definition of insanity: Doing the same thing expecting different results. Now let’s see, which party keeps trying the same failing tactics with everything from economy to gun control? Oh yeah, I remember…

  5. So not an easy question.

    First you have a problem with diagnostics. Your average over-burdened community psychiatrist will usually throw out a quick “Axis I” diagnosis for a set of symptoms because the treatment protocol (medication) is more straightforward and easily implemented. That gets a lot of patients labeled with Mood/Bipolar or Psychotic disorders (or both). And within each larger label, there are many specific diagnoses. Very very few are specifically prone to violence (certain manifestations of Depression and Paranoid Schizophrenia, for example, but not all). However, if they are, and the treatment protocol isn’t maintained (or is ineffective), you get very very bad headlines.

    What many community docs miss (or avoid on purpose) are certain “Axis II” diagnoses (much harder to treat) that include a number of Personality Disorders that are indeed more prone to violence or suicide. PTSD and “Intermittent Explosive Disorder” (a newer one) also fall into this catagory of higher risk and difficult to treat, but in all disorders there is a range of severity–the label alone doesn’t tell you how bad the symptoms are (only that they interfered with the patient’s quality of life or functioning to get them into treatment).

    Technobabble aside: Where I usually see failure is in communication. If a patient hasn’t been adjudicated (i.e. commited by a judge) because of danger to self or others, it probably won’t wind up as a flag in the system. (And a good defense attorney can get someone who needs that kind of care out of it.) Otherwise, there are strict confidentiality protections, which can only be broken when a therapist feels that someone is in danger (assuming they catch it and do something about it). And then, that reporting may not get far depending on the attitudes/motivation of local law enforcement. (A lot of LEOs I’ve known don’t know how to handle mental health crises, or get quickly sick of the revolving door when they transport someone to a crisis center.) The surest system is when someone with mental health issues does something to get themselves convicted of a crime, so they get flagged that way.

    Otherwise, too many of the ones that make the bad headlines do so on their first really bad break (a lot of them before they’ve gotten noticed or gotten treatment), so the risk avoided detection. Others had effective treatment and were not at risk, but lost it after budget cuts shut down their access.

    I don’t have an easy answer to this, and I’ve buried a ridiculous number of people (suicides and homicides) in my career looking for one. What we’re still missing is a clear and consistent way to proactively identify risk–a diagnosis isn’t nearly enough (and the vast majority of those diagnosed don’t flag, unless they self-report), and waiting until after they’ve demonstrated their risk is too late. (Sometimes they’ve even demonstrated their risk and it got ignored–I’ve seen that waaay too many times.) There are lots of risk-assessment tools available to professionals–they either don’t get used or the results don’t get communicated.

    The whole social services system in this country is a mess. (And it makes me a bad 2A-supporter: It’s usually the Republicans that cut theses services further, resulting in tragedies, so I can’t bring myself to vote for ’em. But neither can I agree to throw more tax money at the existing bureaucratic swamp–it’s kind of like sending aid to some third-world disaster area knowing the local warlord/despot is going to take most of it.)

    I am so not helpful.

    • The conundrum in a nutshell, when it comes to supporting the 2nd Amendment and having a social conscience:

      “The whole social services system in this country is a mess. … It’s usually the Republicans that cut theses services further, resulting in tragedies, so I can’t bring myself to vote for ‘em. But neither can I agree to throw more tax money at the existing bureaucratic swamp–it’s kind of like sending aid to some third-world disaster area knowing the local warlord/despot is going to take most of it.”

      • Do everything you can, yourself, to help those who you deem need it. This will prevent ‘tragedies’ far more than what welfare does, as it furthers the lie that man can be happy living dependent upon others and robs them of self-sufficiency and therefore contentedness. Support small, basic government for those things which the Constitution empowers it, and you will be helping those in need and supporting the 2nd and all other amendments consistently. No conundrum necessary.

    • Sorry, if you research you will see both parties are to blame and even in knee deep democratic NY the pols have reduced funding on mental illness which why so many people with mental illness are treated in prison. In NY about 20% of then inmates should be in a mental health facility and not jail.

      Governments as a whole have failed on healthcare as a whole and mental health specifically and neither has a fix.

      • It seems worse on a state-by-state level. Some cut funding, some waste funding on wasteful programs. When I was in AZ, tax cuts led to funding cuts and for-profit managed care, and I saw very bad things (and yes: the biggest mental health program became the Maricopa County Jail). In CA, they were throwing lots of money at the problem, but too much of it was going to the multi-level bureaucracy (at one agency, fully half of our wage budget was going to State Workers Comp), and we know how bad CA is off now. The Governator and the legislature pushed the budget cuts, and the folks receiving services suffered along with everybody pulling a paycheck from it, and a lot of providers went out of business. I just tend to expect cuts from Republicans because they’re usually about less government and spending (which I’m otherwise all for).

        The issue is about getting the right services to the right people. (And I tend to see a lot more folks who really don’t need it eating up the government support because they can play the system–worse, they seem to honestly think they deserve the ride.)

  6. Christopher in this case was actually hospitalized against his will for a psychotic break, with hallucinations and delusions. I certainly don’t believe in repealing one’s right to keep and bare arms but for those diagnosed with schizophrenia or having been hospitalized against their will for a psychotic break, I would think this would be a reason for pause.
    Chris might have been the nicest guy in the world, and while on meds, and getting therapy was probably pretty sane. Once he broke off his meds and or therapy he lost touch with reality. What he saw approaching him that day, to him might not be a CHP officer, but something else.
    The major red flag here was the hospitalization.
    If I felt there could actually be a way to filter people I would say yes, but in most implementations there is abuse of the power which causes people who should be allowed being denied.

  7. As someone that works in the mental health field I wouldn’t want to have to make that determination. And as a responsible gun owner I hope there isn’t a committee out there preparing to make that decision on a national basis; those of us in the field rarely agree on the definition and symptoms of a disorder so I doubt a randomly assembled panel of individuals would be capable.

    • And yet millions of people see psychiatrists on a daily basis, so there must be come consensus and confidence in the psychiatric field about the service they’re providing?

      Just because you don’t feel comfortable with it, doesn’t mean there isn’t a qualified mental health expert that can do the job and do it well….

      • Except mental health professionals OFTEN disagree when diagnosing patients. Mental health is not an exact science, and is HIGHLY subjective in many cases.

        • Eh, you can say that about any field if you get enough “experts” together. Happens to doctors all the time. However, we’re not talking about the entire miriade of mental health issues.

          Just the ones that most pertain to use of a tool that can cause the injury or death of another human being. Namely mental health issues that can cause or are related to:

          1) Impaired Judgment
          2) Violence (past or present)
          3) Worsening of their mental condition due to stress.
          4) Strictness and effectiveness of any current medication (sure they’re in control now, but if they miss a dose, will they be suffering from acute onsets of #1-3?).

          Which is why said experts should be a rotating panel of select mental health experts chosen from the top of their fields, with enough accreditation to be deemed “acceptable”.

  8. Another way the government will seek to use healthcare to further restrict our rights. If they can define someone as mentally ill, for any symptoms, they can declare them unsafe to own firearms. It could be as simple as the meds you take on a regular basis. In my case, I can’t sleep without meds, my body has built up a tolerance to Lunesta, ignores 2 of the 3 remaining pills available for long term use (I refuse to take Ambien, I’ve seen the side effects) so my doctor prescribed an anti-depressant which also acts as a sleep aid. Would this be enough to get me black-listed? Some would say yes because it is a mood altering drug, but that is not why I take it. I don’t trust the government on this any more than on anything else at this point.

  9. Until a person is convicted of a crime, they are not a criminal and shouldn’t be treated as such.

    The idea that we can accurately predict who will and wont commit a crime before they actually do it, is not rational.

    • Well yes, this isn’t Minority Report. But that said, psychiatrists do have some insight on various mental conditions that are simply not conducive to that person having access to a firearm whether current or in the near future.

      That and many mental health conditions can be measured by severity and there are existing quantifiable tests that can measure current mental health.

      Someone currently suffering from depression because of a death in the family that is deemed mentally unstable probably shouldn’t have access to a firearm (whether previously purchased or someone else’s). That’s just common sense. So it should also be common sense that that person shouldn’t be allowed to just go out and purchase a firearm in that same mental state. Does this mean they can never purchase a firearm? Of course not. Once they are deemed “mentally stable”, healthy or back to normalcy, they can go about their business and purchase whatever they want.

      I think too many people freak out and think this will be some sort of iron-clad control scheme by the government. I don’t see how this is that different from a background check. Just employ accredited and well-rounded psychiatrists to do the testing and all will be well.

      Can this system be abused? Any system can be abused. All we’re really talking about here is a psychiatric exam that you must take prior to purchasing a firearm that coincides with the “mental health check box” you have to acknowledge on the forum. Not all that different from being required to take 10 hours of training to get a CHL, is it? There are lots of requirements for different levels of firearm responsibility.

      And really, who are the people that will complain about taking a psychiatric test? Probably people with attitude problems or that are nervous they’ll get flagged for having a mental issue. Is that so bad?

      If a simple psychiatric test can weed out even one potential crazy shooting spree criminal, then I think it’ll be worth it. In fact, why weren’t their guns temporary confiscated as soon as they entered psychiatric care to begin with? Especially if their issues were that severe?

      • A psychiatric test in order to exercise a constitutional right? NO!

        “Once they are deemed “mentally stable”, healthy or back to normalcy, they can go about their business and purchase whatever they want.”

        That’s where the current system breaks down, at least in CA. Being a “may issue” state re CCWs, most of the issuing authorities see that boxed checked and automatically deny.

        But worse, anyone taken in on a mental health 72 hour hold then admitted for treatment, even if they are then deemed not to be a danger and released before the 72 hours are up, loses their firearm rights for 5 years. And even worserer (heh) there is no real way to appeal that 5 year ban, other than a probably futile lawsuit.

      • This idea of deciding who shouldn’t and shouldn’t have access to guns confuses me.

        Buy what right can you, me, or anyone deny someone a right based on speculation?

        How exactly does one counter the argument that they should be dined a right because they might commit a crime in the future?

        Can YOU prove that you wont commit a crime in the future?

        See the problem?

        • We’re talking about people with mental issues that will have impaired judgment without medication.

          The same reason you’re prohibited across the board for carrying a firearm in an establishment that serves alcohol, it’s a preventative measure against using a firearm with the possibility of impaired judgment.

          How is that impairment that different from a impairment from a psychological issue?

          Except, in the case of the alcohol scenario, the person with mental issues can’t choose to not have those issues typically. Or they have temporary control in the form of medication. Whereas, the legally armed civilian can choose to retain their firearm by not going into a bar with a posted “no firearms allowed” sign. Those with sound minds have the luxury of controlling ourselves in the majority of cases. Those without 100% sound mental faculties often times, cannot.

        • Actually I live in Indiana where we CAN carry in bars…

          You can’t imagine how many problems haven’t arisen from this…

          But my question is much more precise.

          What gives person A, the unique right to deny person B a fundamental right?

          What special privilege does person A enjoy which person B is not qualified to exercise.

          It is either a fundamental human right, in which case it applies universally, or it isn’t in which case person A’s ability to deny is equally as valid as person B’s ability to posses and the two positions negate each other.

          A person can loose a right, but only AFTER they have commit some gross offence.

          There is no science that can predict future criminality at an individual level.

  10. Antis are unscrupulous scum, and when they can’t make their agenda possible through scare tactics, lies, and victim-manipulation, they’ll go any other route they can. Manipulating the mental health field is only one possibility.

    Due to the lengths our enemies will go to destroy our rights, there should be no line. Not an inch, ever. It would only be a matter of time before agenda-driven politicians declare the desire to own a gun as mentally unstable.

    Not an inch.

    • I disagree, this sort of pro gun fanatical thinking is similar to the fanatical anti gun thinking that is ridiculed on this site. This “nobody should be barred from having a gun ever” idea is similar to The idea that “if one bad person does something wrong with a gun nobody should have a gun” etc.
      Do you really believe that everyone, should be able to exercise 2A rights without any question?

      • Do you really believe that everyone, should be able to exercise 2A rights without any question?

        Yes. That’s why we use the word ‘right,” and not subjective allowance based on the arbitrary whim of whoever happens to be popular at the time.

        The right to self defense is an innate human right. The right to possess weapons for the purpose of self defense is a human right.

        The only people who deny this, are those who would claim that one category of people have a different set of human rights than all the others, usually based on some arbitrary political affiliations.

        The government of China (or whoever you like) denies its people the right to own small arms, at the same time it operates and maintains submarines, tanks, fighter aircraft, ect.

        This contradiction tells you that they are not anti-gun, or anti-violence, but anti self defense. Specifically, they want to make sure the people they are oppressing cannot fight back.

        They might use public safety as a justification but then they run over peaceful protesters with armed tanks.

        That’s the con. That’s always been the con.

        • Do you really believe that everyone, should be able to exercise 2A rights without any question? Yes.”

          I hate to be the one to tell ya, but you already lost that fight. Now we’re discussing where to draw the line on those infringements.

        • Mikeb, feel free to regard the fight as over. We’ll never accept that. The fight for rights continues into each new generation. There are always control freaks who bide their time until they can swoop in to take over.

        • Mike there are certain principles involved in rational debate which you seem unaware of. Until you invest some time in learning the basics, you’re not really qualified to have an opinion on this or any other topic.

          You can’t even recognize basic logical contradictions in your own assertions.

          “…you already lost that fight…”

          “…who said I lost, you?”

          It’s like you’re showing up to a chess game and demanding everyone else play by the rules of checkers.

        • If enough of you repeat it it becomes fact, right?

          Well, yeah, Mikey. That’s how it works in your world. Repeat the same statements over and over, practice the 5 D’s* or say “I already proved it” when asked for evidence, and then repeat the same statement yet again. Repetition improves retention.

          *Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and …. dodge

    • Brewski says:
      “We’re talking about people with mental issues that will have impaired judgment without medication.”

      I’m starting to wonder or question your judgement on this whole mental health thing. You seem “a ways” outside of the mainstream thinking of others making comments here. Perhaps we should pull a few posters together here and decide whether or not you should continue to be able to post here. We could maybe come up with a “diagnosis” to justify our “concern” that perhaps those in the “field” could come to a “consensus” on. Then we’d probably need to take your computer away for awhile until you can justify to this very knowledgeable group through a written test that your judgement has improved with some treatment.

    • Unfortunately for me also. I have a step son who’s been in and out of the system for mental health issues. He’s violent and dangerous towards women. This last time he had a knife, a common kitchen knife, to a girl’s throat. This is why I say if they can”t be trusted with a gun they need close and immediate supervivsion.

  11. The impression that I’ve formed about the mental health field–from professionals that I’ve known, from my own reading on the subject, and from having worked in a residential treatment facility–is that there’s too much guesswork simply to say that because a psychologist gave someone a diagnosis, that person must lose rights. One shrink I knew told me that the Diagnotic and Statistical Manual is used in many cases as a way of filling out the insurance form, not as a scientific conclusion as to the person’s mental state.

    That being said, and returning to the children that I worked with in that facility, I can say that some people are seriously insane. Some have delusions, but they’re often not organized enough to be dangerous. The truly scary ones are the sociopaths and the high-functioning delusionals. The trouble there is that it’s hard to identify them in advance.

    A diagnosis of some condition by itself shouldn’t be enough, nor should the word of one person. Any loss of rights needs to come only as the result of due process–a trial, likely–and must be heavily weighted in favor of the defendant. Otherwise, there’s too much opportunity for abuse.

    • “A diagnosis of some condition by itself shouldn’t be enough, nor should the word of one person.”

      Why not? If a psychiatrist says, “If PersonA doesn’t take their meds, their mental status will go from normal to severely unstable in a matter of hours, well I think that’s pertinent info to have when considering allowing them to buy a firearm, don’t you?

      And that’s the crux of the whole mental health issue. “Normal” people are a largely undiagnosed lump of the population that are allowed to buy firearms any day of the week. At any time, any one of us can “snap”. But you know the irony? Most, if not all the people that go on shooting sprees have histories of mental illness or were currently in psychiatric care for issues that no doubt left them vulnerable to using their firearms in an unlawful manner (ie. impaired judgment, susceptibility to stress making their condition worse, etc.). I’m so glad these red flags were ever revisited after they purchased their firearms legally…

      But this issue isn’t about “normal” or undiagnosed people, we’re talking about the people that have documented histories (old or current) of mental instability. It’s on record, it’s not a secret. The mental health community just needs to come to a consensus on what mental faculties are most pertinent to the safe and lawful operation of a firearm are and just screen anyone out that doesn’t meet those requirements.

      The military and law enforcement screen candidates for mental health, why should the average citizen buying a firearm be any different?

      “Any loss of rights needs to come only as the result of due process–a trial, likely–and must be heavily weighted in favor of the defendant. Otherwise, there’s too much opportunity for abuse.”

      So, you’re ok with screening after they’ve had a mental break and injured or killed people. I’m so glad. I feel safer now.

  12. I work in healthcare…I am a PA, and have dealt with mental health issues both on an outpatient and inpatient level. I believe that the answer on where to draw the line would be if the patient has ever been deemed a threat to him/herself or others, or has been held on a psychiatric hold against their will.
    If an individual has been held against their will due to being a danger to themselves or others, or there is documented evidence that they may be a threat to themselves or others (one of these criteria must be met in order to hold someone against their will), I believe it should require a legal document signed by a mental health provider clearing them as being mentally fit to own and use a firearm.
    The same type of system is in place for individuals who have a history of seizure and wish to get a drivers license, or an individual with heart disease and diabetes that wishes to operate with a commercial drivers license. A physician has to evaluate, and sign off on them being safe to operate a motor vehicle.
    I am all for gun rights, recently purchased a handgun myself and am taking a ccw class next week due to recent events at my workplace (patient hopped up on narcotics pulled a knife on an ER doc I work with because she wasn’t getting the meds she wanted). But I also believe that in some cases rights have to be taken from people unfit to exercise them judiciously.

    • Mchad: I believe it should require a legal document signed by a mental health provider clearing them as being mentally fit to own and use a firearm. The same type of system is in place for individuals who have a history of seizure and wish to get a drivers license, or an individual with heart disease and diabetes that wishes to operate with a commercial drivers license. A physician has to evaluate, and sign off on them being safe to operate a motor vehicle.

      The problem I see there is that in your latter two examples it’s a mainly physical manifestation of illness, but in the mental illness example, it’s much harder to make a conclusive diagnosis. How hard will it be to find a doctor willing to take on the liability of deeming someone safe?

  13. I work at a public school, where contrary to popular opinion, we serve EVERY student who comes through our doors. In the high poverty area where the school is located, a combination of environment / poverty creates a situation where you got everything from ADHD, kids dealing with PTSD (a relative getting killed or domestic violence), or in some cases, the long term effects of having a mother who abused alcohol or drugs while she was pregnant. And some of these kids (a minority rather than a majority) will have to deal with these mental health issues for the rest of their life.

    Are these kids evil? Of course, not… but given how out of control their behavior can be when the support systems are gone (no meds, no counseling, etc.) I very much doubt I’d trust any of them to hold a pair of scissors, let alone own a firearm as an adult.

  14. I think it was David Codrea who came up with my favorite oversimplification: if you can’t be trusted without a handler, you can’t be trusted with weapons.

  15. “Where do you draw the mental health line where guns are concerned?”

    A good question and one I’m not qualified to give an opinion on. While on the subject what about such a person’s driving rights ie suspending their license to drive since cars can be fast-moving multi-ton dangerous tools.

    • That’s the real question isn’t it. If you draw a line, do you trust the government not to decide to move the line?

  16. I don’t really see the debate. Just keep it in line with mental screening that the military and law enforcement do. And have it so anyone that owns a gun should be re-evaluated every 2-5 years.

    Honestly I think the re-evaluation idea should also apply to anyone that owns a car. It would probably cut down on 40% of the crappy drivers out there if they had to be re-tested and had to pass the driver’s test every 3-5 years. It would probably graciously also get rid of most of the people over 70 that honestly have no business behind a wheel anymore that scare the crap out of me in their buick steel-tanks on the road driving 30 on the highway…

    And obviously flag people that are actively in psychiatric care for any mental conditions that could impair perception, judgement, emotions, and overall cognitive functions.

    Sure, they may be stable now, with their meds nearby, but what if they get in a situation where they don’t have access to their medication?

    Better safe than sorry.

    • Mental health evals for everyone that owns a gun every 2-5 years. No chance for any abuse in a system like that. How about mental health evals for everyone about to enter the voting booth? Or for everyone that want’s to post on a blog site. The government can handle the extra workload, after all they’re so effecient and hard working.

      • I like how you just assume it’ll be implemented in the worst way imaginable. That could be the case, but it clearly doesn’t have to be. Honestly, I don’t see the problem with mental checkups and evaluations for people owning firearms, seeing as how it could potentially stop shootings from happening. Especially considering the percentage of shooting sprees being committed by people that were already mentally ill and in many cases they were receiving psychiatric care. If they had their firearms confiscated because of exactly that reason, well it’s not to say they could never get their hands on a firearm or other weapon, but it may have had some measure of prevention by making it more difficult commit crimes with legally owned or purchased firearms (which hurts the gun community).

        After all, isn’t the pro-self defense stance that the majority of legal firearm ownership are responsible members of society? Can’t really be responsible if we allow mentally unstable (but still lawful) citizens to still retain their weapons, can we? Do you, in good conscience, allow your buddies to drink and drive?

        And who are you trying to defend here? People with psychiatric problems that own firearms? How is that, in any form, a good idea in the first place?

        And how is this related to voting booths and blog sites? And, for the record, yes, I’d love it if psychiatric evaluations were a requirement for being allowed on the internet, voting booths, and blog sites, maybe then there would be less idiocy online and in the government.

        I’d say that would be worth it right there. I’m all for keeping the mental midgets away from public forums… they don’t provide anything useful anyway (just look at the average Youtube comments if you don’t believe me).

        Maybe if we stop celebrating and rewarding stupidity in our society, we’d get more accomplished?

        • “Honestly, I don’t see the problem with mental checkups and evaluations for people owning firearms, seeing as how it could potentially stop shootings from happening.”

          In theory, maybe. In practice, who decides what type or level of mental issue precludes firearm ownership? And who scores the evaluations?

          “Especially considering the percentage of shooting sprees being committed by people that were already mentally ill and in many cases they were receiving psychiatric care.”

          It’s a common fallacy that the connection between receiving psychiatric care and committing violence is that “needing psychiatric care = increased risk of violence.” That’s incorrect. Most psychiatric patients aren’t a danger to anyone, as most patients are being seen for temporary or low level issues, i.e, more neurotics than psychotics, and more recent divorcees than schizophrenics. The real issue re receiving psychiatric care and committing violence is that the mental health professional is in a better position to identify someone who poses a risk before they commit violence than is anyone else.

        • I presume that such a system would be done in the worst way possible because the government will be involved. Want an example of what it would be like? Go to your local DMV or community health clinic.

        • You know, Greg, for someone so anti-government, I’m surprised you don’t live on Greg Island somewhere where you are in charge and you can show us by example what a wonderful Utopia it would be.

          Or you could run in politics and lead the way.

          Doing anything short of that is hypocritical if you’re just going to hem and haw about it on a public forum on the internet… and pretend that adds any sort of validation to your arguments. That’s like me hating the color red and then for anything you try to say on here, I quip in with, “No, that’ll never work because you’ll paint it red and red is terrible”. Who ever said it was going to be red?

          Point is, the additional verification by mental health experts (chosen without bias) for people with mental health issues that may impair their judgment that want to purchase or own firearms idea is sound. Same with the confiscation of current firearms for owners that develop mental health condition that impairs their judgment.

          It just needs to be implemented in such a way that no one’s Rights get infringed on. That was always the goal.

          Has the government screwed up in past? Of course. Will they do so in the future? Of course. Not once did I suggest the government be in control of deciding who is mentally unstable. I only suggested experts in the mental health industry be responsible for answering those questions.

          So, in light of that, why can’t the mental heath issue simply be something the firearms community spear-heads if they don’t trust anyone else to do it?

  17. By the way, the CHP’s action in this shooting looks to be completely legitimate. If that could be mentioned on TTAG, I’d certainly appreciate it.

  18. It’s really encouraging to see all the posts from pro-gun folks who work in mental health, health care and social services. I guess we’re not so rare after all…

  19. Those are good questions in the post. My solution would be a type of “may issue” policy for gun ownership licensing. Mental health experts as well as local law enforcement could be among those making the decision.

    • Fortunately for Americans your ideas on may issue and brewski’s ideas on infallible mental health professionals clearing us for gun ownership or voting or internet use won’t fly.
      And when a disinterested 3rd party views brewski’s ideas about voting and free speech along with gun ownership requiring a mental health pro’s nod first that 3rd party person will know what we’ve known about the anti’s for years.
      It’s not about crime control or gun safety, what you and brewski advocate mikeybmumblers, it’s simply about control. Little men with little ideas wanting to feel important and exerting control over people for their own agenda.

      • “brewski’s ideas on infallible mental health professionals clearing us for gun ownership”

        Is that what he said? “infallible?” No. He didn’t.

        But, when you paraphrase one of us you can’t help lying about what we said and then arguing against that as if we really said it.

        Why do you do that if you have such a good argument?

      • Uh, I think you’re putting words in my mouth….

        For starters, it seems like you always take things in the worst possible light. All I’m really suggesting is maybe an extra check box next to the one about “mental status” when you purchase a firearm where you’re required to list the name of any doctor(s) that you are seeing for psychological or psychiatric issues that may directly lead to impaired judgment. And list the medications you’re taking specifically for your condition.

        How is that different from a background check? And who will this really stop from purchasing a gun? People with mental issues that directly cause impaired judgment to the point they could pose a danger to themselves or people around them.

        I don’t know about you, but I would sleep better knowing that every legally carrying citizen isn’t one-missed medication away from shooting innocent people by accident instead of the bad guy in a DGU incident.

        Is it so bad to ask for that?

        But no, apparently I’m squashing your freedoms somehow by just trying to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally unstable.

        I really don’t see the positive side in allowing mentally unstable people the right to bear arms. Do you let your children play with your guns unsupervised? Do you let people that could “lose it” without their medication use guns unsupervised? No?

        Well there you have it. Never in my arguments did I say anyone and everyone seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist shouldn’t be allowed to buy firearms. I specifically said people with psychiatric issues that can impair normal and reasonable judgment should be held under a little more scrutiny — which may simply entail a simple phone call to their doctor and having the doctor verbally or in writing sign off on their patient buying a firearm based on their expert opinion concerning their mental and current condition. And if need be a second opinion can be taken with a different doctor if need be.

        It’s not like I’m asking for everyone that purchases a firearm to be subjected to a panel of psychiatric evaluations on the spot.

        So please, stop being so dramatic.

      • Brewski says:
        “We’re talking about people with mental issues that will have impaired judgment without medication.”

        I’m starting to wonder or question your judgement on this whole mental health thing. You seem “a ways” outside of the mainstream thinking of others making comments here. Perhaps we should pull a few posters together here and decide whether or not you should continue to be able to post here. We could maybe come up with a “diagnosis” to justify our “concern” that perhaps those in the “field” could come to a “consensus” on. Then we’d probably need to take your computer away for awhile until you can justify to this very knowledgeable group through a written test that your judgement has improved with some treatment.

    • Problem mikeyb#. Mental health experts often disagree about the diagnosis of a person. There is no way that system wouldnt be abused, especially in areas like kalifornia, the peoples republic of chicago, and Нью-Йорк (NYC). This would effectively legalize the seizing and denying lawful citizens of their right to bear arms. Obviously, this is what you want. As someone said above, admit it, this isnt about the guns, its about controlling people to make yourself feel like a big man.

      • You do realize that our rights were decided by a bunch guys in a room, right?

        And “This is America” isn’t an argument. The sky is blue. Fair enough? Do I win?

        And no one here is trying to take your or my Rights away. The mental health issue is simply taking those same rights and looking at them through the perspective that the year is 2012 and there have been quite a few modern mental health advancements since the days of the Founding Fathers. Advancements that would most likely have caused more scrutiny and detail to be paid to certain conditions that weren’t readily measured back in the day.

        While the field of mental health isn’t 100% accurate, I’d say there are many cases where you can draw a line in the sand regarding obvious risk factors.

        Like mental conditions that are irritated with stress or only controlled through very strict medication (ie. you miss a dose and your judgment is compromised). Guess what happens when you’re in a DGU situation? Stress goes through the roof.

  20. If we let the state determine if someone is mentally competent enough to own a gun, it wouldn’t be long until the desire to own a gun and have the ability to protect ones self would make you mentally incompetent.

      • It’s only bullshit because it doesn’t fit your agenda mikeybmumblers. We have decades of people, such as yourself trying every devious and underhanded trick in the books to disarm us so we know that if you get a toe in the door it’s a bad day for us.

        • We are concerned because we know what control freaks do when they get into power. We know what happens when some unaccountable bureaucrat is given the authority to decide the rights of citizens.

        • I’ll stand my record against yours any day mikeybmumblers on the issue of having the right to own a gun.
          You said in a previous post that you had an ephiphany that moved you away from guns. It’s good that you realised you can”t be trusted with a firearm but trying to project your failures and shortcomings on others is misplaced.

  21. If you can’t be trusted with a gun what about a car, or matches and gasoline, or any sharp object? Remember, the largest mass killings in American history were done with incendiaries and ANFO, not firearms.
    In any case this all just plays into the false idea that if we just get it right we can make this world safe. Ain’t never gonna happen, but fools and dreamers keep trying, to the constant annoyance of the rest of us who just want to live our lives and deal with things as they happen.

  22. The fact that this even being debated would keep me from ever seeking any kind of mental health treatment.
    .
    Factoid I did not see mentioned above: medications for anxiety, depression, etc are also often used to treat chronic pain. Will someone taking amitryptaline for advanced facet arthropathy receive a visit from the Cylons to remove any firearms (purely for his own safety of course) until he can prove why he is taking it?

    • Good point. There are a lot of “off label” uses for medications. E.g., I take an anti-depressant for my sleep apnea. Should I be denied my right to firearms because I snore?

  23. My family doctor said it best once when he told me that when it comes to psychological, emotional, and other brain health matters, it is much harder for him to diagnose and treat those problems. For diabetes or blood problems, he can take your blood and test it. For a bone, a muscle, or a ligament, he can take an x-ray or an MRI. He can’t get into someone’s brain and measure what’s going on psychologically. He has to make an educated guess from the patient’s words and actions. If physicians find it hard and imprecise, how could we possibly trust the government to make the right call in a “close case.”

  24. Three points:

    With roughly 9o,ooo,ooo current gun owners in America, no form of mental health test for firearm ownership would pass muster on Constitutional grounds.

    People with mental problems could get around any registration issue for firearms just as they currently do with controlled substances such as prescription drugs.

    We cannot legislate morality or mental health nor can we even readily define either one.

    Creating a men

  25. I spend a lot of time in gun shops and on public firing ranges. So much time, in fact, that I’ve learned there is a high percentage of people who should NOT be allowed to own or have access to firearms. Worse, I watch so many really dangerous gun handling mistakes occur every week that I am now convinced that firearm education should be mandatory for everyone who owns or carries a gun.

    My day-to-day world is full of people who want to own guns, who want to shoot guns; who just plain love guns – and, perhaps, the violence that often goes along with possession of a gun. However, only a small percentage of these people are able to demonstrate that they are, in and of themselves, responsible gun owners and competent to be trusted with a loaded firearm.

    (I’m no longer able to count the number of times some, otherwise, perfectly normal gun owner has almost shot me with his carelessly handled firearm.)

    I’ve, also, witnessed numerous instances of firearm misconduct. (I’ll, probably, see more today when I go to the range.) Some people I will speak to and warn; others I know better than to address; so, instead of getting angry at their firearm shenanigans, I simply write down their auto license plate, draw my Verizon cell phone, and report them to the authorities.

    So, where should the line be drawn between mental illness, and just plain everyday bad behavior with a gun? In my opinion the first thing that has to be determined is whether or not the individual-in-question demonstrates a threat to either himself, or others? The second thing I would want to know is well is he able to function out on the street among, ‘normal people’?

    All of the people I’ve met who were (in my opinion) unqualified to use or have access to firearms were, visibly, not well-grounded in reality. They had trouble accurately distinguishing between things like: fact from fiction, or right from wrong. Many years ago I learned that when trouble is brewing inside someone’s head the very first sign you’ll notice that something is going wrong is a curious – even, somewhat, surprising – loss of a personal sense of humor.

    Depression may or may not be sufficient cause to place someone’s gun in, ‘safekeeping’. The same thing goes for people who are suffering from chronic pain. Hallucinations, however, are a whole different problem. If a person is suffering from either hallucinations or strong personal fantasies I do not believe that individual should be allowed to own guns. The same restriction should, also, apply to anyone who’s either excessively or habitually angry; or, perhaps, suffers from dementia. (There’s more genuinely serious mental problems, too, that I’m not even going to get into.)

    So, just like so many other things in life, there are DEGREES OF MENTAL ILLNESS that should be evaluated by their apparent severity, as well as the extent of actual physical threat that is presumed to be present. Simply to confiscate someone’s guns on the grounds that he is, ‘mentally ill’ is insufficient reason to take such harsh action.

    On the one hand, take someone like Cho, Sueng-Hui: Cho spent, at least, several months demonstrating personal behaviors that were rife with: fantasies, hostility, social withdrawal, and other psychotic behaviors that even the lay people in his community were able to recognize as being, both, aberrant and potentially dangerous. However, Cho remained at large, unapproached, unquestioned, and free to acquire firearms. In retrospect there is little doubt that Cho, Sueng-Hui literally, ‘fell through the cracks’ in society’s usual behavioral safeguards.

    On the other hand: Charles Whitman, Mark Essex, Timothy McVeigh, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Jared Loughner, James Holmes, et al, gave little, if any, warning about the gun crimes they intended to commit. George Hennard is, something of, a, ‘gray area’. Hennard could have been spotted IF someone had been paying specific attention to him. Why am I telling you these things? Because disarming anyone on the grounds that he is mentally ill is tantamount to simply taking everyone’s guns away – Period. Never forget that, in a very real sense, the men who fought for and established this country as a free and independent nation were, by the standards of their day, ‘mentally ill’.

    In closing this out I’m going to remind that THERE ARE certain societal safeguards that can be effectively applied to protect society-at-large from genuinely, ‘mentally ill’ individuals: We used to call these safeguards, ‘The Ten Commandments’ and Judeo-Christian morality. Christians and Jews carried these moral precepts around in their heads all day long and regularly applied these comfortable and reassuring: proverbs, parables, and moral axioms to their everyday daily lives.

    In the recorded history of mankind, every morally constructive and well ordered society has always been a safe society; and that safety has little, if anything, to do with either the social presence or availability of deadly weapons; and, this includes guns. Personally, I consider it to be an act of gross intellectual folly for 21st century America to have abandoned its Judeo-Christian roots and the incumbent moral safeguards those roots were able to provide to each and everyone of our citizens.

  26. I think just about everyone has had a period in their life, even if it was just a day, where they were depressed. Just because someone seeks professional help for that, should not remove their second amendment right. It is true that medications for depression alter a person’s state of mind. There have been studies that show certain types of anti-depression drugs can at least increase the risk of suicide in adolescents, which shows the power these drugs have. My take on it is, if you’re having to be medicated currently for a mental condition, you shouldn’t be allowed to purchase a gun or carry. Your ability to use sound judgement is likely impaired. However, if you are not currently medicated and your condition isn’t long term or puts you at higher risk for violent outbreaks (bipolar, schizophrenia, manic, etc) I don’t believe you should be infringed upon. Also keep in mind that an alarming number of parents these days put their kids on medication for things like ADHD and depression, when the real problem is the kid is just being a kid, getting picked on at school. or going through the process of learning how to cope with stressful things or bad parenting. There really is no mental deficiency a lot of the time. If you start revoking rights based upon someone ever having been treated for a mental condition, we’re going to wind up with a large population of people who have no rights to own a firearm – perhaps this is the intent?

    • “My take on it is, if you’re having to be medicated currently for a mental condition, you shouldn’t be allowed to purchase a gun or carry. Your ability to use sound judgement is likely impaired.”

      I disagree. There are plenty of mental conditions for which medications are prescribed that in no way impair a person’s judgment, whether or not they take them as prescribed. E.g., a person taking valium as needed for panic attacks. An occasional bout of over-the-top stress doesn’t turn a peaceful, law-abiding person into a homicidal maniac.

      Ditto the chronically depressed person whose only likely target is him/her self. If a person is determined to commit suicide, that lack of firearm will make no difference, and if that person isn’t the type to turn their depression outward towards others, then neither medication nor lack of medication will change that.

      In neither example, panic or depression, is a person’s situational judgment always, or even likely, impaired.

  27. NO! This is another avenue for gun control. I do not want to be filling out forms regarding mental fitness just because I want to buy a new gun.

    There are no exceptions in the Second Amendment or the majority of states that have the right to keep and bear arms.

  28. 5.7 million other victims of Bi-polar disorder in America killed no one on that day.
    but 121 people were ruthlessly, and senselessly killed in car accidents. Most of them were not bi-polar…. should we ban normal thinking people from driving?

  29. Can I just put this out there? The question seems to be a balance between, how much of a right do you have to keep yourself safe (via specifically the possession of a gun) and how much of a right does everyone else have to be safe FROM you, should you go off the rails?

  30. When I was a kid, collecting for my paper route, I was savagely chewed on by a former Veit Nam guard dog( They had already stopped allowing them back into the states by then, but he had been here for almost 2 years). I was scared of dogs for years. My parents did not think anything was wrong, but it affected where I went, if I would ride a bicycle, a whole lot of things.
    I am a dog lover now, but I admit to not being comfortable when a rottweiler is growling at me. That is a good example of a phobia, or irrational fear – so would that have been enough to keep me from firearms?
    Many phobias can be changed by showing the person that he does have power. As long as I wasn’t going around shooting dogs, where is the problem?
    Obama and Clinton wanted to use our medical history against us. Now that the feds run medical care how long before those things you thought would always be private are open for everyone to see? Just look at the girls who gave up a child for adoption when they were children themselves and the stories about parents searching for kids and kids searching for parents – everyone seems to be fine with it. How soon can the pill the doctor gave you to smooth out your pain meds come back as a “nutter med” and now you can not ever have firearms?
    We need laws supporting our rights with courts with real judges(not commissioners) and counsel provided us in full trials to even try to take our rights. Our freedom is dear and those freedoms were part of the founding of this country, they were suppossed to limit government and anyone else from denying your rights.

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