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The British have an expression for disproportionate solutions that evoke the Law of Unintended Consequences: “using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.” All this post-Loughner clamor for states to send their mental health records to the NICS database (the criminal background check system for firearms purchases) strikes me as yet another solution that’s worse than the problem. Closing this “gun check loophole” requires a legal definition of what type and/or duration of mental illness is severe enough to warrant the loss of a constitutional right on either the state and/or federal level, setting criteria for the restoration of gun rights after an individual returns to mental health (or not), and violating patient confidentiality. It’s the last one that’s the most troubling . . .

Jared Lee Loughner was nuttier than a fruitcake. Seung-Hui Cho was not a well man. Both loons used firearms to cause horrific carnage. Neither man should have been able to purchase a firearm.

I would argue that by the time the killers hit the gun store/show, society was headed for a fall. Had Loughner and Cho been arrested, detained and/or institutionalized, they would have found it extremely difficult (if not impossible) to obtain guns.

The gun control advocates’ argument: “common sense” suggests someone who knew of their condition should have sent a “no buy” alert to the NICS system. Had their names been in the system, they couldn’t have tooled-up. At least not legally.

This is how that’s playing out in Delaware [via]:

The House committee approved legislation Wednesday that would authorize state agencies to send information to the federal NICS database about mentally ill Delawareans, potentially preventing them from purchasing firearms all across the country.

Read traveled to Delaware from Annandale, Va., to testify in favor of the legislation and meet with Gov. Jack Markell prior to the hearing. He was joined by Andrew Goddard of Richmond, Va., whose son, Colin, survived the shooting. Colin Goddard and Mary Read were classmates.

Andrew Goddard said it’s important for Delaware to submit information to the database so that sales to mentally unstable Delawareans can be prevented at gun sales in surrounding states.

“If people can move around, their record should move around with them,” Goddard told the committee.

Until recently, Rhode Island’s local police chiefs were planning on adding a mental health test to any and all applications for a concealed carry permit. This they considered vital for public safety. Either that or as an impediment to gun ownership, knowing full well that mental health screening would A) be a PITA and B) get the anti-gun AMA to do the gun-banning thing for them.

Talk about your Catch-22. Anyone who wants a gun to defend themselves who doesn’t face a direct threat is nuts. Gun control. Done. But let’s take the tinfoil hat off and consider a less contentious danger: mentally ill people who won’t seek help because they know their doctor will rat them out to the FBI (who maintains the NICS system).

That’s common sense too. People who cherish their Second Amendment rights (perish the thought) will shun treatment rather than run the risk of losing their ability to defend themselves and their loved ones by force of arms. Close the mental health-related “gun check loophole” and American gun owners will be more likely to become dangerously mentally ill.

Truth be told, the number of people who go psycho with a gun is a fraction of a percent of the number of Americans who own guns. BUT the number of Americans who own guns who don’t go psycho with a gun who need or have sought help for mental health issues is huge.

How could a law make that distinction? Would gun control advocates even bother? The mental health-related “gun check loophole” may be bad, bad thing. But closing it would be far worse, for both individuals and society.



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  1. You can’t talk your way out of it, Robert. The national consciousness is moving towards these common sense ideas, not away from them. It’s a matter time before there will be required background checks on all gun transfers as well as better screening and testing for mental health.

    • these common sense ideas

      to borrow a joke from Anon on the QOTD (that he borrowed from the Princess Bride). You use that phrase a lot. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    • “shall not be infringed” – Which of these words are you having trouble understanding Mike?

      Here are a few of your words that I don’t understand: “national consciousness”, “common sense” & “mental health”.

      Who decides what the national consciousness is? How about what the definition of common sense or mental health? Are these legal terms found in the Bill of Rights? Were these terms voted on and ratified by the people or the states? Have these terms been the subject of over 200 years of legal scrutiny? Has the Supreme Court ruled on their definitions?

      Who decides Mike? I apologize for the lecture but we are a nation of laws, not of men. If you and others don’t like our laws Mike, you are free to attempt to have them changed, including the 2nd Amendment. I look forward to the debate and so should you.

      • “Shall not be infringed” does not mean the Second Amendment is boundless or absolute. All the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights are subject to regulation, including 2A, as they always have been throughout the nation’s history.

        All reasonable people believe in sensible limitations on 2A rights, including yourself, assuming you are a reasonable person. Can minors and felons purchase firearms? Should Cabela’s sell M72 LAW missiles? Is it ok with you if Jeep markets a Wrangler with a pair of miniguns on the hood?

        • Minors and felons have already shown us that they cannot be trusted without a custodian. They also do not possess the full rights of a citizen.

          Miniguns are already legal via the NFA although horrifically expensive.

          Besides, the tools to build explosives can already be found in your local hardware store. Perhaps you should ask Joe Huffman of the Idaho Boomer Shoot about that.

        • I hope you don’t think you are participating in a conversation. You are doing your best to talk past me. You didn’t address Jeeps factory-equipped with miniguns, you only obfuscated the point, and we aren’t discussing bombs in any way. You are arguing just to argue, in case you haven’t noticed.

          This is why the Internet sucks at actual dialog. Blah, blah, blah. It goes on forever and accomplishes nothing.

          • There is nothing wrong with a Jeep coming factory equipped with a minigun. Provided that the buyer is able to pass the NFA screen, why not?

            I brought up the point of bombs because even if you think that LAWs/Explosives should not be protected, people will still find ways to make the warheads or even the launchers themselves.

          • … And what’s wrong with mini-gun equipped Jeeps straight from the factory? There’re a very, very few number of miniguns that’re ownable by “average” citizens already, and mounting one to a Jeep yourself is just a matter of time and the right equipment.

            I, personally, would pay for a factory warranty on that work.

        • I would love it if Cabela’s could legally sell me some M72’s, and the miniguns should be on a hummer not a jeep because that would be silly.

        • Well, just so you know, you guys have constructed an an interpretation of the Second Amendment that has no correlation with reality.

        • Can minors and felons purchase firearms?

          Yes, of course they can, if they have cash and know someone who is willing to sell to them. They can also buy crack. If you meant to ask should they be able to – unless their right to keep and bear arms is disabled through due process yes for felons and no for minors (minors may have their rights limited without due process).

          Should Cabela’s sell M72 LAW missiles? Is it ok with you if Jeep markets a Wrangler with a pair of miniguns on the hood?

          Yes and yes. Law missiles aren’t more dangerous than diesel and fertilizer which are readily available. Miniguns aren’t more dangerous than the fully automatic M2s that are on the market.

      • Jeff asked, “shall not be infringed” – Which of these words are you having trouble understanding Mike?

        I’m having trouble with the “well-regulated militia” part.

    • And who will screen and test the screeners and testers? A nation saturated with Ritalin, Prozac, Zoloft, Abilify, etc does not give me confidence in the discretion of the stewards of those dangerous substances. Spray and pray is far more prevalent in psychiatry than in shooting. What common sense makes you think they should exert more authority or control? May I recommend “The Trial,” “Catch-22,” “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” or “Little Dorrit.” Mike, you seem to have great faith in the department of circumlocution but now more than ever; you can’t legislate sanity – especially in a sick society.

    • The national consciousness is moving towards these common sense ideas, not away from them.

      Meanwhile open carry, concealed carry, constitutional carry, and expansions of where you can carry are all advancing across the nation.

      It’s a matter time before there will be required background checks on all gun transfers as well as better screening and testing for mental health.

      The Schumer bill won’t make it of committee. The national CCW reciprocity bill has a much better chance of passing.

  2. Mike, I realize that gun control advocates like yourself believe that reasoned discourse shouldn’t stand in the way of progress. But I’d like to know your opinion of what I’ve said, rather than the fact that I said it. Please do me the favor of addressing the arguments in this editorial.

    Specifically, where and how would you draw the line? Who gets guns and who doesn’t? Based on what criteria? Who decides? Should there be an appeal process?

    I know that answering these questions will be difficult, whereas mouthing platitudes is a doddle. But again, I’d really appreciate it if we could discuss the devilish details.

    Also, I’d appreciate your feedback on the issue of gun owners not seeking mental health treatment out of fear of losing their guns. If you accept that possibility, does it not concern you?

    • Robert, I think you’re trying to be slick again. What I said was this:

      It’s a matter time before there will be required background checks on all gun transfers as well as better screening and testing for mental health.

      Now, the first half is pretty clear about what I mean by common-sense regs, background checks on all gun transfers.

      You want me to get into all the details of how mental health screening would/might/should work and all the details about when people fear getting help for their mental problems lest they lose their gun rights, well, it’s a trick question. What you’re really asking is for me to lay out a completely imaginary system which you’ll then mock and pick apart.

      No thanks. I will admit that folks not seeking help they need for fear of losing their gun rights is a problem. It would bother me very much, but the solution cannot be to not screen for the mental defectives and let any non-felon buy guns regardless of how crazy. That’s worse.

      • Mike, I think it is you being slick. Your notions of social order and safety are imaginary and you decline to flesh out your ideas for fear of criticism. Yet your position is to criticize anyone’s assumption of personal responsibility and preparation for self-defense. Why don’t you just explain to us how your mental screening list will not be as lame, ineffectual and abusive as the real and existing “Do not fly list?” Or consider the errors that occur even without identity fraud where innocent individuals are penalized financially for the misdeeds of others with a similar name. What about the victims of erroneously served no-knock warrants. I say NO MORE LISTS! There’s more actual harm, and yes violence, perpetrated by mismanagement of existing rules and information than you propose to prevent with mental health screening. Get real.

  3. If the idea is to prevent crazy people from causing harm to others shouldn’t this standard be applied to voting registration too (first). Seems like the country would be in a very different place if “mentally ill” people were prohibited from exercising that vote?

    How about banning those who’ve sought mental health care from driving, being parents or working in health care too?

  4. If you can’t be trusted with a machine gun, you cannot be trusted without a custodian.

  5. What is “too ill” to have guns? People with anxiety disorders, eating issues, clinical depression, etc. are on depression medicine not because they’re crazy, but because they have a chemical imbalance that makes their lives harder. Even without their medications, they are safe to own firearms.

    Let’s put a hypothetical together. I have a loved one die. Between the stress of work, my own genetic tendencies towards depression, etc., I get depressed. He gives me an antidepressant. He also writes me up for the NCIS database. If that’s a possibility, I don’t go. The reason we developed doctor-patient privilege in the first place was to protect doctors from having to rat on their patients.

    The real answer is this: if the doctor wouldn’t hand you a gun on the way out the door, he should be committing you for observation. Throwing you in a federal database is the passive-aggressive way out.

    Loughner could have been arrested for several of his offenses. Arrest him, and even if he gets evaluated he goes in NICS. Hinckley was the same way. The poor crippled Brady said he wouldn’t have been in the chair if there weren’t high-capacity magazines. Bull. Hinckley had done enough by the time he shot Reagan to be confined; the system simply ignored him. (Hinckley also shot Brady with a 6 round .22 revolver, but that’s not relevant here. )

  6. The big problem there is here is that there are multiple sides, with multiple viewpoints, and with multiple demands. The AMA and APA wants this, gun rights advocates want that, and politicians want something else. What needs to be done is serious research and decision making that combines the abilities and knowledge of all camps involved.

    Mental health issues are very serious and should never be put aside because you want to keep your guns, but at the same time, legislation that provokes such unhealthy behavior. And any standardized labeling given by mental health professionals cannot be the final statement when buying or transferring guns, or applying for permits and CCW’s. America faces a unique issue in this manner, but we are uniquely capable of handling it. Until all factions can put aside differences and work together to create legislation that protects national safety, gun rights, and most importantly the individual, nothing will ever be reached. Even compromises between these groups cannot solve this problem. Collaboration in research is the only way to arrive at a true solution that creates a safer environment for all Americans, while not infringing on the personal and collective rights of the gun owning community.

    I am currently pursuing an education that prepares me for a career in a mental health profession. I hope that by the time I begin working in the post-graduate mental health field, such research and collaboration will be currently underway.

  7. Ben Eli,

    Screw that. Nothing good can come from the intersection of the medical profession and firearms regulation. Just as Docs should be free to discuss firearms with their patients, patients should be free to buy firearms without worrying about their docs ratting them out to the police, FBI, IRS, etc.

    There is no compelling reason for the mental health profession to get involved with firearms purchases. Or at least no more compelling reason than you could devise for automobile purchases. Or hunting knives. Or chainsaws. Or large amounts of fertilizer.

    It’s important to realize that these problems—spree killings—are statistically insignificant. (Yes, I said it.) Equally, there are far better ways to combat it. Even if you take arming civilians off the table. As someone with knowledge of that field, do you have any suggestions?

    • That is completely correct. Rather the intersection must come in theoretical hypothesizing of current solutions to legislation that disarms rightful gun owners. The issue is very much a PR problem for gun owners in the eyes of media and mental health circles. The point of such work would point out the truth behind the myths that surround all parties.

      What I would like to see is not a system in which anyone is “ratted out”, rather treated and helped. A system that protects, but not disarms.
      And true spree killings are statistically insignificant (though to people who don’t understand what this means, nothing is insignificant about a single person losing their life), any death that can be prevented must be.

      Unfortunately, mental health is often ignored. No one will hesitate to check blood pressure, or analyze their diet. And certainly no one should neglect taking an inventory of their mental health in fear that someone will take away their 2nd Amendment rights.

      As far as suggestions, like I said I am still in school and I have much to learn. Any suggestions would have to originate from un-biased research that was a product of collaborative effort of researchers and members of the 2nd Amendment community.

  8. Magoo says: “Shall not be infringed” does not mean the Second Amendment is boundless or absolute.

    If my neighbor were found to have a couple tons of dynamite or a suitcase nuke, then I could reasonably make a claim against him; that he is violating my property rights, both the property right inherent in my person and putting my stuff in danger. Very powerful explosive weapons are inherently evil to use because they can’t be used in a moral manner.This is why war is so terrible. Does killing one suspected terrorist with a predator drone justify targeting the whole wedding party? No. Does it justify even one collateral damage death? No.

    Firearms designed to be toted by a man have completely justifiable uses. They can be used for sport, but their primary importance is to protect life, liberty, and property. They are to be used against other individuals that are trying to do you serious harm. Therefore, by ethics 101, no man can dare limit, in any way whatsoever, my purchase, possession, or carrying of firearms on my own property. Carrying on another man’s property is up to him and only him. People like Magoo believe the state is above the moral law. He is a man of aggressive violence. He would cheer if a guy like me were caught say, with an unlicensed machine gun. If he were on the jury, he’d send my to rot in a cell with pleasure. Some “Gun Nuts” are libertarians when it comes to guns, but they turn into men of violence by advocating use of the state in other areas. I know big time gun advocates that would cheerfully throw people in jail for mere possession certain plants the state doesn’t like. But some of us are more consistent.

  9. The jackdaws I see on the road driving expensive and powerful cars way too fast (I mean 70+ in a 55) and weaving dangerously are quite capable of inflicting a lot of death and injury on the road and guess what… most of them would probably pass a mental health screening – and I have yet to hear of even the most strident road safety advocates calling for mental health checks on drivers.

    • If you only drive 70 in a 55 zone on the DC Beltway you should stay in the right hand lane. Else you will be sworn and honked at, have your parentage and sexual orientation questioned, recieve rude gestures culled from a dozen cultures and in extreme cases (ex: 60 or lower in the left lane) may have Slushies™ or soda tossed on your windshield. (13 reported incidents last month according to the local news)

  10. This would be a great question on the SAT test “using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut” would equal ” using a 500 to kill a bunny” These people are all nuts and you will never be able to reason with these fools.

  11. I think a mental health test should be required in order to run a defamatory blog out of Italy. We could do with one less of those.

    • Does that mean you read my blog? I’m honored, Ralphy.

      Defamatory is not the right word to describe my blog. I express opinions that you disagree with, and when you’re all done joking around, you just can’t stand that.

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