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 delawareonline.com]:
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.