Mental Illness, Stigma and Guns in America

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By Larry Keane

As the firearms and ammunition industry, we make and sell a legal, heavily regulated products to background-checked citizens. We are not experts on mental health.

What we do care about, however, is keeping our communities safe by ensuring that those who are prohibited by law from possessing guns do not obtain them. This includes dangerous individuals who have been adjudicated mentally ill by a court, for example, and are prohibited from owning a firearm.

Real Solutions

Because we care about keeping guns out of the wrong hands, in 2013 we launched a project called FixNICS, to help bring all prohibiting records from the state level to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Our industry members know that a background check is only as good as the records in the database.

However, it is difficult to see references to an increasing stigma against those living with a mental illness, particularly in the wake of rare, but highly-publicized mass shooting tragedies. No one within the industry wants to deter any individual from seeking help or resources when facing a crisis or a mental health issue.

Stigma doesn’t help them, and it doesn’t help make our communities safer.

Safer Communities

This is why our industry calls for more mental health resources, especially in rural underserved communities. It’s not enough to say that people living with mental health issues are rarely violent and that there should be no stigma attached to getting help.

America can’t ignore the real need for more mental health resources. And it’s not enough to say that any violent tragedy is the fault of the gun, so ban guns that look a certain way or magazines that hold a certain amount of ammunition. That also misses the point.

The firearms and ammunition industry is committed to pursuing real solutions for safer communities. Find out more about our programs and partnerships here: www.nssfrealsolutions.org.

 

Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel at National Shooting Sports Foundation.

comments

  1. avatar Nanashi says:

    And the NSSF is STILL trying to sell Fix NICS betrayal as a good thing…

    1. avatar FedUp says:

      Guy gets arrested for buying a handgun because he received help dealing with his parents’ divorce when he was a minor.

      https://www.ar15.com/forums/general/Law-abiding-citizen-picked-up-by-law-enforcement-for-trying-to-purchase-a-handgun–Unbelievable-/6-2262593/

    2. avatar JBS says:

      Any restriction on gun possession based on “mental health,” must identify what mental conditions are covered, require clear and convincing evidence, require a public hearing with both sides being heard, and place a time limit on the restriction. Anything else is bigotry against gun owners.

      1. avatar GaPharmD says:

        Yep yeah yep

      2. avatar Garrison Hall says:

        But, in reality, “mental illness” is a loosely applied label with sharp political implications. The fact is that most killers are not mentally ill at all, are entirely in control of their mental faculties to the extent that they know exactly what they are doing. What they do is entirely intentional and purposeful—they ain’t doing what “the voices” tell them to do. Adam Lanza, for instance, was a high functioning autistic. He had a cognitive disorder that made it difficult for him to relate to other people but he wasn’t nuts. Nonetheless, the preferred narrative after Sandy Hook was that he had to be mentally ill. Having a disability doesn’t make you nuts, although in the minds the casual observers in the media, claiming that makes for a dandy meme when you are competing for air-time. Gun control advocates and politicians are already trying to “medicalize” gun-ownership by making the mere act of owning a gun, to say nothing of actually carrying one for self-defense, suspicious to the point of being dangerous.

        1. avatar Bob Wyman says:

          And there is no such thing as mental illness. There are brain disorders, diseases and injuries but the “mental” does not get ill. Illness is recognized by the brain with its mental capacities but do we say that is mental illness?
          Red Flag Laws are useless and illegal under The Constitution. They are merely another aspect to gun control and confiscation. Anyone subjected to this victimization will be stigmatized and shunned, their life will be ruined and it all can start with a relative that wants revenge for some stupid disagreement. Lives ruined and lives will be lost, not what they are saying about public safety when they are creating deadly confrontations..

  2. avatar Sam IAm says:

    And what, precisely will any mental health information do to prevent misuse of firearms? A background check, no matter how robust and verified the data available is, can only hope to stop a particular transaction, at a particular moment in time. We don’t even need to go into how unreliable “mental health” determinations are.

    What is curious is we are not seeing any organization connecting the dots between redflag laws and NICS checks. We have already seen an episode where a retired cop and school crossing guard lost both his job, and right to possess firearms because someone at a restaurant overheard the former cop say”….and shoot up the school…..”; a mere snippet of a conversation reported to police. Apparently there was even no actual application before a court, the cops just arrived and took the retired cop’s guns, and the school fired him the next day.

    1. avatar Ing says:

      “A background check, no matter how robust and verified the data available is, can only hope to stop a particular transaction, at a particular moment in time.”

      Well, it could at least actually DO that — which is what FixNICS purports to help with.

      As for Red Flag laws, it seems nobody is thinking about how that whole thing plays out in real life. Or maybe they are, and they *want* it that way. I’m not sure which.

      1. avatar Ing says:

        Reminds me of the drunk-driving hysteria in the 80s & early 90s, when the police would divert entire highways and do a stop-and-frisk on literally everyone because someone, somewhere, might be drunk.

        1. avatar Someone says:

          ’80s?
          These “drunk driver hunting expeditions”, where they block a whole highway for DUI checkpoint still happen here around Chicago.
          Only topped in popularity by “overweight truck hunting expeditions”, with half of a highway blocked by a mobile weight station in morning rush hour traffic.

        2. avatar Ing says:

          They can’t/don’t do that anymore in any of the states I live in or drive through…I thought it got slapped down nationwide. Figures that if anybody’s still doing it, Chicago would be one of them.

  3. avatar Shire-man says:

    The “mental illness” goalposts are slid up and down the field on a seemingly hourly basis by practitioners of an admittedly pseudo-scientific field which has a hard time buying into its own DSM criteria so what’s the point?

    1. avatar TROOF says:

      The point is banning civilian ownership of firearms, of course. Anyone who questions this would have to be kuh-razy!

  4. avatar daveinwyo says:

    There are 2 problems.
    1. mental health is now defined by extreme left leaning “professionals”, that are predisposed to be anti-gun.
    2. Sigmund was a FRAUD.

  5. avatar Texican says:

    Repeal NICS is more like it. It accomplishes nothing and wastes resources. The only thing it’s for is the beginnings of a registry of gunowners.

  6. avatar American Patriot says:

    The Left needs to stop creating the mentally ill. Anyone who is non-white are taught that they are Oppressed, that they can’t get by without Govt help, that their too stupid to get an I.D. to vote. If their feelings are hurt or they don’t get likes on their social media that life is over. It’s time people grow the F**k up! You are who you are…..You can’t change your sex, your skin color, or your nationality. If the left would stop Glorifying mass shootings in gun free zones maybe some of that would stop…The Left are just pure Evil & not mental cases (the ones who are normally the shooters in mass shootings). If the Punishment fit the crime a lot of the mental problems would go away!
    Ya never see a mass shooting at a gun show….wonder why!

    1. avatar daveinwyo says:

      YES!
      Many up-votes!

  7. avatar Biatec says:

    Fix nics is the problem. Lots of people who would never hurt a fly become prohibited through the mental health system.

    You are actively advocating for the stigmatization of mental illness while saying you are not.

    I’ll say it. At this point I’m calling you a liar. You know it doesn’t help. You know large portions of prohibited people would never hurt anyone. You know what you are doing is making people afraid to seek mental health help.

    And the worst part. You know it not Constitutional. but you don’t care.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      Yeah, but it wasn’t NSSF that backed the law making certain of the mentally ill prohibited persons. Chuckie Schumer was behind that. MANY if not MOST of the people involuntarily committed are suicidal, and for some reason the “government” believes it has a duty to keep people from trying to kill themselves, so the odds of that law being changed are nil. Further, the “government” does not want to admit that there is no known way to predict violent behavior, so it has taken the attitude “better safe than sorry.” One life saved and all that.

      1. avatar Biatec says:

        Backing and pushing for expansions of it is the same as supporting it. They are just as responsible as the dems

  8. avatar Mack The Knife says:

    Other than the Sandy Hook shooter who did not own a gun, but, gained access to them by hook, crook or negligence by the lawful owner (mother), has there ever been an adjudicated mentally ill person that underwent a NICS check for legally purchasing a gun that committed a mass shooting?
    Even the Sutherland Springs shooter was not adjudicated mentally ill, he had a domestic violence conviction that the USAF failed to enter into NICS.

  9. avatar JUST THE FACTS says:

    WE ARE BEING LIED TO BY EVERYONE!! WAKE UP AMERICA!!

    BIg Pharma & HealthCare don’t want u to get better!

    There make trillions feeding u pills & treatment. They don’t want u to get better! They want u in treatment for years!

    Pills may exist to cure many diseases but, they will hire the Clinton hit team to take out the 1st one who leaks that memo.

    There is no money in cures….just treatment!

    1. avatar Nickel Plated says:

      Hit team? The correct term is “You’ll get suicided”

    2. avatar TonyL says:

      Yep. Weeklong fever and rash then permanent immunity vs lifelong pharmaceutical treatment of neurologic and autoimmune disorders…..vaccines are proof your statement is correct.

  10. avatar Psychiatrist and former DSM-IV Task Force Chairman says:

    Every-time we hear someone talk about mental illness we realize how ignorant they are since the top Scientist and Psychiatrist understand little about it…but, yet they want to take the medicine away from people who are in great pain and jump through government hoops just to get pills u should be able to mail order from India or China were people can afford them! Poor disabled & old people should not be dragged out of their homes in the cold & snow in wheelchairs who have to pay for transportation and pay a Doctor just to get a prescription from a overpriced Pharmacy & Doctor.
    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
    “There are no objective tests in psychiatry-no X-ray, laboratory, or exam finding that says definitively that someone does or does not have a mental disorder.” “It’s bull—. I mean, you just can’t define it.” — Allen Frances, Psychiatrist and former DSM-IV Task Force Chairman

    “Virtually anyone at any given time can meet the criteria for bipolar disorder or ADHD. Anyone. And the problem is everyone diagnosed with even one of these ‘illnesses’ triggers the pill dispenser.” — Dr. Stefan Kruszewski, Psychiatrist

    The fact is, The American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association and the National Institute of Mental Health admit that there are no medical tests to confirm mental disorders as a disease but do nothing to counter the false idea that these are biological/medical conditions when in fact, diagnosis is simply done by a checklist of behaviors. Even the Executive Director of the nation’s leading mental health agency, the National Institute of Mental Health admits, “Unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure.”

    https://www.cchrint.org/psychiatric-disorders/
    https://www.cchrint.org/psychiatric-disorders/psychiatristsphysicians-on-lack-of-any-medicalscientific-tests/

    1. avatar Biatec says:

      Well said.

    2. avatar Ing says:

      The brain is a biological organ, and therefore mental illnesses ARE biologically based conditions.

      Problem is, we don’t understand how the brain actually works, so everything in psychology is no better than an educated guess at best and pure quackery at worst.

      Otherwise, you’re right on. It doesn’t help that psychologists seem to be blind to how tenuous their field actually is, nor does it help that there are billions of dollars to be made pushing pills on people to solve problems nobody actually understands.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Ing,

        Be careful with your assumptions.

        I agree that our brains are biological organs. That is obvious to anyone with a brain! (ba-dump tish)

        Keep the following in mind:
        A ginormous number of people have faith in the Creator as revealed in the Holy Bible. If we indeed have a Creator and the Holy Bible is true, then our brains are also spiritual organs where sin and evil spiritual forces profoundly affect function and outlook. Needless to say, treating a spiritual problem as a biological problem will fail every time.

        Critical Disclaimer: I am not claiming that there cannot be biological problems with our brains. I believe that plenty of people have biological problems with their brains which we can cure with biological treatments. I also believe that plenty of people have spiritual problems with their brains which we cannot cure with biological treatments. (Whether or not we can cure such people with spiritual treatments is another kettle of fish.)

        1. avatar Ing says:

          I mostly agree.

          There may not be a biological treatment for some mental problems, just like some physical problems have no identifiable cause nor cure. It’s very possible that a thought pattern itself (or a spiritual illness, if you prefer) could disorder the whole system.

          It has also been shown empirically that mind and body are *not* separate entities. They are interlocked parts of a biological whole. And whether through a potentially measurable metaphysical synergy or an ineffable spirit, it’s clear that humanity is much more than the mere sum of its parts.

          Doctors and scientists have made great inroads to understanding some things, but medicine & science don’t have as many answers as they’d like us to think. If you ask me, skepticism is ALWAYS warranted (I probably don’t practice it enough).

    3. avatar John E> says:

      As Director of an Assertive Community Treatment Team who works in the community with Seriously and Persistently Mentally Ill Individuals, and who has seen the research on violence and victimization, I can tell you the majority of the people I work with are no danger. However, studies show (THE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN SERIOUS MENTAL ILLNESS AND ACTS OF VIOLENCE, Swanson, et al, 2015) Violence among those with schizophrenia increases when they do not adhere to their medication, or use illegal drugs. The single best thing that happened to this is population was the Long Term Injection; 1 shot of Aristada every 2 months, or 1 shot of Maintaina every month has done more to reduce decompensation among those with schizophrenia than anything else.

      1. avatar DocMike says:

        I’m a psychiatrist and neuroscientist who has worked with severely ill people in community mental health, and I have to say that JohnE is entirely correct. This is sometimes referred to as the dirty secret about mental illness and violence. In general, people with mental illnesses are not violent and when the are only against themselves (suicide)….with one glaring exdeption. People who are not taking medication or are taking drugs (on something or off something as the saying goes) and who are psychotic and paranoid as a result, are significantly more likely to be violent. Not just compared to other people with mental illnesses but the general population.

        And like JohnE, I’m a big fan of long acting injectables. We know that when people who have severe psychosis and paranoia take antipsychotics, their risk of violence drops sharply. And the #1 cause of medications not working was and is medications not taken. Back when I was working community mental health, the first newer injectables were just being approved and lasted only 2 weeks or so (only the much older haldol dec lasted a month). Even with the short duration, the improvement in stability was profound. We now have several long acting injectables that last a month and one that lasts 3 months. And despite what some might think, a lot of clients actually liked them. They didn’t have to remember meds every day and there were fewer ups and downs with side effects.

        Now if we just had antipsychotics that also improved function not just reduce symptoms…

  11. avatar Timothy Toroian says:

    If we can’t get the proper records in the system why do let allow society to STIGMATIZE law-abiding gun owners!!!

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      The same way cigarettes were stigmatized by society, of course…

  12. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    Common sense was thrown out a very long time ago when it comes to recognizing and treating the mentally ill. The Libertarians Liberals and the Left, including the Conservatives, all where part of this social disaster making.

    They all worked to dissemble the physical buildings and the systems that we had for hundreds of years, to deal with people who could not, or would not, control their anti social impulses.

    The result is you have open air drugs use, people defecating in the streets and innocent people being attacked. San Francisco gets the most of the attention but these problems have spread to much of the west coastal areas.

    And no it wasn’t Gov Reagan but the guy before him. Gov Jerry Brown Sr. (D) who opened up the mental hospitals in california letting them run free. And this was caused by a court case.

  13. avatar "keep yur paws off my dead guy" possum says:

    Its complicated. There are so many forms off mental illness. Do I want a loose cannon walking around with a gunm,? No. Should I take away a constitutional right becsuse an individual had a nervous breakdown or suffers from ptsd? No. Its complicated. I do know this if an individual wants to kill or commit suicide they will find away, gunms do make it easier thats for sure. So here we are, to protect “us” from “them” we take away their weapons, which could be anything. So lock “them” up but who are “they”? Who decides, who could be trusted to decide. What to do??? ,,,Ironicatbest the other life forms on this planet do not seem to have these mental health problems, nature has a way of weeding them out.

  14. avatar Randy Jones says:

    I recall reading a while back that Chicago only prosecuted about 5% of the gun criminals that were arrested, the rest had charges dropped or plea bargained to a lesser offense. The same is true Federally with people who lie on the 4473, prohibited possessors get to walk after trying to purchase a firearm. But then there is no repercussions for companies or governmental agencies that do not keep the NICS system updated with disqualifying offenses either. Nor was there any repercussions in Florida when they found out that the NICS system wasn’t used for nearly a year and a half. How many people slipped through the cracks on that?

    NYC – let a homeowner defend his home with a pistol that belonged to his deceased father and he goes to jail an loosed his right to own a firearm for the rest of his life, but let a criminal use a firearm and there is a good chance he won’t get caught and when he does there is a 90% chance the firearm charge will get dropped or plea bargained. In the mean time, de Blasio will travel with an armed escort and tell regular people, you don’t need to have firearms.

    I’ll keep my Governor here in Kentucky. Pro-gun, pro-life, pro-justice.

  15. avatar ron says:

    You’re creating the stigma by singling out the condition, making the condition the issue and keeping guns away on the basis of the condition.

    Furthermore, you’re motivation to focus on the issue is simple: Cowardice. You don’t want to stand for the RKBA of all humans. You want to compromise with the NFA34, GCA68, Bloombergs, and all the other antis. You’re too damn yellow to stand as an American, and you want to take guns away from people.

    You and Lebron James see China the same way, right?

    Smell what yer shovelin NSSF.

  16. avatar Sian says:

    Mass shooters are mentally ill, but the mentally ill are much more likely to be the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators.

    Legislating anything as a response to the high-profile, low-frequency possibility of a mass shooting is a terrible disservice to the millions of mentally ill in this country the vast majority of whom are, at worst, a danger only to themselves.

  17. avatar Disgruntled person says:

    Mental health is a form of Talmudry in order fleece the goyim and destroy their spirits. Humans survived for a long time before paying $200/hr to a psych major who treats you using unscientific, ineffective techniques (like CBT).

    Then, when that doesn’t do anything- you get referred to a Psychiatrist who puts you on pills that you can never stop taking. The physician now gets an annuity from 15m “med checks”. Oh BTW, SSRIs are almost always the cause of manic episodes. The truth is there’s only enough real mentally ill people for like 1/10th of the current number of psychiatrists. Also- psychiatry never takes responsibility for its absolute terrible track record. I was in a psych rotation during med school when they thought Depakote could replace Lithium. Spoiler alert: it didn’t end well.

    Nobody ever asks “is it even working”? That’s the elephant in the room. Nobody has the balls to say “maybe othropedics and obstetrics do a good job, but psychiatry and oncology suck”.

    Mexico has shit healthcare and they live longer than us.

    My advice for everyone:
    -stop being fat (seriously, capitalism has won until every single person is on a CPAP machine)
    -don’t take any drug less than 30years old
    -don’t enter the mental health system

    Wait till the DSM-6 pathologises gun ownership. No guns for you goy because you remind (((them))) of Cossacks!

    Source: obgyn / md /facs

    1. avatar Ryan says:

      Why is everyone blaming everything on Jews now? It’s LIBERALS who don’t understand our constitution who are the real problem. The idea that Jews run the mental health industry is just absurd. Stop spewing this hate.

      1. avatar Blake says:

        Look at who runs the massive companies that manufacture lots of anti-psychotics and anti-depressants.

        Look at who runs the megacorporations that borderline control the narrative in this country.

        Think about how many of them are Jewish compared to the relative population of the country.

        A bit overrepresented. I’m not saying it’s some grand conspiracy, but it’s odd.

  18. avatar amir says:

    Repeal NICS is more like it. It accomplishes nothing and wastes resources. The only thing it’s for is the beginnings of a registry of gunowners.
    درمان افسردگی بدون دارو

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