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Logo for the NSSF's FixNICS campaign (courtesy

Imagine a database of every American’s mental health records. Why? Why imagine that? What business does the government have knowing every citizens’ medical treatment for mental health? To stop mentally ill people from buying guns legally, of course. Hello? If those records are added to the FBI’s NICS all a gun grabbing government has to do is raise the bar for gun purchase or, indeed, ownership. Are you on anti-depressants? No firearm for you. That little move would DQ over 20 million people. Some 20 percent of Americans currently suffer from some form of mental illness. Yup. Sixty-two million people. Depending on how you define mental illness, of course. Is that something we should leave to the FBI? In that sense, the NSSF’s FixNICS campaign is deeply misguided. Your thoughts?

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  1. Ditch NICS.
    As others here have noted, if someone is so mentally unstable that they can’t be trusted with a firearm then they can’t be trusted without a custodian. They can’t be trusted with a can of gas, or car keys, or a kitchen knife, or standing behind people at a subway station. Fix the mental health system and stop blaming the tool.

  2. I’d have to see some actual data demonstrating a benefit from NICS to not support ditching it.

    Not that this will ever happen.

  3. if a society is to be civilized, and I use that term loosely, then the good people of society will have to take upon themselves the burdens that that entails. Including court ordered treatments/commitments to mental health facilities would seem to be a line in the sand worth talking about. although I am certainly open to suggestions.

  4. Ditch. But since ditching and changing our “criminal justice” system to allow for that ideal is politically unfeasible at the moment discussing it is solely mental exercise.

  5. The definition of mental illness should be limited to those confined as a threat to themselves or others, and not just the involuntary hold for evaluation (what is called a “5150” in California), but rather an adjudication subject to the protections of due process. Of course, that still leaves us with Loughners and Holmes running around, but that cannot be helped. Antianxiety and antidepressant drugs do not raise the risk of someone going postal; in fact, except for rare adverse reactions, they lower that risk. Personally, I am not so convinced that being a risk of ham to oneself should be a disqualifier either. In most states (California not among them) an attempted suicide is a criminal offense, probably a relic of the moral teachings of Christianity that suicide is a mortal sin. And yes it is tragic; but it happens and no law is going to stop it.

  6. America is the sole country on the planet to enumerate the right to keep and bear arms in it’s founding document left on the planet, our violent crime rates are lower than most other nations, murder using firearms is lower than most other countries.
    Yet the 2ndA is under egregious assault by the very PPL sworn to uphold our laws as well as the UN and every dictator on the planet.
    America is still a bastion of Christianity and Christianity in under violent assualt world wide.
    Why Is That?

  7. Ditching it for something cleaner and cheaper would be optimal. But I am not sure what that is. I like the deterrent it presents criminals – yes, it creates a black market for arms, but that seems to be to be its own kind of penalty (dangerous & expensive). In the end we are still responsible for our own safety, so for me it would come down to seeing data on whether or not personal security is better served with or without the existence of that black market.

    Privacy is a real issue, but i believe as worded the “code” idea seems to create a new commodity particularly if its good for multiple purchases of a time-frame. If the “code” had to be cross-checked with the ID of the issuee at time of purchase it would work, but that kills the privacy. Anonymity is a two edge sword.

    • I don’t think “send their girlfriend to the store”, which is the standard criminal workaround for NICS, counts as ‘Dangerous & Expensive’. Though I suppose it depends on the girl.

  8. THERE have been occasions when a mental health professional reported that a person was likely a danger to the public and the authorities sat on there hands. That flaw in the system needs fixing first. No one except a mental health professional should be allowed to designate who is a danger to the public. To prevent criminals from buying guns, a requirement that all gun sales include a bill of sale with proper ID, address and signed statement of eligibility. Then if the seller is still suspicious, a call to the local authorities would cover him and he would still make the sale. That would provide a paper trail without putting a record in the government’s hands.

    • I am a mental health professional, and I disagree that I should be able to infringe on someone else’s rights. If someone is that dangerous they should go through a court commentment where 2 doctors, a nurse or therapist and a judge all agree, this even gives the involved in my state an opportunity to have a jury before being required to undergo treatment. And if you don’t feel comfortable making a gun sale then your an idiot for finalizing the sale. Why burdon LE the follow up? At that point go to an ffl for a transfer if the person is legit and not shadey he should agree. NICs is flawed, every firearm purchase they do an extended check on me, I share my father’s name but not his criminal record… Cone up with anothercck system, one that can be used by the public!

  9. Ditch? No way.

    Putting the whole damn thing on a stack of wooden pallets, pouring gasoline on top and holding a massive bonfire whilst imbibing copious amounts of beer to piss on the ashes the next morning? Sure.

    Oh wait, nvm, that was my solution for Obamacare…

  10. Ditch NICS. We know criminals by the very definition are not going to obey the law & they will get their hands onto whatever tool(s) that want to get the job done. I’m also worried that wanting to own guns might eventually be considered a mental illness & as such I can’t support having the NICS block people who are not currently locked up.

    I’m of the opinion that the only people who shouldn’t have a gun are criminals incarcerated, criminals on probation, criminals on parole, & people while in a mental institution. After being released from the mentioned states they will have all of their gun rights restored.

    I also think that every 18-year-old should be able to but a pistol or any other firearm they want, as well as carry openly or concealed. I figure if your old enough to be drafted into the military & vote you should be considered adult enough to have a pistol.

  11. This website is “The Truth About Guns”. The truth is, NICS is not going away and there is no support to have it go away. The truth is, states do not supply all the info that is necessary. And, the truth is, there is neither side has asked the definitions to be expanded. While the kooks putting the SAFE Act may offer evidence, there is not broad support. Even the mentally ill have rights and it would be a fight.

    We know that even with NICS, nobody is going and enforcing the laws:

    For 76,000 failed background checks only 33 people faced charges, 13 convicted

    “The FBI can quickly detect if a person is lying when a dealer runs a background check.

    It transfers those denials to the ATF. Only a fraction of the cases are actually passed along to field investigators and even fewer are ever prosecuted.”

    The real question is, if nobody is going to enforce the laws we already have, what good do new laws do? Nobody will Ditch it, there are changes that can be made, but that effort is all wasted if the laws are not enforced. Even when asked if ATF needed more money, there was crickets. Why? Because bad guys rarely try to get a background check. It is such a small percentage it is not worth the effort.

    You may say, this is evidence as to why it should go, but that is politcally impossible. @RF, you have a better chance of getting a date with one of those Texas models once you get down to the gun state in the nation than of NICS ever going away.

    So, I am all in with FixNICS, it makes gun owners and gun manufactures look good and accomplishes nothing but good PR and good perception to low information voters. And, all evidence is that it is a mess.

  12. Well I have always looked upon the NICS systems as a ‘useful evil’. Even thought the system is pretty much useless it does act as a small deterrent for know criminals.

    How ever the REAL problem that we’re starting to see is that the Feds are adding more and more people of their black lists for gun ownership. Like the 108K+ veterans that are now barred from their 2A rights just because they were damaged in combat. Not that some of them shouldn’t be barred from ownership. But really if someone is so damaged that they need to be protected from themselves then they should be under constant care. But ATM they’re just flagging people and walking away. That’s NO good.

  13. RF said: “Depending on how you define mental illness, of course. Is that something we should leave to the FBI?”

    Actually I would rather have the FBI define it than the folks who do it now. The American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization are corrupt, incredibly political groups that have made “everything” a treatable mental disorder. Both organizations are as far left as you can get. The danger of hooking mental problems up to NICS is that you officially sanction the nutty crap they put out. Since they change and mostly add to the list of craziness you’re asking for trouble. The left wing psych’s are going to define at some point gun ownership and interest as a dangerous problem which by definition requires that you be excluded from acting on your interests.

    The following is a good article which illustrates how screwed up the APA and its standard reference are:

  14. The coming manual DSM-V makes nearly everything a mental illness.
    Many of the Definitions in the DSM have changed over the years due to politics. So the ability of not only the government, but those in the medical community unfriendly to gun rights could make a whole bunch of trouble for gun owners.

    On top of that you will have avoidance of treatment.

    Then you have little to no due process rights, or rights that are so expensive and troublesome to exercise that they are non-existent in practice. It’s the same as being marked a felon. Only a mere felon has more rights to appeal.

    A key problem is that states enter data on involuntary commitment for evaluation, and no matter the results of the evaluation, and even if the person is found sound and not a danger, they effectively lose their gun rights.

    Scrap nics? No, not yet, but if the guidelines for what constitutes mental illness, and the criteria get to loose for what is entered into the database, (it’s going that direction) then it will have to be fixed or done away with.

    • This.

      Also, if we look archaeologically at the 19th and 20th century roots of the concept of “mental illness,” we find it is based in all sorts of organizational, political, and institutional hanky-panky in the mind and social control industry…and very little on data.

      Not to mention that a whole bunch of “mental illness” is caused by the very drugs that Big Pharma inflicts on people in the name of “mental health.” We are very much in the Dark Ages at present, where powerful institutions are attempting to control the masses, and Big Data combined with forced national “health care” is going to make it even more tyrannical.

      I’ve had concerns about all this since the 1970s, reading Thomas Szasz, Michel Foucault, Alice Miller, Jeffrey Masson, and others. Today I follow the work of David Healy, who has devoted himself to what he calls “data based medicine.” Google him; I wasn’t allowed to post a link to an interview with him that appeared at Psychology Today last year. I normally loathe that magazine, but his interview was very good.

  15. If you are too crazy, incompetent, dangerous, or otherwise unsafe with a gun, you are too dangerous to be out and about on your own.

    IOW, there should be no more restrictions on guns than on heads of lettuce.

  16. The mentally ill in the NICS database should be limited to those adjudicated as dangerous, not every citizen who might have gone on an SSRI at some point in their life.

    • Key word: “adjudicated”. The thought that a bureocrat, and that is just what these doctors would be, can declare your consitutional rights null and void is chilling. At least with a judge making the ruling we have a chance of rule of law being honored.

  17. Hrm… I guess neither. NICS is not necessarily bad, but at the same time it has nothing to do with “gun violence”.

    People/groups/politicians need to be more aware of how they spend resources to address problems. Sometimes you aren’t the right person with the right kit of tools to fix a problem. NSSF isn’t the right person and NICS isn’t the right kit of tools. People are still so childishly symbolic about everything. They feel compelled to “Do something”, even if that something is simply falling on a sword dramatically to prove some metaphorical point. Maybe it feels like they’re doing something, but that something is really nothing.

    If a particular community has a violence problem they need to decide if they care and figure out what to do about it for themselves. If they want to consult with or have help from people outside the community then those outside should give them a hand. When asked. Not before. We shouldn’t treat other communities like they are children or animals to be taken care of, to make decisions for. That presumes that the we’re experts on their lives and they’re ignorant about them. The opposite is true.

    • You saved me from having to formulate and type these same thoughts, Ralph.

      I think the fly in this big data/big government ointment is that people also want a one-size-saves-us-all-forever-from-anything-bad solution. Which is a religious, not a social, impulse. And it is very immature. Adults know that life has bad stuff in it, and the ultimate measure of maturity is grace under pressure. It is mental adolescents who want the world to be bubblewrapped and surveilled before they can venture outside.

      Although I agree that communities should take care of these issues, IME most people don’t want to be bothered with hygiene. Their fresh water is provided by third and fourth and hundredth parties. Their sewage handling and treatment. Their solid wastes. Dealing with social hygiene is no different. They want politicians, priests, and low-paid service workers to take care of everything. Maybe the occasional well paid technician, and then they complain about their wages. For all that infrastructure and organization, for all those hard workers, we still see pandemics of bed bugs, head lice, hooch cooties, etc. Because most people just don’t want to be bothered. “Whatever, there’s a drug for that.”

      IME, when someone moves into a neighborhood and starts causing serious problems and violence due to a documented history of drug use or just plain family degeneracy, the last thing we DIYers are allowed or encouraged to do is do whatever it takes to rein them in. In fact, setting such limits–even in our own homes, on our own properties–is now a violation of their civil rights.

      What we learn here in the PNW dealing with meth-heads is that they have more rights because of their bad choices and the resulting fallouts. The existing governmental and social order reinforces their poor choices and penalizes the law abiding.

      This is isomeric with the gun control issue. “Do something, anything” generally translates to bashing the law abiding, the productive, and the cooperative. Or penalizing small acts of transgression more than large ones. Similarly, this whole “mental health” issue around guns is an attempt to kill two species with one bomb: to end private gun ownership AND inflict an impossible standard of mental normalcy.

      This is btw exactly what the Inquisition did in Europe. It didn’t matter what you did, or whether you did it. What mattered was, someone saw you as a heretic and turned you in. The standard of orthodoxy was so high that no one could achieve it, and that was exactly the purpose: to keep everyone constantly scurrying, worrying, and turning each other in. So that a small access class could keep its money and power.

  18. Persons who have been involuntarily committed because they were a danger to themselves or others should be reported to NICS and debarred the use of arms for a period of time. That assumes that due process and an opportunity to be heard were afforded to them in the first place. If it wasn’t, under some “emergency” rule, then they’re entitled to due process before they can be deprived of a fundamental right by the government. In other words, I’m against guns for nuts.

    However, if the day comes that the mere use of legal medication is a disqualifier, then the either police state has arrived or Cuomo’s stormtroopers are at the door.

    • ^This!
      No one is actually saying what they mean by “mental illness”. Minor depression isn’t even in the same ballpark as schizophrenia but when it comes to guns, it seems many want them treated as equal.

  19. God Damn RINOS!

    Ditch the UNCONSTITUTIONAL NICS, NOW, along with every single gun control bill on the books, along with abolishing the illegal ATF.

    That, is the only ‘campaign’ true gunnies will ever agree to.

  20. True story:
    In 2006, I was buying my first 1911 from a licensed dealer at a big gun show in Virginia. As I filled out my 4473, I jokingly asked the lady if anyone ever failed this check. Her face went straight and she told me that ‘yesterday’, at this very gun show, they got a call back from the authorities after submitting his paperwork. They asked her if he was still there (he was), and then asked her to keep him occupied — they were on their way. A short while later, some LEOs arrived and took him away in cuffs.

    It would seem that some criminals do try to buy their guns from gun shows, even from dealers, and the NICS does actually help to stop *these* criminals from obtaining firearms.

  21. NICS will never prevent criminals from getting guns, that’s a fact. there never was, isn’t now, and never will be a system that covers all the bases. However, some tweaks to the current system might at least reduce the pool of loonies who can now legally buy guns. HIPPA needs to be amended to allow background checks like NICS to see, in limited fashion, only those types of disgnoses and treatments that are related to mental diseases that are construed as posing a threat to others. Schizophrenia and bi-polar disease are two that come to mind. I will repeat an example of a real world case with which I am all too familiar.
    A member of my temple, a man who suffered a traumatic brain injury many years ago that left him in an altered mental state, is right now walking around my community with a Ruger LC-9 legally tucked into one of his pockets. This man’s mental disease is clear to anyone who speaks with him or, worse yet, angers him. No pun intended, he has a hair trigger temper and his mood changes in an instant from calm to angry, and no amount of reasoning can talk him down. He is known locally to the police, who maintain a file on him. However, since this obviously disturbed individual has no prison or mental commitment record he was able to walk into a local gun shop, pass the background check and , since the store owner felt no need to exercise any judgement on his own regarding to whom he should sell a firearm, happily completed the transaction. In my opinion it’s only a matter of time before something tragic happens, but since the current check system couldn’t detect him as a danger to society and he hasn’t yet broken any laws there is nothing the police or anyone can do to prevent a tragedy from happening. This is an example of where we need to get out from behind our knee-jerk reactions to anything that we think limits our 2A rights and realize that sometimes there is such a thing as common sense limits. Such a system of checks wouldn’t have had any effect on my 2A rights but it certainly would have put up a roadblock to this guy and people like him. Could he then find a gun illegally? Of course, there is no perfect solution, all we can do is errect as many roadblocks as we can to prevent a loonie like him from having access to firearms. That wouldn’t have stopped Adam Lanza, but that’s an instance of an irresponsible gun owner, his idiot mother. In my example this is an example of an irresponsible gun shop owner who would rather make the sale than exercise good judgement.

    • Joel,

      Your idea that HIPPA needs to be amended is the wrong solution to the problem. I also have personal experience with mentally ill individuals who should be or should have been denied a firearm. In one case the person ended up killing a police officer and has spent the last 13 years being convicted, appealing, being committed in a seemingly endless cycle.

      While I believe there should be a better way to identify, restrict and help these people, a doctor should not be able to make that diagnosis on their own and then submit the record to NICS. Instead the standard for getting someone committed should be adjusted and still require legal/court action to accomplish. The standard for being committed is left up to each state at this time. The standard of “danger to self or others” is too high of a bar to meet when courts require that the person has already committed some dangerous action. There are lesser standards, like the need for phsyciatric treatment that could be used in such a case as you describe. Unfortunately if the standard is too low then the system will be abused and some people will become victims of the system.

      The paper at–civil%20commitment%20law%20mh%20services%20us%20homicide%20rates–2011.pdf has a decent short descriptoin of some possible standards for committment in the introduction.

  22. That’s why I never go to a mental counselor…I just consult the voices in my head for their advice!

  23. The US Code clearly says “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution;” 18 USC § 922 (d) (4).

    This exact phrase is used in the firearms and explosives sections to deny selling/transfer to a mentally ill person. There are two problems with this wording.

    First, adjudicated is not defined in statute and the common definition available today does not specify that this is a legal proceding or who is the judge to make the decision. An individual like a doctor should never get to make this decision and due process must be preserved for the individual being denied.

    Second, committed to a mental institution is also not defined and does not take into account the cirumstances of the “commitment”. What qualifies as a mental institution? What qualifies as committed? In my opinion, involuntary committment/treatement qualifies for denial and voluntary does not.

    I believe that the these two issues should be resolved and support fixing NICS. Senate bill S.480 is a good start at resolving these two but it needs clarification on what constitutes a judical board or commission.

    S.480 can be found here
    My guess is it will never make it out of the judiciary committee. This bill also provides a way to have your rights reinstated through the same standard as having your rights removed. I haven’t thought that one through enough to decide if I agree or not. Note that the bill only covers the firearms sections of code. The explosives sections should be reworked to use the same language.

    There are also some issues on what consititutes a crime that qualifies for denial but I haven’t seen any bills to fix this. The case of pleading to a felony that is declared a misdemeanor after probation or similar sentencing is a problem for a lot people. I think this is going too far for non-violent crimes and also needs fixed.

    • “First, adjudicated is not defined in statute and the common definition available today does not specify that this is a legal proceding or who is the judge to make the decision. An individual like a doctor should never get to make this decision and due process must be preserved for the individual being denied.

      Second, committed to a mental institution is also not defined and does not take into account the cirumstances of the “commitment”. What qualifies as a mental institution? What qualifies as committed? In my opinion, involuntary committment/treatement qualifies for denial and voluntary does not.”

      THANK YOU! This is superbly stated.

  24. Robert, whether it’s fix or nix, the system (a huge database) will remain imperfect, incomplete, and with loopholes that the motivated can squoosh through. It’s a big electronic ledger, not a perfected deity with superpowers.

    There is only one problem around guns: the fact that, as with any tool or weapon, too many people misuse them or use them stupidly, and it results in harm that some choose to magnify manyfold.

    The very potency and effectiveness of firearms makes them the best tools for PotG in certain situations, but the scariest idols for the gun-clueless.

    No governmental or other system can do more than try to address the bulk of an issue. Do we really expect more perfection of a database than we do of ourselves? (A little bit of Goethe and Schiller there….)

    I happen to be a pure Constitutionalist on the issue: the right of the people to keep and bear arms SHALL. NOT. BE. INFRINGED.

    I am willing to live in a world where that is the only rule regarding firearms. In part because it means I suddenly would have the liberty to put down, oh, say any meth-dealing corrupter of children and the community. If my neighbors decided to put me down for that choice…well, that’s the ol jury-of-peers thing. I trust that too, in a purer form.

    I do know that we cannot survive as a society and a republic by continuing down this path of giving malefactors and degenerates more rights than the productive and law abiding.

  25. As seen at the top of the comments, I’m in the “Ditch it” camp. However, to those in the “reality” camp (i.e.,”it’s not going away, so let’s fix it”) I offer the following. Perhaps it’s not going away because people don’t know the costs of the current system or the cost to fix it. We need economic studies that reveal these costs and explain how this money could be better used to truly fix the real problem.

    • explain how this money could be better used to truly fix the real problem.

      Yes, that would be a great thing. The problem is that we can’t agree on the threshold question, namely, “what is the real problem?” Until we figure that out, the situation will remain a mess.

  26. Ditch it.

    If the Founding Fathers wanted government checks on gun buyers, they would have said so. Instead they said “shall not infringe”.

  27. If there is a mental illness sufficiently dangerous that we should deprive a citizen of a human and civil right, then it must be accomplished via due process.

    It must be judged in court using witnesses and evidence, by a jury of peers, with the accused being afforded an attorney in his own defense.

    The punishment (denial of various rights and freedom) must be proportional to the issue, with a set time for review, again a time frame proportional to the issue.

  28. Given that so many people have some sort of mental illness it stands to reason that nearly 100% of Americans know someone who has a mental illness that might be disqualifying. How long before you’re required to list all of your family, friends, and acquaintances who might visit your home and come within 10 feet of your guns?

  29. Ditch NICS w/ no replacement? Isn’t that like Christmas day for the ANTI-gun crowd? “Hey look! Those crazy gun nuts got no checks at all to buy them deadly weapons! Ban guns now!”

    NICS at least gives them a warm and fuzzy and allows us to say “why implement all these other checks? NICS does XYZ already.” I don’t know that taking their warm fuzzy away does anything to help us, besides ending a usually brief and not to onerous bit of paperwork.

    If you think NICS is bad, don’t fool yourself that it would just go away and not be replaced w/ something worse.

  30. I’m fine with barring mentally ill people from owning guns, if “mentally ill” is confined to the insanity/court standard of not being able to tell right from wrong. 99.999% of the people medically defined as mentally ill for sure can tell the difference.

    Also, it’s worth noting that every time the shrinks put out a new diagnostic manual, more and more things are defined as illnesses.

  31. I’d prefer to ditch NICS but I’d settle for fixing it. I don’t have a problem with the mental health side of it as long as only those who have been found mentally incompetent by a judge/jury are barred and even they should have a clear path to having their firearms rights reinstated. That and they need to fix it so that some other John Smith in Georgia being a felon doesn’t bar John Smith in Oregon from purchasing a firearm. I’d think that would be as easy as including a SS# on the form… oh yea, they do that already.

    The best way to fix it would be to contract the whole system out to the NRA. Government bureaucrats aren’t know for being competent in the first place, but government also draws a lot of people who are out to “fix things”. Like all the tree hugging hippies that work for the ERA – businessmen don’t work there. Best to leave it up to those devoted to protecting our rights, not restricting them.

  32. NSSF represents the manufacturers and not us. Manufacturers don’t care about background checks, and why should they? Anything that impedes the resale of used guns may actually help the sale of new ones.

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