Written January 10, 2013     

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© 2016 Bob Lonsberry


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It’s OK to hate gun owners, the president and the governor have proven that.

But what about crazy people?

In all this debate about gun banning, nobody seems to be paying any attention to the other shoe that’s falling.

And that’s the one that’s about the step on the mentally ill.

Because the Democrat effort to end “gun violence” is a broad-based attack on gun ownership, and has a larger scope than just banning ugly guns with big magazines.

In every conversation there has been reference to keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. Just yesterday, discussion in New York included the suggestion that anti-gun legislation include the requirement that mental-health professionals report to the police any of their patients who owned guns and might potentially be a danger to themselves or others.

That should prompt a question or two.

Namely: What exactly do we mean when we say “mentally ill?”

If we first take the guns away from assault-rifle owners, and then we take the guns away from the mentally ill – which is what they say they want to do – we probably should define “mentally ill.”

Because, in modern society, there are a lot of mentally ill people.

And when you make mental-health practitioners mandated reporters, obligated to tell police about patients who own guns and could potentially be dangerous, you open up confidentiality issues and judgment calls that could be very disruptive to people’s lives and rights.

First mental illness.

How mentally ill do you have to be to be crazy?

For example, the most-prescribed drugs in many communities are anti-depressants. People who take anti-depressants have depression. Depression is a mental illness. Therefore, people who take anti-depressants are mentally ill.

And what about ADHD?

If the school talks you into putting your seventh-grader on Ritalin, have you just assured that he will be denied the right to buy a gun someday?

If you’ve got a little bit of bi-polar, or some OCD, you are mentally ill.

And they don’t want mentally ill people to have guns.

So, would they take your guns away?

Would they turn you away as you tried to buy a shotgun or a .22?

Now, to the mandated reporting. The state of New York is considering requiring counselors and doctors to report gun-owning patients who might be dangerous.

That makes those counselors and doctors pretty powerful. Their word ends up being the deciding factor in whether or not their patients can own guns.

I wonder if their personal views on firearms will come into those decisions?

Put another way: Do you know very many psychologists, counselors, social workers and psychiatrists who are pro-gun?

And when can they tell if someone is dangerous to themselves or others? Various diagnoses, for example, have an increased likelihood of suicide. Should those people have their guns taken away, just in case?

Should we take the guns away from people with depression, as a precaution?

If someone has a diagnosis which could theoretically decay into a dangerous situation, do you pull their guns just in case their situation gets worse?

Doesn’t that seem extreme?

Doesn’t it seem to take a large and ill-defined class of people – the mentally ill – and make them second-class Americans?

Should an illness cost one a civil right?

I don’t think so.

That’s because most people who are mentally ill aren’t crazy. They have a problem, it can be a great challenge for them, but most people who are mentally ill still function, work their jobs, raise their families and do what’s right. There is nothing innate about mentally ill people that says they shouldn’t be allowed to own guns.

They are responsible, taxpaying people.

The overwhelming majority of mentally ill people are no danger to themselves or to others. And to willy nilly put them in a category that denies them the same rights as their neighbors is wrong.

Mental illness in our day and age is a larger and more complex thing than it has ever been. There are more diagnoses, there are more practitioners, there is more acceptance, there are more patients.

Yet it all comes under the umbrella of mental illness.

In this rush to ban guns, people will be denied their rights because of our definitions of guns. Let not compound that wrong by denying people rights because of our definition of them.

Yes, the rules for civil confinement may need to be tweaked. For the most dysfunctional of people, compulsory treatment needs to be easier to get.

But those people are a very tiny subset of the mentally ill. And painting with too broad a brush won’t make us safer, it will make them less free.

The fact our leaders have decided to oppress one group of citizens, because they exercise their Second Amendment rights, should not mean we accede to their decision to oppress another group of citizens, because of their health.

- by Bob Lonsberry © 2013

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