The school shooting in Connecticut last month has provoked a slew of hysterical calls for gun control in the United States. Big surprise, I know. What makes the calls for “regulation” and “sensible gun laws” somewhat unique this time around is the focus on mental illness. The fact that the Connecticut shooter is alleged to have been mentally ill is being used by some as an argument for further disarming the mentally ill in general. (It is also interesting that so little focus has hitherto been placed on the dangerous drugs these shooters are all taking, rather than mental illness itself).
Gun rights groups have understandably steered clear of the mental illness issue. On first glance, it just seems like common sense that people with mental illness should not be running around the streets with guns, and groups like the NRA have sidestepped the issue in order to focus on other concerns, like making sure an assault weapons ban is not reinstated. This looks like a politically savvy move by these groups, but it is also a cowardly way to avoid having to stand up for a very vulnerable and voiceless group of people. If these gun rights groups had any worth at all, or if they had one shred of moral fortitude, it would be time for them to stand up for the rights of this extremely vulnerable group of people. Since there is virtually no chance of this happening, it is important for us as individuals to stand up for the gun rights of the mentally ill.
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Tackling the issue of mental illness and guns is not nearly as politically dangerous as gun rights groups think. On the contrary, there are so many people in the United States that could potentially be classified as “mentally ill” by the state that it is politically dangerous for these groups to not stand up for them. As much as 20% of the adult population in the United States could be classified as having a mental illness in 2011 alone! With that many people at risk of being disarmed, (if they haven’t been so already), the gun rights groups are just plain crazy not to stand up for them.
In addition, the entire case for disarming the mentally ill is based more upon fear and misconceptions rather than rational argument. In the first place, there is the gigantic problem of deciding who is to be considered mentally ill. Most people probably have in mind disarming delusional schizophrenics walking around in bunny slippers, an image the gun control crowd has fostered, but mental illness is a much broader concept than that.
For example, if a medical student suffers a panic attack due to stress and is institutionalized for a day or two, does that mean that she is mentally ill and should be disarmed? If so, for how long will she lose her right to bear arms, and who is to decide if and when she is to recover her ability to defend herself? Or, what about the estimated 11% of Americans who are taking antidepressants? Are these people also mentally ill, and will they be disarmed as well? What if a person took antidepressants years ago, but has since stopped taking them? Is he mentally ill, and will he be disarmed? Or, even more dangerous, what if a prescription-happy doctor tells you to take antidepressants, but you don’t want them and don’t even take them? Would you still be classified as having been diagnosed with mental illness and lose your right to own guns? These are just a few of the fantastically insidious implications of disarming the mentally ill even more than they already have been.
Read More at Lew Rockwell. By Mark R. Crovelli.