The new horizon of gun control, Part 2. The black hole of mental health.

posted at 8:51 am on December 19, 2012 by Jazz Shaw

Yesterday, we looked at A Violent Society as one element of the new gun control push under the banner of eliminating mass shootings. Today we’ll consider the second element of the three prong argument being used to define this wider action ostensibly intended to curtail – or at least cut back on – such acts of mayem: the sad state of mental health care in the United States. But first, as promised, a brief update on the treacherous, shifting sands which lie under the feet of any 2nd Amendment supporters who are taking part in the “reasonable discourse” between the sides following last Friday’s tragedy.

I began this series in part by featuring comments made in a lengthy statement on the subject by MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough. For purposes of demonstrating the rapid “evolution” in attitudes taking place, I’d first like to focus on a different, brief snippet from Monday’s discussion. (Emphasis mine.)

But the symbols of that ideological struggle have since been shattered by the harvest sown from violent, mind-numbing video games and gruesome Hollywood movies that dangerously desensitizes those who struggle with mental health challenges. Add military-styled weapons and high capacity magazines to that equation and tragedy can never be too far behind.

That was, as I said, Monday morning. The discussion was focused on “military styled weapons” (referring to the Bushmaster or other, similar AR-15 style rifles) and “high capacity magazines” such as the ones which hold 30 or more rounds. Fast forward to to later that day and the vocal proponents of the Left were already up with this:

Fifty-four percent of Americans support stricter gun control laws, while a little more than half are in favor of a ban on semi-automatic handguns, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday.

That’s a shift from “military style” weapons to a semi-automatic handgun in less than a day. That’s one of the most common and useful choices for home defense, sport target shooting and more, usable by both genders and people of less than Olympian build. And suddenly it’s being put on the same shelf as the real “military style” weapons which purportedly spurred this. If you were still somehow feeling sanguine about this entire, “Oh, we don’t want to take all the guns”, and you’re not getting nervous yet, you should be. I received a very serious response on Twitter from one gun control activist who answered my question of which weapons should be banned. I was told, you can have a muzzle loading rifle. That’s what the constitution gives you a right to.

So when Michael Bloomberg goes out on the trail, as he did on Morning Joe yesterday, and assures us that he’s not interested in taking your guns, I, for one, am not willing to believe him for a minute. For more on this, read Matt Lewis on how Slippery Slopes are Sometimes Real.

But with that, let’s move on to today’s topic.

The Black Hole of Mental Health

There are a variety of thus far anecdotal reports claiming that the Newtown shooter had “mental problems” of some sort. Monday morning quarterbacks psychologists have attributed it to everything from Asperger’s Syndrome to manic depression. And perhaps this will turn out to be true, though we would need to hear from someone with direct knowledge of his medical history, treatment and medication. Conversely, it may turn out that there was a lot of conflict in his family and he was prone to anger issues and loud outbursts. We don’t know yet, and we may never know.

But there is no question that there are many, many Americans suffering from severe mental health issues. And while treatment for at least some maladies is available, not everyone can afford it and perhaps even more don’t seek it out because of the societal stigmas attached. I will also stipulate that there are quite likely a vast number of individuals who are more borderline in their imbalances, skimming along under the surface, neither seeking nor receiving any professional help.

Is there any one of us who “wants crazy people to have guns?” I would certainly hope not. But just as with yesterday’s question about violence in movies, games and society in general, we should feel fully justified in asking precisely what remedy is currently being offered and how some sort of gun control legislation contributes to a solution.

Even in the case of those with proven records of mental illness, violent (but not yet criminal) behavior and significant treatment programs, there is an uncomfortable question as to precisely who will be gathering and tracking this information and how it will be disseminated to firearms distributors. I’m aware that in a number of states, including New York, the courts can issue an injunction regarding individuals who have committed acts of violence and declare them a risk to themselves or others. Such individuals could certainly wind up on “a list” without upsetting many people. But are we now to consider adding a speed lane for entrance to such a list and lowering the bar for membership?

Is this a list we want the government keeping? Is this a list we want being distributed to the kid at Dicks’ Sporting Goods, popping up on his computer screen when one of your relatives attempts to purchase a box of ammo? I’m not saying there isn’t a problem to be addressed here, but these are serious questions which deserve an answer before we leap into some legislative solution.

And what of the vastly greater number of people who might be unstable enough to snap at some point? What of the people I referenced above who may or may not have some lurking instability, but have yet to ever commit a violent crime? We all know somebody with a bad temper, a tendency to speak loudly or are quick to anger. Is each and every one of them now suspect and undeserving of their constitutionally assured rights? We also deserve to know how the people engaging in this “reasonable conversation” today propose to identify and act upon such individuals. I suppose we could flood state and local police offices with reports from friends, neighbors, co-workers and relatives every time somebody notes “something odd” about Uncle Frank. But does Frank now show up on a list someplace, even if the report was made by his brother-in-law who is still angry about Frank’s dog doing his business on their lawn?

Returning to the Scarborough clip linked above, when his colleague reads reports of possible mental health issues on the part of the shooter, relating this to the fact that the mother had legally purchased weapons in the home, we hear this.

Joe Scarborough: I don’t understand. I just… don’t… understand this part of the story…

Mika: Why would you have those guns? You can have them legally, but with a child that is challenging, that perhaps has a disorder of some type, by all accounts he had Asperger’s or something else

If nothing else, this should demonstrate how easy it would be for some all encompassing lists to sweep up people and families who may not benefit from any such intrusion.

I think you can sense the general theme developing here. Mental health issues are a very real and serious problem in the United States, and certainly more could be done to help the afflicted. But the moment you attempt to address even a portion of this problem by crafting a legislating “solution” which will ensure that the afflicted can’t buy a gun, you’ve opened up a massive can of worms in terms of our societal liberties.

Related:
The new horizon of gun control, Part 1. A Violent Society
MSNBC host Chuck Todd on gun rights: “That’s a different America”
Slippery Slopes are Sometimes Real.


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