Breaking the gun-control stalemate

Gun-rights advocates should support efforts to strengthen the prohibition on possessing firearms by those who have mental illness. Many people with severe mental illness are too dangerous to entrust with firearms—regardless of whether they have been formally labeled under the current law as ineligible.

Mechanisms can be put in place to identify such people—and restrict their access to firearms, including expanding background checks to private sales, i.e., between individuals who are not in the business of selling firearms. Gun owners (especially close relatives of such persons, such as Adam Lanza’s mother) should also be obligated to store unused firearms safely so that potentially dangerous persons and minor children do not gain easy access to them.

As for gun-control advocates, they should show more flexibility about restoring firearm rights for people who may have suffered from mental illness in the past but are no longer a danger. Instead of lobbying to expand the number of people permanently ineligible to possess any type of firearm, gun-control advocates should accept a risk-based approach.

Some patients may be permanently impaired, making them too much of a risk ever to trust with firearms. Others should be temporarily barred or restricted. But efforts to restrict the types of firearms possessed by law-abiding, healthy adults are counterproductive.