Guns and the Mentally Ill

The New York Times has a rather lengthy piece on the subject, with examples they found of people having their rights restored who pretty clearly were still disturbed. No mention of how many people have had their rights restored and are doing fine. Several of the examples were committed involuntarily for being suicidal, had their rights restored, and then killed themselves. I don’t consider this much of an example because someone who was committed for being suicidal should be more prone to having rights restored than someone who is schizophrenic and on medication. I’m far more understanding of right restoration for transient mental health issues like depression, PTSD, and other manageable conditions. I’m open to the notion that some states may not have good procedures for rights restoration for mental infirmities, but one of the examples appearing repeatedly is California, a state relatively strict when it comes to firearms, especially with regards to mental health.

It’s relatively unsurprising that with enough digging you can find example of where the system failed. No one wants to do a story on a solider who was committed for severe PTSD, got treatment, got better, got his rights restored, and then went on to live as an ordinary citizen and responsible gun owner. There’s no story there.

4 thoughts on “Guns and the Mentally Ill”

  1. Gun rights supporters are accused all the time of supporting a “gun show loophole” of gun control laws. The New York Times wants a loophole of its own, one that circumvents the 2nd Amendment and allows for gun ownership to be permanently denied based on a mental state that might be anything but permanent.

  2. You are correct that there should be different categories. Most laws that disable firearms ownership for mental problems do not make distinctions. On the other hand, depression may lead to suicide, but sometimes it leads to murder and then suicide. There is clearly a place for laws that disarm someone for mental illness, as long as there is a reasonably sensible arrangement for restoration of those rights.

    One virtue of California’s law is that involuntary hospitalization only disarms you for five years. Beyond that, your rights come back. For the most seriously mentally ill people, the chances of going five years without a W&I 5150 or 5250 hospitalization are remote.

  3. “On the other hand, depression may lead to suicide, but sometimes it leads to murder and then suicide.”

    This goes back to a point that Joe Huffman made a little while ago: it isn’t the government’s purpose to prevent murder and suicide–or crime, for that matter. How many rights have been trampled on because of this little matter?

    It always bothers me, for example, when people call for tougher Child Protective Services because a child was brutally beaten or even murdered. It isn’t CPS’s role to prevent these things, and the only people who should be held responsible are the ones guilty of the beating and the murder. If we give CPS too many powers, they will use them to destroy healthy families. And I despise that. (For the record, my parents had a run-in with CPS when I was a child, and I spent a few sleepless nights plotting hunger strikes if I were taken from my parents, so this is somewhat personal to me. The charges were unjustified, so the experience left an especially bitter taste in my mouth.)

    Having said that, I think Clayton is right: requiring the restoration of rights after five years of involuntary hospitalization is probably the right “balance” between mental illness and preserving our rights.

  4. I thought the point of the NYT piece was that the procedures for petitioning were inadequate e.g. appearing in small claims court and promising the Judge you aren’t crazy probably isn’t sufficient.

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