voters to determine the size, scope, and direction of government
|Be Very Reluctant to Infringe on the 2nd Amendment Rights of the Mentally Ill, Lest You Lose Yours|
|Written by Chris Ayers|
|Monday, 11 February 2013 10:03|
Here we are in 2013, with a gun control debate raging and our constitutional rights under the Federal and State constitutions on the line because a couple of maniacs shot up a movie theater and a school. Both are very tragic events, and broke my heart as a husband, a parent and man. They have highlighted the need to enforce existing laws on the books regarding criminal activity with a firearm – laws that are often not enforced.
Hopefully the shootings have also highlighted the need to educate ourselves as voting citizens on the complex topic of mental illness. Many are calling for the revamping of the mental health system. While many parts of that system are inadequate, we need to be careful to ensure that “reform” does not result in yet another useless and costly expansion of government that infringes on our liberties.
The term “mentally ill” is an extremely broad term and includes tens of millions of Americans. It encompasses everything from depression to eating disorders, to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to schizophrenia and beyond. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 26.2 percent of Americans over the age of 18 have a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. That translates to approximately 57.7 million people. According to the Center for Disease Control, 254 million prescriptions were written for antidepressants in 2010, costing approximately 10 billion dollars. There is no purpose for taking an antidepressant other than to treat a mental disorder.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the 5th edition of which is due out later this year, is used by psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists to diagnose mental disorders in people. DSM diagnoses are primarily criteria-based, but successive editions demonstrate that not only can the criteria change but so can the inclusion of entire diagnoses – in some cases for political reasons. While much of the modern research in the fields of Psychology and Psychiatry is valuable and may have derived from clinical and/or quantitative research, the ability to categorize collections of symptoms into disorders based on the cause of the disorder itself can be quite limited. This limitation means that diagnosing mental disorders is an imperfect science that requires a clinician’s interpretation of the symptom presentation, rather than an unbiased diagnosis based hard evidence. In other words, the diagnoses in the DSM are vulnerable to politicization. More on this worrisome point in a future article.
For now, suffice it to say that the symptoms experienced by people who in one form or another struggle with psychological or psychiatric disorders are real. However, the research shows that a vast majority of these folks are non-violent and perfectly competent to manage their own affairs. You can consult the American Psychiatric Association, NIMH, and any psychiatrist for more information on this front. The point is that mental illness is very common in America today, and the vast majority of people who struggle with acute or chronic mental health issues or events are non-violent, law-abiding citizens who are competent to manage their own affairs, including being firearm owners.
What about our veterans, who have served honorably in our military? Many of them are coming home with PTSD. This fact does not even take into account the co-morbidity that PTSD can have with other
illnesses such as depression or panic disorder – meaning that the veteran could easily have more than one mental illness. Would you deny a soldier who protected your 2nd Amendment rights his or her own 2nd Amendment rights without his or her own day in court and due process of law?
What does this have to do with our constitutional rights here in Wisconsin?
No one asks to have a mental disorder, but nearly everyone can point to some form of psychological or psychiatric disturbance at some point in their life, often deriving from common but traumatic life events. Exposing the mental health histories of our fellow Wisconsinites by opening their medical records to Federal and State government for the purpose of background checks (regardless of whether or not those citizens have served in the military) is a direct violation of their constitutional rights for no reason other than that we are afraid of them. Not only is this course of action morally wrong, but it also opens us up to further attack from the government, because now all anyone would have to do to take your firearms is to diagnose you with even a mild mental disorder.
Say your mother passes away. A month after her death, you are still grieving her loss. Since you are still deeply saddened by her death, you could easily be diagnosed with clinical depression. Say your primary care physician advises you to take an antidepressant to cope with the loss. If you don’t accept, the provider could say that you have a mental illness, and since you are refusing medication, are incompetent to manage your affairs. Your records will now be fed into National Instant Background Check system and you will no longer have any 2nd Amendment rights – all without any due process of law! No day in court, no chance to fight an unjust removal of your rights, no nothing!
During World War II, the rights of tens of thousands of American citizens were denied without due process of law when Japanese-Americans were interned in what amounted to glorified concentration camps. Conditions were spartan at best. These citizens had done nothing wrong. They had not been disloyal. They had not broken any laws. Nonetheless, President Roosevelt signed a misguided executive order to have them imprisoned in camps for the duration of the war.
Are we really going to take the same path with our fellow citizens that have mental illnesses through no fault of their own – the large majority of whom would never harm anyone? Would we really place them in the same category as criminals, just as Wayne LaPierre of the NRA and so many others on the pro-firearm side of the debate have done? These people are not criminals! They are people with the same rights as you and I! They have the same right to the 2nd Amendment and to the natural right to self-defense that underlies it. If you propose to take that right away due to mental incompetence or being a danger to others, each person on whose rights you wish to infringe in this way deserves his or her day in court and due process of law! Violence by deranged individuals does not change the right to due process, just as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor did not in any way justify Japanese-American internment.
I am honestly shocked and saddened by how much history repeats itself all over this nation, even right here in Wisconsin. I talk to fellow firearms owners, and most support putting the records of the “mentally ill” in the background check system without any due process of law. The term “mentally ill” usually follows the term “criminal,” the two wrongly grouped together and demonstrating a severe lack of education on the issue. If someone with mental illness is to have their 2nd Amendment rights taken away, they deserve their day in court, just like anyone else facing the loss of their civil rights.
If we pursue this path, we no longer continue down the path of liberty, but instead down the path of tyranny and oppression. You risk the liberty of not just 57.7 million Americans, but of all Americans. Those with mental disorders may be a convenient scapegoat for you to use to protect your own 2nd Amendment rights, but citizens will just as surely lose their 2nd Amendment rights in the near future if they do not stop this misguided and wrongful assault on the mentally ill and become educated on the issue. I implore you to dig in more deeply on this topic so that they can talk intelligently with their elected representatives about it and thereby help to protect the 2nd Amendment rights of all Americans.