First and foremost, let me state that mentally ill people are far more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violent crime. And that it's not clear that the
I have been seriously suicidal multiple times. I have been hospitalized because of this, also multiple times. If you read my previous post, you can see that I was definitely a danger to myself. And sometimes I was a danger to others.
I have been healthy for a decade at a time and then gotten depressed and suicidal again. So, regardless of how happy and healthy I appear to be, there is a chance that things will change and I will become suicidal again.
I should never be able to purchase a gun.*
A Harvard School of Public Health study that analyzed data on three groups of adolescents found that "[t]hose who died by suicide were twice as likely to have a gun at home than either of the other two groups." They agree with my previous post that firearms are a more lethal means of suicide because there is no changing your mind once the trigger is pulled. Take a look at their chart showing the fatality rate for different methods of suicide.
Also consider that for individuals who kill their children and commit suicide (filicide-suicide), "The large majority (73%) of parents killed their children by shooting." A 1993 study concluded that there was a correlation between defensive gun ownership and suicide, but not beween sporting gun ownership and suicide. There is also a multitude of research on mass shootings, if you want to check it out.
It has also been shown that severe mental illness is a common feature of filicide-suicide.
So firearms are the most lethal means of suicide and the most prevalent method of filicide-suicide. And many people who commit filicide-suicide have a serious mental illness. To me, this suggests that we must stop seriously mentally ill people like me from having guns.
I understand that changes to background checks wouldn't have made a difference in the
Currently, one of the reasons you can be denied the purchase of a gun is if you have "been adjudicated as a mental defective or ha[ve] been committed to any mental institution" (page 9). The NRA's Wayne LaPierre thinks we should go even further and have "an active national database of the mentally ill." In fact, 38 states already have such databases. The problem is that it's a patchwork project, and each state has different criteria.
Some firearm owners are afraid that such a database is a slippery slope. Other people reject the idea of a database listing those with "a history of mental illness." So do I; that terminology is much too broad.
There is also a concern about labelling and stigma. Some people object to being labelled as "mentally ill" at all, let alone being on a federal list. Being on such a list could cause more shame for those who already feel stigmatized. But the rules already state that the person performing a background check will not see "any of the underlying information in the records checked by the system" (p. 113).
My friend Neil is afraid that the method of getting on such a list would be hinky, and that the list could be used for other purposes, up to and including denying employment. This is another slippery slope, where initial intent could be corrupted by a panicky public. And I share that concern. But if this is a piece of the puzzle that will help stop mass shootings, I am willing to take that chance.
Clearly, the language for this must be precise. Stop referring to people as "mental defectives" and don't target people with "a history of mental illness." Here are my suggestions:
- Change the language to say that you cannot buy a gun if you have been admitted to a hospital because you were a "danger to yourself or others," whether you were adjudicated or you admitted yourself.
- Only designated employees of hospitals should be able to add to the list.
- The list should only be available to firearms dealers and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
- It must be a federal database, with uniform, specific criteria regarding who should be added to the database.
* It makes me very sad to say this, because, having gotten used to the idea of killing myself, the thought of suicide is like an old friend, and I would really like to have a gun to keep that old friend company.
Thank you for your courage to write this. I am sorry for your periods of depression. You are need to speak out.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Linda. Somebody has to start a discussion, but I'm not sure if it's courage or foolishness :/ Time will tell.Delete
Keep em coming Pam, you are doing an excellent job with your blog! I may not agree with all of your opinions - but as the saying goes "that's why they call them opinions, everybody has one"ReplyDelete
Basically, I agree that it takes a ton of courage to put your experiences out there. I find your work admirable. The blog is well written too!
I was surprised at the actual language of the law you cited - mentally defective - Wow! I disagree however, with banning all who have been admitted to a hospital under the premise of being a danger to themselves or others.
I actually, do not wish to ever own a gun. That being said, I know many more "regular" folk who surely should not have one but have many.
There are some out there whose mental illness may have unknowingly been having a spiritual experience and were fasting, when someone says - put them in a hospital. These type then get put on the list you are referring to. Not to say they are denying they have a diagnosis, but they tend to be very peaceful people with no thoughts to harm themselves.
Yet, there are others, who call themselves normal - stigmatize those who seek mental health treatment (even if not diagnosed with an illness) and are abusive to those around them daily. I personally know many like this. In my opinion. I would trust the guy who had a spiritual experience and is God fearing more so than the "normal guy" who brags about his weapons. The spiritual guy, likes to get in touch with nature and bring people together, but, more so in today's day and age, that is considered a mental illness.
To wind up my own article here - my suggestion is to restrict the amount of guns in general in this country. I am sure you have seen news stories or read articles about how many more deaths per guns the US has compared to other industrialized nations, of which in some, they are almost non existent. If the mental health thing is still going to be correlated with every firearm crime, I believe every individual should have a mental health or anger management evaluation prior to purchasing. Not just those with a current diagnosis etc...
Okay - that was way longer than expected. :)
Thanks for your comments, Luke!.Delete
First, disagreeing is fine! How can we have an honest discussion if we don't feel free to bring our true opinions? I'm glad you took the time to write all this.
I, too, have some misgivings regarding people who are 302'd. But I'm afraid anyone who has been 302'd is already regarded as one of those mental defectives. I found this: "Act 77 . . . requires all counties to submit to the Pennsylvania state police the names of all individuals who have been involuntarily committed to in-patient treatment. This Act prohibits anyone committed under Sections 302, 303 or 304 to possess, use, manufacture, control, sell or transfer firearms," at http://www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/commitment.aspx
I agree that being a non-traditionally sprititual person is looked upon with great suspicion. Sad. And I, too, question the ability of some folks to own firearms because they appear to be "normal." I know that what I'm suggesting won't fix the problem of gun violence, but only that it may be a part of the solution. And then there's that whole gun show loophole thing. . .
I'm not sure the idea of evaluation prior to purchasing is practical. Do you have any thoughts on who would do the evaluation?
Anyway, I really appreciate your thoughtful comments and encouragement! Thank you!
First, I want to say congrats on having the guts to write this. I have pondered some of these things myself over the years. The issues that I see with the "database" idea is that currently violent fellons can not have a licens to cary either and yet that does not stop them from buying one that was stolen or "hot". I guess I'm wondering if we would have either an increase in the black market value and therefore an increase in break ins and thefts of gun stores or a decrease in those willing to seek treatment for the fear of losing the privlage. I do have a permit to cary a weapon and if I thought I would lose that permit by going to the hospital for help, I'm not so sure that I would go. I have been a hunter since I was 12 and value my permit as much as my drivers licens. I'm wondering how many people would try to push through it instead of getting help if losing there permit was seen as being a punishment for being mentaly ill?ReplyDelete
Some very good points.Delete
I can't speak to the idea of "hot" firearms. Some people who aren't supposed to do things will always do them anyway. I can't attempt to address that; that's outside my area of expertise.
I'd like to use another blog post to address the question of whether the database would stop people from seeking treatment. Stay tuned :)
And thanks for sharing your opinion!