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Who Is Too Unbalanced to Be Armed?
Townhall.com ^ | December 26, 2012 | Jacob Sullum

Posted on 12/26/2012 10:20:02 AM PST by Kaslin

The day of Adam Lanza's murderous assault on Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mike Rogers said stricter gun control would not be an appropriate response. "The more realistic discussion," said the Republican congressman from Michigan, "is how do we target people with mental illness who use firearms?"

Last week, another Republican congressman, Howard Coble of North Carolina, agreed that "it's more of a mental health problem than a gun problem right now." And last Friday, when the National Rifle Association broke its silence on the Sandy Hook massacre, the group's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, called for "an active national database of the mentally ill."

Psychiatrically informed policies aimed at controlling people rather than weapons are popular in the wake of mass shootings, especially among those who rightly worry that gun restrictions will unfairly burden law-abiding Americans while failing to prevent future attacks. Yet treating gun violence as "a mental health problem" presents similar dangers.

An "active national database of the mentally ill" clearly would not have stopped Lanza, who used guns legally purchased by his mother. Even if he had bought the guns himself, it appears he would have passed a background check because did not meet the criteria for rejection.

Federal law prohibits gun ownership by anyone who "has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution." Neither seems to have been the case with Lanza.

Acquaintances reported that Lanza might have had Asperger's syndrome. That label, which soon won't even count as a mental disorder anymore, is not much more informative than saying he was a shy, socially inept loner (which people who knew him also said).

It seems safe to assume that someone who murders randomly selected first-graders is psychologically abnormal, but that is not the same as saying that a specific "mental illness" explains his behavior. Given the subjective, amorphous nature of psychiatric diagnoses, we might as well say the devil made him do it.

In any event, mental health professionals are notoriously bad at predicting which of the world's many misfits, cranks and oddballs will become violent. "Over 30 years of commentary, judicial opinion and scientific review argue that predictions of danger lack scientific rigor," notes University of Georgia law professor Alexander Scherr in a 2003 Hastings Law Journal article. "The sharpest critique finds that mental health professionals perform no better than chance at predicting violence, and perhaps perform even worse."

So even if the mental-health criteria for rejecting gun buyers (or for commitment) were expanded, there is little reason to think they could distinguish between future Lanzas and people who pose no threat. Survey data from the National Institute of Mental Health indicate that nearly half of all Americans qualify for a psychiatric diagnosis at some point in their lives. That's a pretty wide dragnet.

Should half of us lose our Second Amendment rights, at least for the duration of whatever mental disorder (depression, anxiety, addiction, inattentiveness, etc.) afflicts us? Assuming a prescription for Prozac, Xanax or Adderall is not enough to disqualify someone from owning a gun, what should the standard be?

Even under current law, mental illness can become a label for unconventional political beliefs. Remember Brandon Raub, the Marine Corps veteran who was forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation in Virginia last summer based on his conspiracy-minded, anti-government Facebook posts?

The malleability of mental illness was also apparent at a 2007 debate among the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. After seeing a YouTube video in which Jered Townsend of Clio, Mich., asked about gun control and referred to his rifle as "my baby," Joseph Biden said: "If that's his baby, he needs help. ... I don't know that he is mentally qualified to own that gun. I'm being serious."

So perhaps excessive attachment to your guns should be grounds for taking them away. Biden, by the way, is in charge of formulating the policies the Obama administration will pursue in response to Lanza's horrifying crimes.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: 2ndamendment; banglist; guncontrol; newtown; sandyhook; secondamendment
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To: Kaslin
Who Is Too Unbalanced to Be Armed?
The danger of treating gun violence as a mental health problem

Reason's version has links, FWIW. Happy New Year!

51 posted on 12/27/2012 10:55:31 PM PST by neverdem ( Xin loi min oi)
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To: struggle; FreedomPoster
Adam Lanza was taking Fanapt - FOR ACUTE SCHIZOPHRENIA

The story in the NY Daily News that said that has since deleted that assertion, IIRC. Any drug can be used for an off label use as long as the FDA approved it for something. I'm checking Google News for stories on Lanza's toxicology report. Nada so far.

52 posted on 12/27/2012 11:11:31 PM PST by neverdem ( Xin loi min oi)
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To: neverdem; struggle

Neverdem is correct, the source on the Fanapt report was a scammer claiming to be Uncle Jonathan Lanza, who it turns out doesn’t exist. The scammer, whose picture was spread around, was identified on some other forums.


53 posted on 12/27/2012 11:39:45 PM PST by FreedomPoster (Islam delenda est)
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To: FreedomPoster

I thought the scammer was a fake Ryan Lanza, Adam’s brother.


54 posted on 12/28/2012 9:06:59 AM PST by struggle (http://killthegovernment.wordpress.com/)
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To: struggle

No, the media reported Adam Lanza as Ryan, due to the fact that a Ryan ID was found on Adam.

Search at Getty Images for Jonathan Lanza, they have pics of the scammer.


55 posted on 12/28/2012 9:15:10 AM PST by FreedomPoster (Islam delenda est)
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To: Kaslin

The husband of a friend of my wife owned several firearms that the police (appropriately) seized after she called them. He was suffering from late stage alcoholic dementia and was truly a threat to himself and others. This was an exceptional case, of course.


56 posted on 12/28/2012 9:22:19 AM PST by jalisco555 ("My 80% friend is not my 20% enemy" - Ronald Reagan)
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To: Joe Brower
I would start with registered Democrats.

They've already started with registered Veterans. Registered with the VA, that is. Like Clinton before them, who dumped 90,000 vets into the NCIC and had them banned from ever buying a firearm again or keeping those they had.

I fully expect this A$$**** to try the same thing even though Congress passed (and GWB signed) several laws that specifically prohibit such actions.

A lot of vets failed to seek help for minor or even acute depression because of this fear and the VA had to overcome that so those vets could be helped with nonviolent depression. NOW..... ??? Heck, even Abraham Lincoln suffered from "melancholy" which was probably clinical depression.

57 posted on 12/29/2012 2:23:00 AM PST by ExSoldier (Stand up and be counted... OR LINE UP AND BE NUMBERED...)
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To: palmer
It is the sole responsibility of people like the late Nancy Lanza to keep guns out of the hands of unbalanced people.

I have yet to hear the facts regarding how she kept her guns. Do you know exactly how she kept her guns?

58 posted on 12/29/2012 5:03:55 AM PST by raybbr (People who still support Obama are either a Marxist or a moron.)
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To: raybbr
Do you know exactly how she kept her guns?

There was a report that she used gun safety to teach him responsibility and that he was very safe. There was a report that he had anger issues even back in HS. Another report was that he had an argument at the school the day before the shooting. What the reports add up to is a woman in denial.

59 posted on 12/29/2012 5:23:47 AM PST by palmer (Obama = Carter + affirmative action)
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To: palmer
There was a report that she used gun safety to teach him responsibility and that he was very safe. There was a report that he had anger issues even back in HS. Another report was that he had an argument at the school the day before the shooting. What the reports add up to is a woman in denial.

That doesn't answer my question. Do you knew exactly how she kept her guns?

60 posted on 12/29/2012 7:45:27 AM PST by raybbr (People who still support Obama are either a Marxist or a moron.)
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To: raybbr

No, but it will be in a police report. Probably a safe and she probably gave him the combo. Keep in mind she had 300k a year to blow on things like safes.


61 posted on 12/29/2012 8:15:07 AM PST by palmer (Obama = Carter + affirmative action)
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