Mental illness and gun control laws.

Hooray!  Here’s one of those potentially drama-inducing posts that sucks to write!  Wheeeeeeee!

A lot of people who are pro-gun post anecdotes of folks who have successfully defended themselves or foiled a robbery with a gun. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun in the home is 11 times more likely to be used in a completed or attempted suicide, seven times more likely to be used in a criminal assault or homicide and four times more likely to be involved in an unintentional shooting death or injury than to be used in a self-defense shooting.

I’m all for guns in the home, but I sure wish that we as a nation could come up with some way to get a little balance between 22 bad outcomes for every one good outcome, and I wish the folks who are always posting anecdotes about the one good outcome cared a bit more about finding a way to decrease the 22 bad outcomes.  That needs to be huge part of the gun control conversation: not only lessening the number of mass shootings, but also in keeping events like these to a minimum.  That is what this post is about.

Kate Donnovan wrote a good piece about not blaming mental illness for Adam Lanza’s massacre.  I agree with most of it.  And let’s get one thing straight from the beginning: all but a handful of the most piss ignorant Americans believes in gun control.  All of them.  If you think convicted murderers shouldn’t be allowed to buy a gun, or that someone shouldn’t be allowed to waltz onto an airplane with an M16 and a bag of hand grenades, then you believe in gun control.  Beyond that, it’s just matter of determining what level of control makes for the best society.  Right now, gun control laws are too lax.  We need some new ones, and that’s what I want to talk about.  (Ashley Miller has some good suggestions already)

One place I think the gun nuts have it right is that we need to seriously treat mental illness in this country, and we’re doing a shitty job of it.  The problem is that the gun nuts are using mental illness as a scapegoat, suggesting that mental illness (and video games, and anything our gun laws being far too loose) are to blame for mass killings.  The tone is one of blame, not of compassion.  It’s disingenuous and it pisses me off.  By placing the majority (if not the entirety) of the blame on mental illness, as a distraction away from addressing guns, they do little to impress me with their concern for the mentally afflicted.  They do much more to demonstrate how they’re willing to use people who already got dealt some shitty cards in life.  This contributes to the stigma on mental illness, rather than diminishing it.

However, a problem does exist: how do we manage the right to bear arms as applied to a society that has mentally ill people in it?

You all know I’m mentally ill.  As a mentally ill person who despises the stigma on mental illness, I will say that I should not be allowed to purchase, or to own, a gun.  Would I be safe with a gun?  Right now, yes.  On almost every day, yes.  Hell, potentially for the rest of my life, yes.  But I’m aware that I’m prone to downturns (that are, thankfully, now very rare) during which I could potentially be a suicide risk.  It’s just part of having my brain.  It’s not a matter of having a waiting period for me to cool off (I love waiting period laws!  They do reduce the number of gun suicides).  It’s a matter of not having a firearm around when I hit a downturn.  There are many people in this country in the same boat as I.

I hated writing the previous paragraph because it sounds like I’m advocating ableism.  Please understand that I’m as interested in promoting discrimination against the mentally ill as I am about promoting higher taxes on professional writers.  But for the same reason we have certain standards for giving driver’s licenses to seizure patients, we need a specific set of standards for deciding when it is, or is not safe to allow a mentally ill person to own a gun.  As a comparison, I don’t think there is anything shameful about having seizures, just like I don’t think there is a single thing to be ashamed of when it comes to having a mental illness.  People don’t choose to be sick.  But just because I don’t think there’s anything shameful about illnesses doesn’t mean we don’t need to deal with the reality of them.  And the reality is that, even if medicated and treated, a seizure patient will have a seizure every year or two on average, I’d be reticent to let them get behind the wheel of the car all the days they were well.  Likewise, if a person has a mental illness that crops up, even rarely, that makes them a higher risk to self-harm or to harm others, I’d be averse to giving them a license to own a gun.

That is not to say that not all seizure patients should be barred from driving.  Some have been cured, as confirmed by their doctor.  Others have seizures only while sleeping.  But for those who are presently a risk, laws exist to protect the patient and those around them.  That’s very much how I view mental illness and guns.  Some people have been diagnosed as fully recovered and they should be good to go.  Other mental illnesses have nothing to do with self-harm or violence.  I’m just talking about the conditions, like mine, that would make ownership of a gun, even one day out of two years, a bad idea.

The most prominent proposal to address this issue has been a national registry of mentally ill people that gets checked whenever someone tries to buy a gun.  There’s a lot of wigging out about that idea, saying it would give the government too much power.  This is silly.  A national database of medical records already exists per the Affordable Health Care Act.  It’s not like we’d be creating anything new.

The argument I think is not silly is that there is a lot of shame that could potentially come with such a program.  While I have become secure with my mental illness, and would have no problem if someone picked up a phone and heard “Mr. Eberhard has a suicide attempt, is diagnosed with depression with occasional hallucinations, and is a recovering anorexic”, I know that most people with mental illness are not that way.  For those who wish to remain closeted with their condition, they should be allowed to do so.  Also, with the stigma that still surrounds mental illness, not every small-town arms dealer with a big mouth needs to know about their neighbor’s mental illness.

But here is what I propose: a national database of those who are, or are not, eligible to own a firearm for whatever reason.  And, when checked, returns either a simple “yes” or “no”.  There are flaws, of course.  Confidentiality laws are good, but not perfect, and the most obvious problem is that, when gun merchants violate confidentiality laws, speculation can be worse than details.  If a “no” comes back, a person may still have to deal with whispers in their community of “are they a murderer or depressed?” which would conceivably put mental illness in the same conversation as felony.  I realize that there are problems, but I think an anonymous database of this sort is a much smaller problem than the ones we presently face.  I am open to a perfect solution should one ever be presented to me.  Until then, I think we must do the best we can.

I am not saying there is anything wrong with mental illness.  Obviously.  But I am saying that mental illness does exist and must be incorporated into our strategy for reducing harm caused by guns.  I also despise the people trying to use mental illness as a shield for stupidly loose gun control laws.  However, mental illness needs to be part of the gun control argument.  It should not be the entire conversation, and I think the treatment of mental illness needs to be a bigger part of the conversation than which mental health patients should be allowed access to guns.  But it needs to be there, and it needs to be informed by psychiatrists and mental health experts.  Mentally ill people also need to be in the conversation, lest it be entirely the property of people who have never experienced what it’s like to live with a mental illness, and who may unwittingly have incorporated the stigma on mental illness into their opinions, as the people opposing any and all regulations on guns (like the NRA) are surely hoping in their never-ending quest to pass the buck.

Potential arguments to the contrary:

1.  Keeping a mentally ill person from owning a gun won’t stop them from doing what Adam Lanza did: taking the gun from someone who does legally own it in order to self-harm or to harm others.

Yup, the proposal of above won’t stop all suicides, just like waiting period laws don’t stop all them.  But they lessen them.  Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good here.  Besides, if you own a gun, then it is your responsibility to keep it out of the hands of others, either by keeping your gun on your person or under lock and key.  I don’t see anybody saying that seizure patients may drive cars illegally, so therefore we should just give them licenses at the same rate with give non-seizure patients.

I’ll add others as I think of them or as they’re presented.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • smrnda

    omething worth noting is that if we create a database of people who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses (which, as you put it, this information already exists) you only have a database of people who have been diagnosed as having a mental illness. Lots of people with severe mental illnesses have had the bad fortune of falling through the cracks or are perhaps socially isolated and functional enough at a job as to not raise any concerns, and sometimes a person’s family can be supportive but sometimes, owing to stigma or ignorance they don’t support attempts a person might make to get help.

    I think they ought to do a mental health screening (and probably more than just one) on anybody who wants to own a gun. I think of it as an interview for wanting to be given the privilege of owning something dangerous where the person’s mental health is assessed, as well as their level of social responsibility. I’d also like to see people who want to buy guns screened using tests to asses their level of both conscious and unconscious racism. I haven’t read an immense amount about these types of tests and I’d like to see more work before something was implemented, but I think that ought to be included in there as well, though it would probably piss of a few people if they were told they weren’t allowed to get a gun because they were too racist to own one.

    • EmuSam

      I’ve often thought that a mental health screening should be like the bi-yearly physical, dental, optical checkups. The mind is such an important part of the body that it makes no sense to neglect its routine health exams if there are actually tests we can do to make sure it’s healthy.

  • baal

    One of the reasons I like reading your blog is that you’re open to staking a nuanced position and then hearing objections and suggestions and then making an update.
    I like the yes/no being all that’s returned back to the seller. The putative buyer should have the right to go to the registry for the reason for the yes/no and a right to challenge it (maybe even in court). You’d think that’d be obvious and included but recent history on no-fly lists and things like your credit score show that the basis for decisions is often opaque.

    • Azkyroth

      That’s actually sensible.

    • stop2wonder

      Even better, why does the “yes/no” have to be done at the seller level? How about the potential buyer accessing the database him/herself, getting approved, then taking proof of the “yes” to the seller? A “no” answer means no trip to the gunshop, hence no whispers or rumors.

  • iknklast

    I think smrnda is right about the cracks; I have an entire family of mentally ill siblings, but I am the only one who has ever been diagnosed (and probably the one who could, most of the time, be most trusted not to accidentally shoot someone with a gun in my house). I have a brother who has had several accidents with guns because he is one of those “piss ignorant” Americans you’re talking about. He thinks we should have guns in every inch of the country, so that people can defend themselves, but he has no responsibility himself. He is probably a sociopath – he doesn’t appear to know the difference between right and wrong – but he will likely never have a mental status exam because he knows he isn’t “crazy”.

    I also worry about the current conversation because I feel that these things always make people more afraid of mental illness, and assume that everyone with a mental illness is going to stomp into the office someday waving a gun and blowing everyone away. Most people with mental illness are going to subsist in quiet dispair, and aren’t going to prove dangerous, but it can sometimes be hard to tell which ones will go off the deep end. So we are looked at through eyes colored by thousands of hours of sensationalist television, pseudoscientific movies, and blaring headlines, and it’s hard to be part of the conversation because everyone treats you like you’re…well, different. And not good different. Bad different. Scary different.

    The thing is that, while most serial killers may be mentally ill (I haven’t seen the stats, so I say may), the majority of mentally ill folks are not serial killers. A lot of people make the mistake of assuming that because one shoots, all will shoot. How to have this conversation without feeding that fear?

    • smrnda

      On serial killers, it depends on what you mean by ‘mentally ill.’ If you mean that they are sociopaths and have no empathy or concern for other people and are entirely self-serving, as well a dishonest and deceptive, then yes, any serial killer has to be ‘mentally ill’ to be doing what they do. However, are most serial killers mentally ill in the sense of delusional or have hallucinations or have mood disorders, or are unable to discern real and unreal? Then no, and from my understanding most people with those types of problems are more likely to be the victims of violence than to engage in it.

  • Lurker111

    Regarding privacy and the whispers that follow an “ineligible” reply to a background check when buying a gun, do this: Have a station or two in the gun shop where a customer can check his or her own background, anonymously, without prying eyes about. If their status is “ineligible,” he or she knows not to go to the counter and attempt to buy a gun in the first place.

  • Rovin’ Rockhound

    While I agree with the idea behind this, I can’t really agree with a (larger than current) database of the mentally ill. As someone who is diagnosed as mentally ill and who has been suicidal (no attempts or hospitalizations, though), I think I am safer *now* that I have a diagnosis than I was before, yet your proposed database would not have prevented me from getting a gun before I started treatment (but probably would now). For me it was the threat of being committed (by a trigger-happy college mental health system) and having to disclose it to immigration that stopped me from getting help until I was well enough that it was unlikely to happen. For many people, it will be the threat of getting on a government database that will stop them. We will all be safer if we lower the threshold of access to mental health services, but not if we create more legal consequences (real or imagined).

    It is also important to differentiate between people at risk of self-harm and people at risk of harming others. We should prevent people who are likely to shoot others (intentionally or accidentally) from obtaining guns – they are violent, delusional, sociopaths, or just plain too dumb to safely own a gun. We should not limit the rights of many mentally ill people because there is a small chance that some of them might, possibly, at some point, turn the guns on themselves. I’m all for gun control – heck, I’m all for no guns for civilians at all – but if people must have the right to own guns then let’s prevent the right people from having them.

    • Derrik Pates

      So uh… how exactly are you going to make the distinction? The problem there is, it can be a pretty thin line. One person with a particular mental condition may never hurt anybody, but someone else with a similar condition goes out and becomes the next Jared Lee Loughner. Or for a long time a person with a mental illness may never have any desire to hurt themselves or someone else, but one day… they do. How are you going to know when that happens? How are you going to enforce that someone who is mentally ill goes to their doctor, gets re-diagnosed, and the magical database gets correctly updated?

      I’m not saying that because a person has a mental illness their rights should be stripped away, but this is a situation with a lot more nuance than you seem to be willing to allow for.

  • Mogg

    I realise people in the US must be getting sick of hearing about the Australian system, but over here the permit to own a firearm is issued by the police, not administered by the dealer. Would that be a better way of dealing with privacy issues? Not to mention the potential conflict of interest inherent in having the dealer approve the purchaser. There are also extremely strict requirements for storage of guns and ammunition which the police have the right to inspect, and to own certain categories you must belong to a recognised club (target shooting, collecting, or hunting clubs) and have their endorsement, or be specifically employed, trained and nominated by your employer. As a person with mental illness myself, I’d also need endorsement from my doctor and possibly a psychiatrist or psychologist, same as an epileptic or diabetic needs a medical endorsement to get a driving license.

    • Val

      Gun dealers in the US do not issue gun permits; I’m not sure what you read to make you think that’s the case. Gun dealers do things like call a special hotline for an instant background check and fill out paperwork to log the sale witht the ADF, but they themselves don’t decide if a person is fit or not. Licensing (if any is required) is handled by local or state law enforcement.

      • Mogg

        The impression was formed from the various comments about dealers doing background checks, rumours potentially emanating from a town’s sole dealer, etc. In fact I assume that the requirements vary from state to state in the US. However, what I mean is that the dealer has nothing to do with background checking at all. Issuing of a permit, including all background checks, is by an agency which already has access to that kind of information and is at least theoretically more accountable to privacy laws/practices due to the nature of the information they routinely deal with, such as the police.

        • Val

          When we talk about dealers doing background checks, they aren’t actually going and looking up a person’s medical info and criminal past themselves. What they do is call the National Instant Criminal Background Check System before initiating a transfer. If there are any read flags (criminal history, mental health issues, trying to buy a gun that is banned in the person’s area), the dealer gets a response of “denied.” If everything checks out, they’re told “proceed.” The dealer doesn’t get told why a person is denied and is not privy to any criminal or medical info of the potential buyer, and the database itself is run by the FBI.
          I believe that all federally-licensed firearms dealers are required to contact the NICS before conducting a transfer, regardless of what state they operate in. Some states, like mine, also issue a separate permit or ID that signifies that a person is eligible in that state to own particular weapons, and that ID is usually issued by the state police. Even if every state had a permit system in place, I’d still want their to be an instant check with NICS through the dealer. It would help weed out forged permits and catch mistakes.

          • Derrik Pates

            Unfortunately the US still has the gun show exception – NICS checks are typically waived for gun show sales in this country due to a legal exception. Why can a gun show’s organizers not be reasonably expected to contact the FBI and arrange for an agent to be onsite to run a NICS check, and provide them the required sale stamp, just like any other firearms dealer would have to?

  • ibelieveindog

    I don’t agree at all with any sort of registry of the mentally ill. There are too many mentally ill people without diagnosis, simply because they don’t want to face the stigma. If getting help results in being named as “ineligible” to do a particular thing, people aren’t going to seek the help they need. We need to make it easier for the mentally ill to get help, not put up barriers, no matter how sensible these barriers seem to be.

    Yes, those people who shoot up schools and movie theatres are likely to be mentally ill. But the overwhelming majority of mentally ill people are not violent to others. When violent, we tend to be self-harming or suicidal. That is bad, it’s horrible, but it’s a mental illness concern, not a gun control one.

    There is no good reason why anyone should have in their home a high capacity, semi-automatic or automatic rifle or handgun. There is no good reason why anyone should have a gun that looks like an assault gun.

    Anecdotal: I’ve been diagnosed with major depression and anxiety disorder. I’ve checked myself into a mental facility twice because I was suicidal. At no time did I ever consider using my gun. Possibly because I’m female. (Apparently, women are more inclined to use poison or blades.) However, to this day, I still will not have a utility knife. Cooking knives, scissors, pocket knives: I’m good with those. I can even shave my legs. I have a beautiful tattoo on my left forearm that I would hate to destroy (and I got it for just that reason). But no utility knives. So… what, then?

    • Mogg

      Yeah, a specific registry seems stigmatising all by itself. Over here, it’s more that the background check includes a check of health records, but of course we have a completely different healthcare system. We have also done a lot of work in the last few years on publicising, destigmatising and making treatment more easily accessible for mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, and having a diagnosis doesn’t automatically mean you’re forever barred from owning a gun. Treatment and stability is recognised, at least in theory – I haven’t tested it myself so I don’t know how it works in reality. Unfortunately a diagnosis of depression does mean that you’re pretty much automatically unable to get life insurance if you want it, but that’s a completely seperate issue…

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps there could be some sort of trade off between having the registry and making more funding for evaluation and treatment available. Got problems? Here is the way to have them easily and affordably addressed. Of course, part of the price for that is ending up on the “no gun” list until okayed by your mental health professional. That could be the lever that helps unlock funding. FWIW

  • Brian Crisan

    JT, what laws prohibit people who are seizure prone from driving a vehicle? I’ve worked in law enforcement for nearly eight years and I’ve never heard of a driver who was prevented, by law, from driving a vehicle.

    • Brian Crisan

      And, just for clarification, I’ll add that I’m aware of the restrictions listed in ORC 4507.08 (see this link: Of course, that’s only applicable to Ohio residents. However, the wording of your post makes it seem as though there are blanket restrictions. If that’s what you intended to convey, I’m curious to know what laws you are referencing as analogous to potential gun control laws.

  • Ron

    What I don’t like is being thrown into a melting pot along with others because of some mental illness.

    I am on social security diagnosed with bi-polar which was severe enough to render me “retired”. I have a gun, bought legally. I am responsible for myself despite my illness and would never shoot a soul, unless you are dumb enough to break in my house then you are at my mercy (which I would have little). Such is life and a “normal (please define normal)” person would do the same thing. Hurt my wife,mother,children or someone else I might love and you “Might” suffer the same outcome, based on circumstance of course.

    I don’t just “play” with my gun, in fact it has never been loaded under my ownership (although I can tell it was test fired from the factory. I am not a danger to anyone whom is not a danger to my family or those whom I care about. I should not have a gun? Sorry, melting pots do not work in this situation as I don’t want to count on the police to protect my family. Takes about 30 seconds for someone to kick in a door and kill my five person family, there is not a response time fast enough to save people under those conditions. I have a change to save that situation and I would be the only one that could.

    I would like to keep my gun and feel my mental state is at the very least stable enough to understand the value of your life as well as mine.

    • Brad1990

      Why on earth would someone simply kick in your door and murder your family?

      • Ron

        Because that is how crimes happen and we take the “that will never happen to me” attitude, that is when it happens. Or when they take away a gun from a family, that’s when it happens, take your pick.

        • Scott Warner

          If it “Takes about 30 seconds for someone to kick in a door and kill my five person family,” how are you even expecting to handle the situation yourself? Unless you have the gun constantly on your person, loaded (you said you never do) and ready to go, you have no chance in this scenario.
          I’m not saying whether or not having a gun in the house is a good thing, but be realistic when laying out a scenario like this.

          • Ron

            I simply roll over in my bed, load said gun, and run out. Would take me about 5 seconds, and that would even be from a deep sleep.

            I know it seems my example is extreme, but really it is not. My wife has a larger family. In one area they live there have 3 robberies within the family. One women was woken from a dead sleep and beaten within inches of her life. Thieves lack honor and lack respect. Your life, my life, my childrens life all mean very little. We are simply something in the way possibly stopping them from robbing us blind.

            I will take my chances, but all to often I am reminded of the realities of the dangers of simply just trying to live an honest life.

          • Rovin’ Rockhound

            It’s much more likely that he will shoot his own kid when he stumbles on a stair step or knocks over a lamp trying to sneak out of the house.

        • Brad1990

          Yeah, OK, “that is how crimes happen”. Except it’s not, is it? Someone may break in while you are not home, or possibly while you are asleep, with the intention of stealing your possessions and getting away without being caught; but unless you owe massive amounts of money to drug dealers or have somehow managed to annoy the Russian mafia then the odds of someone breaking into your house, let alone doing it in such an unsubtle manner as “kicking in [your] front door” with the express intention of murdering you, your wife and your three children are, in reality, nil. And you know that, so stop talking rubbish.

          • Nate Frein

            Shhhh. You’ll ruin his John Mclane power fantasy.

          • Val

            “Someone may break in while you are not home, or possibly while you are asleep, with the intention of stealing your possessions and getting away without being caught;”
            -I’ll agree that the specifics of Ron’s scenario are face-palmingly unlikely. Yours is much more likely, but has the potential to start looking more like his once the intruders find out that someone is home. If they were expecting an empty house, they might run off when they find out that someone is home. All too often, though, things will get violent at that point, even when the home owner tries to be compliant and give the robbers what they want.

          • Ron

            Well, if I am not home who cares? My lifes possessions can be replaced, lives cannot.

          • Ron

            “Shhhh. You’ll ruin his John Mclane power fantasy”

            Yes, I must be delusional… This never happens. My bad!

            You think what you like and I will live in my over protected, sheltered reality.

          • Katie

            “You think what you like and I will live in my over protected, sheltered reality.”

            The problem with your fantasy isn’t that it’s paranoid. It’s that it’s more likely to play out like this: you wake from a deep sleep, roll over in bed, have your gun loaded within 5 seconds, lurch from the covers… and shoot your child in the fucking face.

            You don’t have any level of mastery with your gun. You clearly don’t know shit about the relevant literature on sleep, which would advise you to NEVER handle a lethal weapon within seconds of waking. Your ignorance is making you a danger to your family. Please take some time to reflect on that.

          • Ron

            “The problem with your fantasy isn’t that it’s paranoid. It’s that it’s more likely to play out like this: you wake from a deep sleep, roll over in bed, have your gun loaded within 5 seconds, lurch from the covers… and shoot your child in the fucking face.

            You don’t have any level of mastery with your gun. You clearly don’t know shit about the relevant literature on sleep, which would advise you to NEVER handle a lethal weapon within seconds of waking. Your ignorance is making you a danger to your family. Please take some time to reflect on that.”

            But that is where training comes in. My kids know that if someone comes in the house to stay put and not get up (taught). So the only thing that could possibly be the result of a bad decision in my sleep is somehow, out of being woke and stupid, is shooting myself in the foot (forgetting to set safety or something).

            Besides, I am a light sleeper and it is very easy for me to go from sleeping to full blown awake (I do it all the time, just not with a gun).

            As far as never handling a gun when waking, then I mines well get rid of the gun a chalk my safety out the window. A would be killer is not gonna let me get up, smoke a cig, drink a cup of coffee then continue with his plan. You have to ask. You could put all the science you want behind sleep and the outcome will be more like this: Its my ass or his and it’s not gonna be mine (or my families).

          • Katie

            “Besides, I am a light sleeper and it is very easy for me to go from sleeping to full blown awake (I do it all the time, just not with a gun).

            As far as never handling a gun when waking, then I mines well get rid of the gun a chalk my safety out the window. A would be killer is not gonna let me get up, smoke a cig, drink a cup of coffee then continue with his plan. You have to ask. You could put all the science you want behind sleep and the outcome will be more like this: Its my ass or his and it’s not gonna be mine (or my families).”

            Plenty of people believe that this how sleep works – a binary transition from total rest to absolute wakefulness – and then claim with absolute certainty that the ghost they saw at the foot of their bed was *absolutely* *there,* and not the result of a Hypnopompic state. I doubt you even know what that term means, given that it’s just sciency mumbo-jumbo that you don’t have time for while you’re fiddling for your gun in the middle of the night. This is how mistakes happen. If you don’t believe it could happen to you, you’re a goddamn fool and a danger to your loved ones.

          • Ron

            Plenty of people believe that this how sleep works – a binary transition from total rest to absolute wakefulness – and then claim with absolute certainty that the ghost they saw at the foot of their bed was *absolutely* *there,* and not the result of a Hypnopompic state. I doubt you even know what that term means, given that it’s just sciency mumbo-jumbo that you don’t have time for while you’re fiddling for your gun in the middle of the night. This is how mistakes happen. If you don’t believe it could happen to you, you’re a goddamn fool and a danger to your loved ones.

            You dont know who am I am, how my body works, what I know and yet you want to sling insults?

            The layout of my home WILL NOT allow me to hurt anyone in my family! You know this? No, you assume that all statistics fit everyone! And they don’t. And yes, I pay attention to science when it pertains to MY situation, this don’t. Whos the goddamn fool?

    • UsingReason

      So you own a gun you have never fired, or handled, and think it will be good for self defense? I don’t think you are going to be capable of loading or firing it efficiently enough to do anything if someone does kick in your door. Have you ever fired a gun? It seems a baseball bat might serve you better than a strange firearm you have never used.

      • Ron

        I have fired many guns in my life. There is no need for me to kick a dead horse, I don’t need to load this gun (after known I have fired many) in order to prove to myself I know how to fire a gun.

  • Brad1990

    Eminently sensible suggestions JT, but perhaps rather than the database being accessible in store, the prospective buyer should have to get a gun license, part of the conditions for which would be a mental health check? No license, no sale. Problem solved.

    Also, here in the UK any firearms must be kept in a locked gun safe, specifically designed for the purpose of securely storing guns. Why is this not the case in the States?

    • Ron

      How is that a safe solution? Hold on mister murder, I need to find a key, wait, really I won’t hurt you.

      I would hate for that law to be enacted in the United States.

      • Michaelyn

        Ron, it makes it safer for children (and really everyone) to have a firearm safely locked away. Most deaths by guns in a home are either suicides or accidents. Having it locked away would hopefully keep it out of the hands of children who might otherwise play with it.

        • Ron

          I do agree.

          My gun is separated from any ammo and no one but me knows where the ammo is located, yet I can have the ammo available in a matter of seconds in an emergency.

          • Rovin’ Rockhound

            And you say you are able to put them together in 5 seconds, in the dark, after being woken from dead sleep up by a crazy killer who kicked in your front door to murder your family? Then both your gun and ammo are too easily accessible. Sorry. The mechanics just don’t work otherwise.

          • Ron

            “And you say you are able to put them together in 5 seconds, in the dark, after being woken from dead sleep up by a crazy killer who kicked in your front door to murder your family? Then both your gun and ammo are too easily accessible. Sorry. The mechanics just don’t work otherwise.”

            You just don’t know how the mechanics here in my home work. I need 1 bullet to save my family (shotgun, with my one setup I could disable 3 robbers/killers with one shot).

            The goal for me is to have what I need in easy reach and it is. I have tested my reaction time (acting out loading, not actually loading) and from wide awake I can have my gun ready in 3 seconds, from a sleep I would say 5. My gun is in open sight, ammo is within easy reach yet hidden from everyone.

            Number one priority here is my family. How I protect my family is whats in the top priority and my setup allows me to do just that and avoids anyone in my home finding the tools to inflict self harm. The only person whom has access to the protection facilities of my home is me. Home is safe and the family is safe from inflicting hard on themselves, win win.

      • Brad1990

        Because in Britain we have this strange solution where firearms are only available for sporting purposes and stringent background checks are required even for that, and you have to lock your guns away. The result is that it is very, very difficult to get hold of guns if you may present any danger to anyone, including yourself. As a result we have one of the lowest rates of gun crime in the world.

        You guys, on the other hand, have this strange idea that you are all perfectly entitled to own firearms of whatever caliber, rate of fire and round capacity that you damn well please and keep them wherever you like regardless of your mental or emotional state or that of your housemates, and as a result you have some sort of gun related crime seemingly every other week.

        And if your gun is separate from your ammow how exactly do you expect it to be any use whatsoever in your “30 seconds or less before my whole family is dead” scenario above?

        • Ron

          My scenario has very little to do with this article or the point of mental illness.

          It works for me. I know it will work if needed. The mechanics are not important really. Its feasible and thats all I need to know.

          • Brad1990

            If you think that you can disable three attackers with one blast from a shotgun then I think you seriously need the start thinking about the mechanics…

          • Ron

            Ever hear of buckshot?

            Way my home is that buckshot would create no danger for anyone beside the would be thieves/killers.

  • John Eberhard

    Perhaps we need to differentiate here between generally “mentally ill” and “mentally ill to the point where a mental health care professional deems you to be a danger”.

    • Ron

      That indeed sounds reasonable.

      I do fear however that they are going to come at this with a one size fits all approach.

    • Brad1990

      Sorry, I should have been more clear about the license scenario I presented above; getting a license is not contingent upon you being completely free of any mental illness, but upon a mental health professional checking you and certifying that you are not a danger to yourself or others. That’s what I meant by “mental health check”.

  • DaveL

    It’s well worth noting what this statistic is and what it is not. What it is is a comparison of the number of times a gun kept in the home was used to injure or kill in self defense vs. the number of times they were used in a suicide or suicide attempt, unintentional shooting, or criminal assault or homicide. It is not a comparison of relative risk of suicide, accident, assault, or murder with and without a firearm in the home. It does not account for self-defense cases in which the gun was not discharged or in which nobody was hit.

    What a comparison of this type reveals is mostly that suicide, accidents, and domestic violence are relatively common and home invasions are relatively rare. You are bound to arrive at similar disparities for just about anything you could conceivably use as a weapon, including bare hands. A similar exercise to the Brady Campaigns, except comparing non-gun homicides to non-gun criminal homicide or suicide yields a ratio of 99 to 1.

    • DaveL

      That should be “non-gun self-defense homicides to non-gun criminal homicides” in the last part.

  • Anonymous

    Isnt driving a privilege and owning a gun a right ?

  • Anonymous

    Am I protected by the constitution if I am mentally ill?

    • eric

      Sure. But the courts have carved out narrow restrictions on basic rights before. Carving out an exception to gun ownership should not be any harder (or easier!) than carving out an exception on free speech or religious practice – of which there are many.

  • NotAProphet

    Taking a thread of thought from the image at the top of this article, how about considering the insurance angle? Let me say before going any further that the one thing that comes close to putting me off the idea is that it further lines the pockets of the insurance industry, but let’s put that aside for the moment:

    Insurance, for all sorts of things, is predicated on risk, and insurers will go to great lengths to ensure that those risks are carefully quantified, or at least not underestimated. If you want to get health insurance, for example, you will often have to undergo a medical, in order to more accurately assess the odds of the gamble on the insurer’s side of the deal. You can bet your ass that if money and actuaries are involved in the process then the real risk factors are not going to be overlooked!

    Mandatory insurance for gun owners would seem to be a perfectly reasonable concept; like car owners they are exercising the privilege of using a tool with a great potential to do significant damage or harm, and it would provide a repository of funds to aid those whose lives are inexorably changed by the ‘misuse’ of those tools.

    This would mean that the costs of any screenings are not borne wholly by the government, though they could take a financial interest in the arrangement, ensuring that as well as bolstering the insurers’ stock prices the public purse is also enriched. It would also encourage bodies like the NRA to advocate better discretion in gun ownership, as they would not want their gun-owning members to suffer heightened premiums, nor their gun-manufacturing benefactors to suffer hits to their sales due to gun ownership becoming prohibitively expensive.

    I really cannot see any significant problem with the concept other than the one I mentioned right at the very top; while it would offer the potential for great leaps in the screening of potential owners, the care of victims and the responsibility of the gun fraternity, it still seems to also serve as a vehicle for shuttling more wealth up the pre-existing affluence spectrum. I guess there are no perfect solutions.

  • Val

    Hey, JT, the type of system you propose here is already in place and is used pretty much exactly the way you described.

  • Something’s Gotta Give

    Hi – I have to say, BAD IDEA! Making a national database of people with a mental illness? Really? What a pandora’s box THAT would open up! How would you know if that information would ONLY be used for what it is intended? Could you guarantee that an insurance company wouldn’t turn you down for health insurance based on what they read in your file on the national database? What about a future employer not hiring you because of what they read in your database file (and trying to prove that would be fruitless!). I’m not being pessimistic; I know how people work, and if it can be used in a not-s0-legitimae manner, it will be. That’s human nature.

    • John Eberhard

      You must have missed this part: “But here is what I propose: a national database of those who are, or are not, eligible to own a firearm for whatever reason. And, when checked, returns either a simple “yes” or “no”.

      So, there wouldn’t be any ” based on what they read in your file on the national database?”, because all it has is a “yes” or a “no”. Actually, it would probably have just a “no” or nothing at all. There isn’t anything there for a future employer to “read”, or an insurance company to “read”.

  • Brad1990


    In response to my comment; “If you think that you can disable three attackers with one blast from a shotgun then I think you seriously need the start thinking about the mechanics…”; you said:

    “Ever hear of buckshot?

    Way my home is that buckshot would create no danger for anyone beside the would be thieves/killers.”

    I assume as a gun owner you understand about penetration and spread of shot? Because from my amateur point of view I understand this:
    1- Buckshot cannot penetrate a human body, so if all three of your hypothetical assailants were to try and squeeze through one door, the shot would injure the first in line but almost certainly not the second and definitely not the third. So I assume your scenario involves them all being conveniently stood in a line facing you, in which case;
    2- They would need to be stood close together and far enough away that the shot could spread far enough to injure all three of them. This is obvioulsy reliant upon you having a space in your home both wide enough for three people to stand shoulder to shoulder and long enough to allow the necessary spread of shot. Assuming you have such a space, and unless your shotgun is a sawn-off I cannot imagine that you have one nearly long enough in a house, then it is also reliant upon the assailants happening to be in that space and stood in one group.

    In short I believe your hypothetical scenario to be poorly thought out and unrealistic.

    • Ron

      It’s the layout of my home. 00 buckshot would be rather effective in my situation. I could disable 3 people (make them unable to continue at the very least), this is my goal. I could go with a slug, problem would be that I would permanently disable one person while leaving the others untouched.

      The way my home is I would end up with about a 20 foot separation from me and a would be killer/s. This would fall within optimal range/spread and would allow me to hit 3 targets. 00 would easily kill at least one and would render others very useless as I have said.

      The goal is to in the end disable the person/people. Killing is not as important to me as a disabled would be killer is as good as dead. My family is safe and a win win.

      • Val

        Ron, with 00 buckshot you can expect a spread of about 15 inches. At 50 feet. Fired from a 6 in barrel. Even that’s not enough spread to incapacitate three people, and it gets tighter as the barrel gets longer (I’m guess you haven’t jumped through any of the legal flaming hoops to get a short-barreled shotgun) and the distance from muzzle to target gets shorter. With the 18″ legal minimum at 20 feet, I’d be surprised if you could get a spread of more than three inches. You can get a bigger spread with smaller shot, but you lose stopping power.
        A shotgun is a good choice for home defense, but please don’t delude yourself by thinking you can stop three attackers with one shot.

        • Ron

          Thanks for that information, I will indeed look into it.

        • Ron

          Thanks for that information, I will indeed look into it.

          Maybe with that info, I would indeed be more protected with a slug? Will look into it.

          • Val

            “Maybe with that info, I would indeed be more protected with a slug? Will look into it.”

            Depends on the situation. Slugs will overpenetrate more if you miss. That may or may not be a major concern depending on the layout of your house. 00 buckshot is the most recommended general-purpose load, but do some research into the balistics of different loads.
            Also, look into the types of crime that happen in your area so you have some idea of what to be most prepared for. (professional theives, drug addicts looking for quick money, gang members looking to prove themselves, etc., operate differently). Look at safe but easily accessible storage for your weapons. Also, look at doing some cheap and simple things to make your home more difficult to break in to, like reenforcing door frames, putting long wood screws in your strike plates, putting cheap screamer alarms on doors and windows, etc. I believe that people have the right to own guns to defend themselves, but I don’t think highly of people who don’t take simple steps to prevent themselves from needing to use it.

          • Ron

            Thanks for the info Val. I have done the best I can to re enforce and have taken steps to reduce risks.

            My area is generally crime free, but I live in the country and there are cases of people breaking into homes to loot, the end result (usually) if the owner is home is death. So my concerns come from living in the “sticks” and knowing that the only one whom can protect my family is my with preparedness.

            I agree, I will be very happy if I never have to fire this gun. I actually have been planning on getting a dog, a sizable one (not for protection, I just like big dogs) and this would have the added benefit of potentially changing someones mind. If nothing else the dog is a warning for me to act.

            Thanks again for the information.

      • Brad1990

        Val beat me too it, and with far better technical knowledge than mine (thanks Val). Look Ron, I respect your right to protect your family, I even think your concern for them is admirable, but there are better ways to do it than guns. The focus should be on stopping them getting in the house in the first place. Once they’re in, it’s sort of too late. Better locks, stronger doors, alarms and, most effective of all, motion sensor lights. When a potential intruder is sneaking around outside nothing scares them off quite like having their night vision and concealment suddenly stolen away by a spotlight. As you said, a big dog is never a bad thing either (I too am a lover of big dogs. Unfortunately I work full time and don’t have a big enough house, but your housing situation at least sounds much better suited for owning one). I particularly like German Shepherds :) but keeping guns in the house without locking them away in a gun safe is just dangerous, and more trouble than it’s worth.

        • Ron

          I have actually given this some thought and have come up with a solution that would ease my mind as well as protecting the people I love even more. I plan on getting a gun case with a combination lock. Before bed at night I will rotation the combination to the unlock position (without actually opening the case) and thus having the same protection I have now while keeping the gun out of reach of my family.

          This could be a win win and after this conversation I am thinking this may be something I look into.

          • Ron

            Just to add this also has the benefit of never having to worry about my kids finding a key. Keep the numbers in my head (with a backup on my phone maybe?). I think this is a great idea.

  • Anonymous

    Fuck you you stupid bitch-go back to neverland-no self respecting citizen will ever give up his guns.The 0nly way to stop assholes who want to hurt you is to neutralize them. The sooner you antis realize this the better off you will be. I’ll give up my guns when you pry them from my cold-dead- hands.,

    • IslandBrewer

      Awww, somebody’s mad! I realize you don’t want to admit that people like you (no, not gun owners, but insane irrational idiots like yourself) are the problem. And you’re in the the minority. Very much so. That must be hard for you.

      I’m a self-respecting proud American citizen, and I happily won’t have a gun. The majority of us don’t. Most civilized nations get by without the copious guns that the US has, and they do just fine. Just as freedom-loving and wonderful (just with fewer gun deaths).

      And assholes? Like yourself? I don’t want to stop you, I just don’t want fucking psychopaths such as yourself waving firearms around.

      Because I don’t think you should have the right to have the power to kill me and my family just because you don’t like me. I want a little more than your word that you’ll use your gun responsibly, because I don’t trust you. Your post right there demonstrates that you might be someone who will murder me for disagreeing with you.

      Is it really too much to ask to not have the crazy fucking shitbag gun nut anywhere near me or my family, because you’re a fuck of lot more of a threat to respectable citizens than anyone else I’m currently aware of. Again, I’m not talking about responsible gun owners, hunters, target shooting hobbyists and the like.

      I’m talking about you.

      And no, just giving me the right to get crazy and carry loaded firearms around isn’t a solution. BECAUSE I SHOULDN’T FUCKING HAVE TO.

      I shouldn’t have to live in a society, in the 21st fucking century, where the only way I can feel safe walking down the street is if I’m fucking packing. That’s a horrible place to live. If you want to live in a society like that, move to fucking Somalia. No gubmint to take your guns out there, Cupcake. Everybody armed to the teeth, there, too. Must be a libertarian gun nut paradise out there, right? (Except for the cholera, maybe). Please go. You won’t be missed.

      Yes, Anonymous, you are the danger to society. If you insist on killing yourself for the betterment of society, so be it. I won’t personally be sad, but I’m sure you must have some sort of family that’d miss you.

    • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      Hey, Anonymous, you sound exactly like the sort of level-headed calm individual who should be armed. Your sense of proportion and sober attitude reassure me. The sensible way you spray spittle all over your screen when you type by mashing your guns against the keyboard just screams “responsible gun-owner”, not “insecure man-child who models his gun in the mirror every time he takes it out to fondle”.

      I know several gun owners, and only one of them scares me, because he sounds like you. When grown-ups talk about gun violence, and your only input is to threaten violence with a gun, over a gun… Connect the dots yourself, cupcake. Maybe you could pretend they’re bullet holes or something.

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  • Filipe Amaral

    The image that summarizes this post works with the assumption that you need a license and registration to have a car in your own private property. You don’t. You can drive a main battle tank or a kart in your own property. When you go out to drive it in public, where you might endanger others, you need to have it considered street legal in an inspection, have a license just to make sure you won’t drink and drive nor text on your cellphone (which people do all the time) and register the said vehicle – which by the way, isn’t a means of reducing road deaths, it was created because cars are stolen.

    The post itself works with the assumption that the proposed laws would do anything. If there are well known real world examples in which additional measures would be easily bypassed, we can argue about their effectiveness. I wouldn’t like if the plane I got on “only” had a 50% chance of exploding because of the new FAA laws. Specially if the airliner decided that they will just “bend the rules” and fly unsafe planes.

    So what if a new law managed to stop half of mass murderers from obtaining guns from X? A big part of them will get them from method Y. Let’s not forget that the Columbine shooters had been playing around with IED designs two years before the attack, the Aurora shooter made 30 improvised grenades in his house and the Utoya shooter created real and phoney enterprises to justify his purchase of precursors for his car bomb.

    And I remember seeing something that 20% of the US population could be easily considered mentally unstable, and probably half of it has or will be at one point considered “unstable”.

    You can thank the Big Pharma and the pills they make everyone with emotions take.