Guns are definitely a political hot potato. Emotions on the politics of guns run almost as deep as on abortion for opposing sides. However, one of the most universal calls is to limit access to guns for the mentally ill, more specifically to ban ownership of guns to the mentally ill. And it is understandable. No one wants someone who has a propensity for violence and a potential willingness to kill without remorse to own a weapon. It’s undeniable that it takes some amount of insanity (even if it is temporary) to shoot and kill innocent people outside the norms of war. However, there are problems with defining and establishing degrees of mental illness. There is also the problem of how to consider a person who is taking medications. As long as some people with mental illnesses are on their prescribed medications, they may not be showing any symptoms at all.
It would make sense for someone trained in mental health to make such determinations of definitions and degree. However, even within the field of mental health, illnesses and their definitions are muddy. Many psychologists and psychiatrists are reluctant to provide definitive diagnosis even without personal freedoms at stake. Any science having to do with the human brain is ongoing and ever changing. What was considered solid brain science even a decade ago can sometimes be completely void today. Almost any mental health disorder used to, all too commonly, be diagnosed as some sort of schizophrenia. Now, almost any mental illness, with identical symptoms, seems to be diagnosed as bipolar disorder. Medical professionals can’t seem to decide solidly neither definitions nor degrees of illnesses. What’s more is that it is a lot to ask of an already difficult field to place such a significant burden and potential liabilities as to determine when a person should be allowed or disallowed a constitutional right.
When determining when a person should lose any sort of rights, we normally require some sort of competency trial. This would make more sense than simply asking some arbitrary person or body to simply make a declaration. Muddy waters require careful consideration with arguments presented both ways. Rights that are guaranteed to all Americans by the Constitution are not to be taken lightly. These rights were written in specifically because of the great weight that they carry. But, trials are expensive and time consuming. It might be a decent answer for the potential of many ongoing threats, but more immediate threats are not likely to be prevented by trials.
Perhaps the best answer to more immediate potential threats of the mentally ill taking up arms to shoot innocent people is to end the idea of gun free zones. The best way for me to be safe personally is when I have an equal ability to stop a threat as the person presenting the threat. Logic dictates that others would be safer when armed as well (assuming a level of competent training). There are a lot more mentally stable people than there are mentally unstable people who are willing to kill the innocent, just as there are a lot more people opposed to violence as there are willing to carry out violence. If those that are mentally stable and want to prevent violence are armed, the violent shooting of the innocent is less frequent and less devastating when it does occur.
* Danny Chabino has owned his own business for 20 years. He has been a proud employer and operator of a small retail business for 16 years.
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