Mental Health and the 2nd Amendment
Despite the undeniable mental issues affecting black, gay Democrat Vester Flanagan, who was not sporting a Confederate flag before he shot and killed his two former KDBJ coworkers, reporter Alison Parker and photojournalist Adam Ward, the fact is that he passed a background check and legally possessed the Glock handgun he used. As much as we all want to prevent the mentally unstable from possessing firearms, the fact is that there was nothing in Flanagan’s background to prevent him from legally owning a firearm. As NBC News reported:
Nothing in Flanagan's background disqualified him from buying a gun. He was arrested in Greenville, North Carolina, in 2004. But that case was for a traffic offense that, according to court records, was later dismissed. It was a misdemeanor charge: Even if he had been convicted, it would not have made him ineligible.
As for his mental health, the standard in federal law is very high: "adjudicated as a mental defective" or "committed to a mental institution." Nothing in Flanagan's history indicates that either standard fit him, despite his reputation as an unstable co-worker.
This was yet another in a series of shootings blamed on guns and not on the undeniable presence of both evil and mental illness in the world. No one advocates the mentally ill should be able to legally buy a gun, but the effort should be on reporting, flagging, and institutionalizing these unfortunates, not on disarming their potential victims as some are once again demanding.
There is a danger here in that the Obama administration has already tried to use mental health as a means, not to make us safer, but to deny us our gun rights under the Second Amendment. Consider president’s pick of Dr. Vivek Murthy to be our surgeon general, someone who firmly believes gun control is a health issue, something that can and should be used to gut out Second Amendment Rights. As Investor’s Business Daily editorialized during his confirmation process:
Murthy's approach to attacking the Second Amendment has been to say private ownership of firearms is a public health issue. The 37-year-old Murthy is president and co-founder of the anti-gun group Doctors for America, which advocates ObamaCare and gun control laws. His group, which has been dubbed Docs vs. Glocks, has pushed Congress to ban "assault" weapons and "high capacity" magazines.
Doctors for America has promoted the invasion of privacy by doctors by advocating they ask patients if they have guns at home, including asking children if their parents own guns. He would have doctors counsel their patients against exercising their Second Amendment rights. One wonders how private that information would remain if entered into the medical records the government would be privy to under ObamaCare.
Back in 2013 a piece of legislation called Toomey-Manchin proposed that doctors be allowed to unilaterally place a patient’s name in the background check system in a way that violated patient doctor confidentially under HIPAA as well as our Second Amendment Rights:
The Toomey-Manchin proposal contains a provision that lets a doctor add a patient to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) without ever telling the patient he or she has been added.
This would seem to violate doctor-patient confidentiality, due process and the presumption of innocence in one fell swoop.
As the Heritage Foundation reports, this "gun control legislation eliminates any (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy protection for mental health records in connection with the NICS system, leaving only what privacy protection the attorney general cares to provide."
The Obama administrations idea of keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill is based on a bizarre and discriminatory definition of who might be mentally unstable. Back in 2013 it was reported that the Veterans Administration was sending letters to vets warning them that they might be declared mentally incompetent and have their Second Amendment rights stripped unless they could prove otherwise:
The contempt by the Obama administration for our Constitution and our rights has reached a new low with news the Veterans Administration has begun sending letters to veterans telling them they will be declared mentally incompetent and stripped of the Second Amendment rights unless they can prove to unnamed bureaucrats to the contrary….
"A determination of incompetency will prohibit you from purchasing, possessing, receiving, or transporting a firearm or ammunition. If you knowingly violate any of these prohibitions, you may be fined, imprisoned, or both pursuant to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, Pub.L.No. 103-159, as implemented at 18, United States Code 924(a)(2)," the letter reads….
While mental health is a factor in the current gun control debate and recent mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., and elsewhere have in common the questionable mental state of the shooters, to single out returning vets from Iraq and Afghanistan this way is unconscionable and unconstitutional.
As the Los Angeles Times has reported, the Obama administration would like to make our Social Security records part of the background check system. The move would strip some four million Americans who receive payments though a “representative payee” of their gun rights. It would be the largest gun grab in U.S. history.
A potentially large group within Social Security are people who, in the language of federal gun laws, are unable to manage their own affairs due to "marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease."
There is no simple way to identify that group, but a strategy used by the Department of Veterans Affairs since the creation of the background check system is reporting anyone who has been declared incompetent to manage pension or disability payments and assigned a fiduciary.
Keeping guns out of the hands of the truly mentally unstable is a worthy goal, but it should not be used as a cause for disarming veterans who carried a weapon in defense of their country or senior systems who might need some assistance in paying their bills.
They deserve the presumption of innocence, and sanity, every bit as much as Vester Flanagan. Stripping away their Second Amendment rights in the name of mental health would be a gross injustice that would not make us safer, but would merely create millions of unarmed victims for the next shooter with an agenda.
Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.