Mental Health and Gun Control

Never mind that the FBI failed to heed and follow up on repeated and explicit warnings about Nikolas Cruz before his shooting rampage in Parkland, Florida.  Never mind the FBI was too busy chasing phantom Russian collusion to locate a future killer that any nerd living in his parents' basement could have located with ease.  According to mental health professional Jimmy Kimmel, Trump made Parkland happen by rescinding Obama administration regulations barring the mentally ill from getting guns:

Kimmel kept addressing Trump by adding that politicians and the president like to say that mass shootings are a mental health issue.  He then said that one of the first acts of Trump's presidency was to roll back a regulation designed to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill.

"Your party voted to repeal the mandates on coverage for mental health," Kimmel said.  "So I agree, this is a mental illness issue because if you don't think we need to do something about it, you are obviously mentally ill."

What in fact happened is that President Trump and the Republican Congress removed regulations not designed to protect the public, but intended to disarm innocent and law-abiding senior citizens based on the assumption that if they need help handling their finances, they must be dangerous and must be disarmed.  When was the last time Grandpa shot up his nursing home?

The reality is somewhat different from Kimmel's slanderous falsehood.  As Snopes reports:

In the wake of a horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead in February 2018, media renewed focus on an Obama-era regulation repealed in the early months of the Trump administration.  That rule would have given the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is used for gun sales, access to Social Security Administration data including the names of individuals receiving certain federal mental health benefits.

As we explained in a 17 February 2017 post, this rule – which never went into effect before being rescinded – did not change any existing laws regulating who is allowed to purchase guns. It merely would have provided a new way to enforce existing restrictions on gun sales by allowing a transfer of information from one agency to another.  There are now, and have been for some time, laws that seek to limit gun sales to anyone "who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution" per Title 18 section 922(g) of the United States Code[."]

Kimmel has advanced this canard about Donald Trump, mental health, and guns before, most notably after the mass shooting in Las Vegas.  In fact, there  was a delicious sense of irony in gun control advocate Kimmel beefing up his armed security after the Las Vegas shooting, falsely claiming that President Trump had made it easier for the mentally ill to get guns.  Guns are okay to protect the liberal elites but not for the rest of us, who can't be trusted or don't know any better.

The same double standard exists for Democratic members of Congress, who demand that their constituents be disarmed even as they welcome back Rep. Steve Scalise, the victim of a shooting where a bad guy with a gun was stopped by a good guy with a gun.  Many members of Congress are alive today only because Scalise, being a member of the House leadership, had his armed security detail with him:

Dr. Kimmel has no way of knowing even now that the Las Vegas shooter was mentally unstable.  Certainly the meticulous planning and preparation by the shooter over a long period of time would seem to indicate that while the shooter was evil, he was perfectly competent and sane. Certainly Kimmel's charge against Trump is not true:

Noting that President Trump had offered prayers for the victims' families, and that Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, had said that this wasn't the time for political debate, he went on: "We have fifty-nine innocent people dead. It wasn't their time, either. So I think now is the time for political debate."  He reminded his audience that, in February, Trump had signed a bill that made it easier for people with mental illness to buy guns.

Steve Scalise owes his life to the Second Amendment, which was written not to shoot deer, but to shoot tyrants.  The Second Amendment was written to protect the other nine in the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment, which gives Jimmy Kimmel the right to sound like the blooming idiot he is.

What President Trump signed was a bill overturning an executive order that would tar the innocent with the broad brush of mental illness, people who included the elderly and veterans, in order to pursue the Obama administration's gun-control agenda:

Here's what happened earlier this year: Congress voted to overturn a last-minute Obama-era regulation that would give the Social Security Administration the power to revoke a person's Second Amendment rights based on whether he receives disability for a mental impairment that keeps him from working, or if he "[uses] a representative payee to help manage their benefits."

As my Washington Examiner colleague David Freddoso explained at the time, the repeal of the Obama-era regulation, "doesn't allow people to buy guns who have been properly adjudicated by a court of law as mentally ill or unstable."

The Obama-era rule was designed to take away people's rights without due process of law.  It would have flagged the names of people who, for example, have an anxiety disorder or depression which keeps them from working, and who, as the SSA puts it, 'need help in managing [their] personal money affairs,'" he added.  "As the many non-political mental health and autism advocacy groups that supported the House action noted, there is no link between these factors and a propensity for violence."

The Obama administration repeatedly tried to use mental health as a means not to make us safer, but to deny us our gun rights.  Consider Obama'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 the Second Amendment.  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 have liked 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.  Being unable to balance your checkbook or handle complicated financial transactions without help is not a sign of mental illness.  If it were, anyone who ever visited a professional tax-preparer would be crazy.

They deserve the presumption of innocence and sanity.  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.