Almost everybody agrees that the mentally ill shouldn’t own guns …

But, the issue isn’t nearly as straightforward as it seems.

Everybody agrees that the Florida school-shooter shouldn’t have been allowed to buy a gun … and, that there was a strong case to take his rifle away from him.

More broadly, a Pew poll taken in March-April 2017 indicates that almost 9 in 10 Americans agree that “the mentally ill should be prevented from purchasing guns”.

That’s the highest level of agreement re: discussed changes to gun laws.


Since there’s overwhelming support, this one should be a slam dunk, right?

Not so fast …


Practically everyone agrees that the Florida school-shooter shouldn’t have had a gun.

So, it’s logical to extend the belief to “People who are mentally ill should not be permitted to buy or own a gun.”

So far, so good.

But, let’s decompose that simple proposition …

What’s needed to make the proposition actionable?

At least 3 things: (1) A clear operational definition of “mentally ill” (2) A universal data base that can be searched at point of purchase and (3) an intervention policy

Let’s go through those one-by-one …


What is a disqualifying mental health condition?

Again, all conclude that the Florida school-shooter had a disqualifying condition.

But, what about a person who suffers intermittent depression or anxiety? Should he/she be disqualified?

Or, a woman who suffered an acute case of post-partum depression?

Or, somebody who has been ever been prescribed an anti- psychotic drug? What if it’s working to stabilize the patient’s mental health?

Or, what about a soldier who returns from combat with PTSD? Does he have to turn in his gun when he returns home?

More broadly, people who suffer from mental illness come in millions of different degrees of severity and functionality.

Experts these days talk about patients not as having autism but being on the “autism spectrum.”

Is there an obsessive-compulsive spectrum, too?

A spectrum for every disorder?  WSJ

Where does the line get drawn between qualified and disqualified?  Who decides?  On what Constitutional basis?

See, it’s not so easy …


What about the universal database?

In order to do universal background checks, you need a universal database.

Implication: everybody gets a “record” … and, by definition, has their mental health tracked and “scored”.

Note: There are already databases that contain all of your prescription activity.  It would be relatively easy for the Feds to get their hands on it.

How will the data be secured?

Don’t know the “how”, but do know the “who”:

The same Feds that had ALL OPM personnel files hacked … with sharp-eyed supervision by the NSA  … which has had files with their most sensitive sources & methods information hacked.

Who will have access to the database?

Of course, bad actors who hack the system will have access to the data,

Should employers have access to the database?

Before you shout “no” … think about it.

If a person is too dangerous to own a gun, aren’t they too dangerous for workplaces?  Shouldn’t employers know so that they can keep their workplaces safe – either by passing on applicants or setting up special processes to “quarantine” them?

Who will take responsibility if a gun-disqualified employee goes “postal”?

Again, it’s not so easy, is it?


How to intervene?

Stopping a purchase is pretty straightforward if you’ve got an operative definition of disqualifying mental health conditions?

What if someone is gun-qualified on the date of purchase but goes off track post-purchase?

Obviously, law enforcement goes in and confiscates their guns, right?


First, you need an alert from the database that the person’s condition has changed.

Then, you need a legal process that separates the now-disqualified person from his gun.

You know, that messy “due process” thing that President Trump dismissed in his meeting with lawmakers.

And, on and on and on.


So, even the “common sense change” that everybody buys into at 50,000 feet gets pretty complicated when you think about it.

Do you want to be in the database?  How about all of your prescription data?

How do you feel about an algorithm (or worse, a Fed bureaucrat) red-flagging you in the file?

Any problems having the database shared with employers?

Will you be more or less likely to get medical help for a mental condition if you know that info is going straight to a government database?


I don’t know about you, but I’m not so sure …

See, Say. Hear, DO !
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