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Mental Illness and Gun Control July 13, 2011

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Uncategorized.

The Second Amendment: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

What does gun control have to do with mental illness?  Plenty.

People who have been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital are treated like criminals when it comes to gun control. If you have been involuntarily committed, Federal law says that you are not eligible to own a hand gun.  While I understand the intent of this law is to prevent crazy people from shooting someone, I don’t agree that this law should even be in effect.

When people who have been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital are denied the right to possess a firearm, they are being lumped in with people who have broken a law.  Being involuntarily committed in and of itself is not breaking any law.  In all cases except for this one, denial of civil rights is a consequence of breaking a law, not having a health problem.  And being involuntarily committed is in fact a sign of a health problem, just like going to an emergency room is a sign of a health problem.

People with mental illnesses have already been marginalized by society.  When the Federal Code of Regulations denies their civil rights to someone, they give legitimacy to this marginalization.

While I understand the homophobic reaction by society to people who have mental illness, involuntary commitment, as far as I know, isn’t a crime. And yet people who have been involuntarily committed have been denied their right to possess firearms as if they were common criminals.

I understand many people’s distaste for any kind of gun ownership, and I’m not arguing for or against gun control per se.  I am arguing that a specific group of individuals who have committed no crime have been denied their constitutional right. Once this group of people has been denied their constitutional right, it becomes easier to deny other groups of people their constitutional rights. It’s a slippery slope.

Reading the actual law barring mentally ill people from possessing was quite eye-opening. Federal statute, 18 U.S.C. 922 (g), states:

It shall be unlawful for any person~~

(4) who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental Institution…; to … possess… any firearm or ammunition…

This law reads as if people who have been involuntarily committed are people who have broken a law.

The law makes no distinction between mentally ill people who have been medicated whose illness is under control and people who haven’t been medicated whose  illness is not under control.

In the case of a criminal, he has been incarcerated because a jury found him to be guilty of a crime. In the case of someone who has been hospitalized, he is treated as if he committed a crime.

I understand that people are worried about what the involuntarily committed person will do once he has been released from the mental hospital. But it isn’t fair to automatically assume that because he was hospitalized he is unfit to possess a firearm. This assumption violates that person’s second amendment rights.

We are not legally able to predict the behavior of someone who has been released from prison, having served their sentence. Yet we assume that we are legally able to predict the behavior of someone who has committed no crime.  I have a problem with this way of thinking.

Being involuntarily committed is no crime. Treating people with a mental illness like a criminal is a crime.



1. mercurialmatters - July 16, 2011

I think the mentally ill are treated like criminals. Unfortunately the media perpetuates this attitude by examples like Gabby Gifford’s shooting.

I wonder if one voluntarily commits themselves and then subsequently a hold is placed on them, is that ultimately considered involuntary?

Jim Morgan - July 28, 2013

I voluntarily committed myself and I am not allowed to own a firearm. So whether voluntary or involuntary, the outcome is still the same…

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