Gun Rights And Mental Health Restrictions: A Slippery Slope


by Brandon Smith

In the wake of the Parkland shooting, as in the wake of any mass shooting, there has been a scramble by various political groups to place blame for the violence. Everyone is looking for the source of the evil that causes these events, to little avail. In most cases, at least when it comes to the extreme Left, the blame is placed squarely on guns themselves. This is obviously an absurd notion. Placing blame on the particular tool used in the crime does not solve the problem of the criminal and what led him to the deed. Whether or not the tool made his crime “easier” is irrelevant to the greater disturbance at hand.
After years of debate and failed legislation, leftists have discovered that resistance to the incremental destruction of the 2nd Amendment is insurmountable, and a change in narrative has occurred. Finally, we are talking more about mental health issues and a little less about guns. This is a win for gun rights, however, there is a danger that needs to be addressed.
First, while mental health is being presented in the mainstream media more and more as a central issue in mass shootings, I find it interesting that the problem of psychotropic pharmaceuticals has been conveniently ignored. In a large number of non-terrorist related shooting incidents, assailants have been subjected to long term psychotropic drug use. Why has this factor not been addressed?
Well, consider the fact that Big Pharma has spent at least $2.5 billion over the past ten years lobbying in Washington D.C. Compare this to the NRA lobbying budget, which in comparison was a paltry $20 million over the past 10 years according to OpenSecret.
This should put into perspective the idiocy of anti-gun advocates and their obsession with the “nefarious” NRA. The influence of the pharmaceutical industry is almost universally ignored when it comes to the debate on gun violence, yet their lobbying efforts dwarf all others. All this despite the fact that psychotropic drugs are proven to influence violent and even homicidal behavior in people.
Second, the focus on mental health in terms of the Parkland shooting seems to be glossing over the vast failings of the FBI and local law enforcement in following up and investigating the dozens of warnings they received about Nikolas Cruz.  As I outlined in my recent article ‘“Mass shootings will never negate the need for gun rights,” gun grabbers love to trot out legislation on increased background check restrictions and closing the “gun show loophole,” yet none of their suggested solutions would have stopped the Parkland tragedy from taking place.
The success of Nikolas Cruz’s attack was due to the abject failure of the FBI and law enforcement, NOT the failure of background checks. Had they done their jobs, Cruz never would have been able to purchase a firearm to begin with. I find it rather ironic that gun grabbers constantly argue that average citizens do not need guns for self defense because they have law enforcement to rely on, yet it was exactly the stupidity or inaction of law enforcement that opened the door wide for Cruz to (allegedly) kill.
Clearly, the so-called “authorities” are not trustworthy enough to carry out the job of protecting us all from active shooters. The only people capable of stopping an active shooter in a fast and practical manner are armed citizens on the scene at the moment the attack begins.
Third, and most important, is the issue of mental health parameters and how they will be used to restrict gun rights. The ATF already has rules regarding people “adjudicated as mentally defective,” which includes people ruled a danger to themselves and others by a “court, board or commission or other lawful authority.” Now, these guidelines themselves can be rather broad, but abuse by government so far has been limited (though some instances have been egregious). If the Trump administration seeks to broaden the guidelines even further, then we may have a problem.
Take for example the unacceptable abuse of military veterans and their 2nd Amendment rights by the Bureau of Veterans Affairs. The VA has in recent years placed restrictions on thousands of veterans, negating their gun rights without due process and without oversight. And all of this has been predicated on the claim that some veterans are “mentally defective” based on dubious parameters, including whether or not they let their spouse handle household finances.
This is what I am talking about when I bring up the dangers behind “mental illness” and gun rights. WHO gets to decide who is mentally ill and why they are mentally ill? Will this be done by a jury of our peers? Or, by an unaccountable and faceless bureaucracy? Will the guidelines for mental illness be strict and specific, or will they be broad and wide open to interpretation? Once a person has been labeled mentally defective, will they have the ability to appeal the decision, or will the label haunt them for the rest of their lives?
Gun rights activists should not put blind faith in the Trump administration to ensure that new mental health legislation will remain fair to the 2nd Amendment. Unfortunately, Trump is on record as supporting the “No Fly List” gun control bill. This type of bill is something liberty activists opposed vehemently under the Obama administration because it allows the government to erase the gun rights of almost anyone without due process merely by placing them on an arbitrary watch list. A list, I will remind readers, that is a matter of national security and not subject to public overview.
Would a list of “mentally defective people” fall under the same Orwellian standards?
What about the new and disturbing designation by the psychiatric community of oppositional defiance disorder? This absurd “illness” is being applied to people as young as pre-school age and suggests that adults with the illness often display resistance to authority figures and government.
What if your opposition is not to “authority” in general, but to CORRUPT authority specifically? Is this mental illness, or the very epitome of sanity?
In the Soviet Union, it was all too common for the government to abuse “mental illness” designations as a means to silence and imprison political dissent. Anti-government agitation and propaganda were criminalized under Soviet legal codes, and these codes were frequently applied in conjunction with the psychiatric system. This was sometimes referred to as “punitive medicine.”
The problem with government and psychiatric institutions joining forces to determine constitutional rights for individuals should be obvious. Government should be as separate from the medical establishment as possible yet they are often intertwined to terrible effect. If mental illness is not adjudicated by a jury of ones peers and with extreme oversight by gun rights groups, then abuse of such laws by government is almost guaranteed. The temptation to use backdoor bureaucracy in a totalitarian manner to underhandedly confiscate guns and sabotage the 2nd Amendment will be high.
It is also important to remember that even if you have placed full and blind faith in the Trump administration, there are no guarantees that the constitutional rules we allow him to bend today will not be completely broken by the next president in line. Gun rights are paramount to a free society. Without them, governments almost always revert to increased socialism and “tyranny creep” while violent crime continues or increases as the citizenry is left defenseless. Mental illness AND psychotropic drugs need to be taken seriously in terms of gun violence, but it is also vital that we do not allow the issue of mental health to be exploited as a subversive means to undermine our freedoms.
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