Guns And The Mentally Ill: A Professional Assessment

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 9 months ago

Science Daily:

A string of public mass shootings during the past decade-plus have rocked America leaving policymakers and mental health experts alike fishing for solutions to prevent these heinous crimes. A Mayo Clinic physician, however, argues that at least one proposal won’t stop the public massacres: restricting gun access to the mentally ill. J. Michael Bostwick, M.D., a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist and author of the editorial published online in Mayo Clinic Proceedings today, argues several points including that mass shootings are carefully planned — often spanning weeks or months. There is plenty of time for a meticulous planner and determined killer to get a gun somewhere in that time, he argues.

Dr. Bostwick’s editorial is a commentary on an essay in the same issue of Proceedings titled “Guns, Schools, and Mental Illness: Potential Concerns for Physicians and Mental Health Professionals.” The authors focus on recent mass shootings and argue that these actions were not and could not have been prevented by more restrictive gun legislation. They further contend that a diagnosis of mental illness does not justify stripping Second Amendment rights from all who carry such a diagnosis, most of whom will never commit violent acts toward others.

Before reading the essay Dr. Bostwick — who is generally in favor of gun control — expected to disagree with its contents. Instead, he agreed.

“We physicians generally do not know enough about firearms to have an informed conversation with our patients, let alone counsel them about gun safety,” says Dr. Bostwick. “We also tend to ignore the reality that as long as the Second Amendment is the law of the land, the right to bear arms and therefore personal gun ownership, whether of long guns for hunting or handguns for personal protection, will be an integral part of the American scene.”

A few points Dr. Bostwick argues:

  • Even if every mentally ill person in the country were registered, the system isn’t prepared to handle them — and only about half of the states require registration.
  • Only about 10 percent of mentally ill people are registered — and these are people who have been committed, they’ve come to attention in a way that requires court intervention
  • Literature says the vast majority of people who do these kinds of shootings are not mentally ill — or it is recognized after the fact
  • The majority of mentally ill people aren’t dangerous
  • Mentally ill people in a country with gun rights, still have rights.

So let’s see.  Mental illness isn’t a very good predictor of propensity to violence, especially mass violence.  Even if it were, doctors cannot diagnose it well enough to intrude on the rights of others.  Their record is comparatively poor.  Mental illness isn’t the hallmark of said actions – rather, it is pre-meditation and planning.

This seems rather important.  Someone should have talked about this before.  No, really.  I mean it.  I really mean it.

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Comments

  1. On October 18, 2013 at 9:04 am, Paul B said:

    The Newton shooter might not have been crazy, but he was being medicated. There is some proof that the medication he was on could have aid him in the delusions that lead him to kill.

    I am surprised the Doctor admitted the findings did not meet his hypothesis. that is currently rare among that group of individuals.

    I would hazard we will not see this editorial touted as landmark research in the MSM.

  2. On October 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm, MamaLiberty said:

    Indeed, Paul. And he’s obviously still happy with “gun control” in other areas. As for suicides, I’d have to see some hard evidence that gun laws actually reduce the number of those who kill themselves. It isn’t as if guns are the only option. And I’d argue that suicide by “impulse” is probably rare too. I’ve dealt with too many people who struggled with it for months or even years.

    Besides that, if human beings own their lives, they also own their deaths. Those who wish to have help with problems that could lead to suicide can certainly reach out for it, and millions do. But I can assure you, as a long term health professional, that those who truly wish to die will do so, one way or another. Attempts to control or disarm anyone and everyone who demonstrates any sign of depression, etc. is simply one way to gurantee that far fewer people reach out for any help at all.

  3. On October 18, 2013 at 6:38 pm, Mannie said:

    As for suicides, I’d have to see some hard evidence that gun laws actually reduce the number of those who kill themselves.

    Different cultures, but it certainly doesn’t inhibit suicides in Japan. They have almost n privately owned guns, but their suicide rate is very large compared to ours.

    My biggest fear WRT using mental health screening to disqualify gun owners, is that it will be politicized. The anti-gun crowd will cheerfully come up with an extensive laundry list of conditions that will disqualify you. It will mean you can’t be honest with your physician. I’ve already seen questionaires that could be used against one. I answered the questions in the most inoccuous possible way.

  4. On October 18, 2013 at 7:15 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Oh, I suppose that if you believe that the second amendment is primarily there to ameliorate tyranny (rather than speaking to self defense), you qualify for mental malady. It really will be that simple.

  5. On October 19, 2013 at 2:36 pm, Will said:

    I absolutely regret seeking care from the VA for PTSD for just this reason.

  6. On October 21, 2013 at 9:52 am, Yuri said:

    “Mentally ill people …. still have rights.” There are plenty of people who would disagree with that statement (as amended).

    Thank you for being a voice in the wilderness on this.

    People have become aware of the massive growth and wealth of the for-profit prison industry. It seems that, with a little help from government, the Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT)(read “Involuntary Commitment”) industry could be just as lucrative.

    Which makes me a little curious about the motivations of those who advocate rounding up everyone with a mental disorder whenever there’s a publicized massacre.

    ** http://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org
    http://mentalillnesspolicy.org
    https://www.crimesolutions.gov/ProgramDetails.aspx?ID=228
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outpatient_commitment

  7. On October 21, 2013 at 10:11 am, Herschel Smith said:

    Yuri,

    Right. And furthermore, I don’t believe in the rehabilitative powers of prison. The notion of prison is an unbiblical concept (that may not have been your point, but I’m a Christian and since this is my blog I can say whatever I want).

    The more Biblical concept would be retribution and restitution. Long story and I could flesh this out later if necessary, but imprisonment isn’t a part of the model. Imprisonment oftentimes makes criminals worse, not better.

    And this is indeed a wealth industry in the U.S. And I have absolutely no confidence in the ability of doctors trained in modern psychology to be able to diagnose “mental health disorders” with any degree of certainty, whatever constitutes a mental health disorder. Anyway, the presupposition behind all of this would be that we could all come up with a comprehensive and agreed-upon list of said disorders rather than letting the elitist collectivists come up with that list.

    Fat chance of either.

  8. On October 22, 2013 at 8:58 am, Yuri said:

    I’m not a Christian (discussion for another time, maybe), but I agree with you. Rehabilitation is bunk. Prison has — or ought to have — the two-fold purpose of deterrence and punishment. Rehabilitation comes from the same place as penitence … within.

    Those who want everyone with a mental disorder imprisoned because of the actions of a half dozen mass-murderers, always couch their motivations in terms of “compassion”. This while barely hiding their conviction that the mentally ill are lebensunwertes leben. Their clear view is that the mentally ill should be subject to arrest and imprisonment for actions that would not be criminal if done by the “sane”, and that “the mentally ill” are incapable of having rights to life or liberty.

    That being their definition of “compassion”, they recommend permanent incarceration for the mentally ill in a new asylum industry entirely separate from the prison industry. The push is to expand or build new “treatment facilities” and have the laws changed to fill them.

    I mean, think of the poor folks investing in these facilities. What would happen if they built a new system of asylums but were unable to find victims … ahem .. I mean .. “patients” to put in them.

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