[NAGR policy analyst Jeff Bailey contributed to this article.]
Last year saw the biggest legislative battle over gun rights this country has seen in almost 20 years. The assault weapons ban of 1994 was the last time Congress took up the banner of so-called “gun-control.”
In the wake of two unimaginable tragedies, the Aurora theater shooting, and the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the cries of “we have to do something” rang in the ears of politicians.
After the anti-gun left failed to pass gun control on the federal level, they looked for any avenue by which to restrict what they lacked the political will to ban. They turned their sights on mental health. This disingenuous ploy has duped many into supporting gun control, while claiming to be staunchly pro-gun.
Most of us look at what happened in Aurora and Newtown, and wonder how anyone could commit such a heinous act. Wrapping our minds around something so seemingly incomprehensible and indefensible leads us to only one conclusion; those who commit such horrible acts must be mentally ill.
Some of the perpetrators of such evil may have suffered from a mental illness that contributed to their actions, but they represent an infinitesimally small portion of the mentally ill in this country. The Center for Disease Control estimates that fully half of all Americans will suffer from a “mental illness” of some sort during their lifetimes. The vast majority of these are minor mental illnesses, and most will recover fully.
Names of thousands of non-violent, law-abiding individuals are being forwarded to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS, a database from which it is virtually impossible to have a name removed.
Now, in addition to federal law being out of touch with the medical reality of recovery from mental illness, the institutional gun lobby is pushing legislation that will further stigmatize the mentally ill, despite there being little evidence of the mentally ill committing crimes with guns. In fact, the mentally ill are less likely to commit gun crimes than the population at large.
Those pushing such legislation are quick to claim that they are only interested in disarming those that are a danger to themselves or others, but divining who is going to be a danger is not a simple process.
Resident psychiatrists, who have been training and practicing for years, were no better at determining who was going to be violent than the simple flip of a coin. These are the people on whom we depend for determining who can defend themselves, and who can’t.
On the basis of their recommendations, or the flip of a coin, people’s rights are being taken from them, even if the individual is not confined to a mental institution, and in some states, even if they agree to voluntarily seek treatment.
The mentally ill in America are some of the most vulnerable among us. Advocating for laws that could strip them of their rights permanently because of a temporary condition gives them another incentive to not seek treatment, which can compound their condition.
While the anti-gun left push “mental health” as the remedy for gun violence, they are marginalizing an already stigmatized population that should be brought out of the shadows for treatment, not driven further underground.
The concept of mental health bills, regarding gun rights, violates the Second Amendment rights of thousands or millions of law-abiding Americans without due process.
 US v BH, US District Court, ND Iowa No. 04-CV-2051-LRR