Activists call for mental health screenings before gun purchases

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Or, to put it another way, gun control activists have a very hard time understanding the concept of individual rights.

This op-ed, penned by two students at the University of New Mexico, wasn’t written in response to this weekend’s shooting in Buffalo in which ten people were murdered by an 18-year old who’d previously threatened to shoot up his high school graduation, but you can bet we’ll be hearing more like this in the coming days.

In 2019, New Mexico passed the Family Violence Protection Act to prevent violent gun crime resulting from domestic violence. The law allows law enforcement to take possession of guns that the owner relinquishes. However, there is no requirement for a mental health test for purchasing or carrying weapons, which is an important issue.

To truly reduce gun-related deaths and violence, lawmakers should consider requiring licenses for all new firearms, mental health tests for all carrier types, and training on the impact of firearms.

In Santa Fe County in 2021, there were approximately 11 homicides, including two teens, and six shootings involving local law enforcement, four of them fatal.

More stringent gun reform is needed to protect gun owners and non-gun owners alike. If there is reform, perhaps the number of deaths can be lowered, and we won’t hear about it on the news as often.

“Reform” that’s aimed at law-abiding individuals is never going to be the answer to stopping violent criminals. Would mental health screenings prevent criminals from stealing firearms, using friends or family members to fraudulently purchase a gun for them, or even building their own? Not at all. Instead, it would be those who want to obey the law who would find themselves prohibited from exercising their Second Amendment rights if a doctor or counselor decided it was just too risky for them to own a gun.

How would this work in practice? The anti-gun advocates don’t say. What mental health conditions would they like to see serve as a bar to legal gun ownership? Would a woman in counseling for post-partum depression be denied her right to purchase a firearm? What about an older rancher whose wife just passed away? What about someone who’s currently on medication for schizophrenia? The anti-gunners can only tell us in the vaguest terms possible what they envision this law looking like, probably because they want it to be as wide-ranging and subjective as possible.

As we’ve already seen in the case of the murderer in Buffalo, New York, mental health evaluations are not a perfect barometer of whether someone actually poses a threat to themselves or others. That suspect was taken in for a mental health evaluation, spent more than a day in a hospital setting, and was eventually released instead of involuntarily committed. Do these gun control activists really think that a far more basic mental health screening would be even more accurate, or do they hope that all would-be gun owners will eventually have to check themselves into a hospital for intensive testing before they’re “allowed” to exercise their right to keep and bear arms?

Unfortunately, just like New York, New Mexico lawmakers have passed several gun control measures in recent years, and just like this proposal they’re all aimed at legal gun owners. Since 2019, the Democrats in complete control of state government have imposed universal background checks, a “red flag” gun seizure law, but violent crime in the Land of Enchantment continues to get worse. The answer, according to these young gun prohibitionists, is to simply treat a right as a privilege.

Now, not only does the text of the Second Amendment apply in New Mexico, but the state constitution has its own protections in place. Article II, Section 6 of the New Mexico State Constitution states:

“No law shall abridge the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes, but nothing herein shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons. No municipality or county shall regulate, in any way, an incident of the right to keep and bear arms.”

In other words, no government permission slip is needed in order to possess a firearm in New Mexico, though under the state’s constitution concealed (but not open) carry could be restricted by the state legislature. Requiring a license to own a firearm and subjecting all applicants to a mental health evaluation, on the other hand, would clearly run afoul of the state constitution (and I would argue the Bill of Rights as well). You can’t start from the position that no one can exercise their Second Amendment rights before they’ve satisfied the arbitrary and subjective opinion of a mental health counselor or a county sheriff. Or rather, you can, but you’re going to end up in court and you’re likely going to lose.