September 17, 2013

Mental Illness and Firearms

The recent mass killing at the Washington Navy Yard is yet another instance of a mentally ill young man with easy access to firearms exercising his madness on large numbers of strangers. How many more must die before a consensus is built to address this particular confluence of factors? Does the NRA actually want the mentally ill to have unfettered access to firearms? Why is setting a high bar of trustworthiness for gun licensure oppressive?
According to ABC News:
"Just 12 states actively submit mental health records to the federal background check system, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report. Those that do are only required to provide documents related to court-ordered committals. Thousands of felony convictions across the country have also been left out of the system, advocates say. In many states, the records are still paper-based and have to be entered into the background check system by hand -- a costly and time-consuming process."
Tightening up issues like this should disturb no one, since just doing a better job of what we already purport to do may have helped in some of these cases. For example, the Navy Yard killer, Aaron Alexis, reportedly once shot out someone's tires when they had parked in his space. This was a matter of public record, as he was arrested for the incident and later admitted to it, citing blackout-inducing anger. Anyone who has used a firearm in such a way should never have access to them ever again. If we don't improve our success rates in separating the mentally ill from firearms (and other means of mass murder), tragedies like this will go on and on with increasing frequency.