Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Criminalizing mental illness...again

Once again people are being criminalized for being mentally ill. Today the House of Representatives passed bill H.R. 2640, (and it is pretty much guaranteed to pass in the Senate as well) which would require states to automate their lists of convicted criminals and the mentally ill who are prohibited under a 1968 federal law from buying and/or owning firearms, and report those lists to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. Even the name of the system this information is reported to, the "National Instant CRIMINAL Background Check System", lumps the mentally ill in with criminals.

This bill is purely a knee-jerk reaction to the VA Tech murders so Congress can say they did something to prevent a tragedy like that from happening again. In actuality, all they've really done is further stigmatize those of us with mental illnesses because of all the subtle and blatant remarks being made that link mental illness with criminal behaviour.

Here's some of what I've read...

Democrat Charles Schumer, in charge of presenting the measure in the US Senate, said the bill is "our best opportunity to prevent the senseless loss of life at our schools and on our streets by making sure that those who are judged mentally ill do not get guns."

This twit should have the facts before he makes a statement that seems to put the blame for the U.S. murder rate on the mentally ill. If this bill is "our best hope", we're all fucking screwed. Most homicides where guns are used aren't committed by people that have been "judged" mentally ill (officially referred to in the law as being "adjudicated as mentally defective", nice term huh?), at least not prior to committing murder, and therefore they would still be legally eligible to purchase a gun prior to their crime. Let's also keep in mind that according to Department of Justice statistics, 80% of guns used in criminal acts WERE NOT OBTAINED LEGALLY, so passage of this bill will have little to no impact on the number of victims killed by guns.

The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday responded to the deadliest shooting rampage in modern American history by passing legislation to help keep guns out of hands of the mentally ill.

That line is the start of one news article published by Reuters. Since we all know that is exactly why this bill was even written, that means the bitch that sponsored the bill is saying the mentally ill are criminals with this statement she made:

"Millions of criminal records are not accessible by NICS," said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., sponsor of the bill.

The audacity of the governor of Virginia to make the following remark really gets me hot under the collar...

Virginia's Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine said Wednesday that in ordering state executive branch agencies to upgrade background check reporting last month he found that Virginia was one of only 22 states reporting any mental health information to the NICS. He said the House bill was "significant action to honor the memories of the victims who lost their lives at Virginia Tech."

Hmm...if Virginia is one of only 22 states reporting mental health information, then he needs to explain why it was HIS STATE that dropped the ball and allowed someone that actually was "judged mentally ill" to purchase guns. A significant action would have been for his state to report Cho's mental illness as he claims his state does, and hopefully the tragedy never would have happened in the first place.

I don't have a problem keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill while they are a danger to themselves or others. Most fatal suicides are the result of gunshots and I know that if I had easy access to a gun, I would not be here today. I'm an excellent shot and would have definitely made it lethal.

People need to realize though that an overwhelming majority of mentally ill people won't hurt anyone else. They typically only want to end their own suffering. Stop portraying us all as possible criminals when it is only a tiny minority of mentally ill people that will commit a crime like the VA Tech murders.

Realize that these are illnesses of the brain, which can be cured or managed. Do not permanently deny us our Second Amendment right to bear arms. Stop lumping us in the same category as criminals.

We should all be extremely concerned about what happens from here. There is already talk of "pushing for federal and state scrutiny of issues related to society's safety vs. personal freedoms". In other words, they want to use the VA Tech tragedy to start eroding the right to privacy of certain individuals...mainly those with mental illnesses.


Anonymous anonymous mom said...

i'm wondering exactly what "mental health information is being reported to the ncis". where is the information coming from?

i agree with you sid, it's outrageous to lump mentally ill in with criminal. if va had merely followed up on their own judicial order for cho to get help, which apparently was "no one's responsibility" - what the hell good is more legislation? why not force the courts to enforce their own judgements for chrissakes? they had an opportunity to do something about cho and fucking ignored it. mentally ill does not equal criminal. engaging in unlawful activity equals criminal. bloody fucking morons.

1:47 PM, June 14, 2007  
Anonymous Austin of Sundrip said...

Lack of action AND mental illness are what caused the VT massacre to take place not just mental illness alone.

However, I do think that if a person is mentally ill and shows signs of violence that it is reasonable to deny them access to legal ways of obtaining a gun. But as you said, most of the time criminals don't get guns legally. One case where they did took place 3 streets over from me. Because legally he was allowed to obtain fire arms the courts had given him back his AK-47 and a stash of other guns. He faught to get them back because he had a right to them. When he got them back and got sick again he used the same once confiscated guns to change our neighborhood forever. 3 streets over from me he walked out into a suburban area with an AK-47 and started shooting. He was so heavily armed our police force couldn't handle him. He shot down 5 officers and killed one before being killed himself. He had a right to bare arms, mentally ill and proven to be violent he still had a right to bare arms.

I believe there is a place for this law but if they blanket it or people don't act on what they see like with Cho then the law will be as ineffective as many other laws and innocent people will suffer.


3:57 PM, June 15, 2007  

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