Erica Goode and Jack Healy made a dubious observation about gun rights in their New York Times article Friday, "Focus on Mental Health Laws to Curb Violence Is Unfair, Some Say." ("Some" translates into "liberals at the Times"). The Times cynically suggested that the mental health angle was due in part to congressional reluctance to take on the allegedly fearsome National Rifle Association.
In their fervor to take action against gun violence after the shooting in Newtown, Conn., a growing number of state and national politicians are promoting a focus on mental illness as a way to help prevent further killings.
Legislation to revise existing mental health laws is under consideration in at least a half-dozen states, including Colorado, Oregon and Ohio. A New York bill requiring mental health practitioners to warn the authorities about potentially dangerous patients was signed into law on Jan. 15. In Washington, President Obama has ordered “a national dialogue” on mental health, and a variety of bills addressing mental health issues are percolating on Capitol Hill.
But critics say that this focus unfairly singles out people with serious mental illness, who studies indicate are involved in only about 4 percent of violent crimes and are 11 or more times as likely than the general population to be the victims of violent crime.
Tom Maguire did an ace job teasing out the paper's agenda-driven double standard on mental health statistics.
More from the Times on Friday, focusing on the allegedly fearsome National Rifle Association:
Moreover, the push for additional mental health laws is often driven by political expediency, some critics say. Mental health proposals draw support from both Democrats and Republicans, in part because, unlike bans on semiautomatic weapons or high-capacity magazines -- like the one proposed in the Senate last week -- they do not involve confrontation with gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association.
“The N.R.A. is far more formidable as a political foe than the advocacy groups for the mentally ill,” said Dr. Jeffrey A. Lieberman, chairman of psychiatry at Columbia University and president-elect of the American Psychiatric Association.
Indeed, the N.R.A. itself, in response to the massacre in Newtown, argued that mental illness, and not the guns themselves, was at the root of recent shooting sprees. The group called for a national registry of people with mental illness -- an alternative that legal experts agree would raise at least as many constitutional alarms as the banning of gun ownership.
Really? Gun ownership is directly guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment. In contrast, there is nothing like a direct constitutional barrier to a national registry of the mentally ill, though some may find it objectionable or overreaching.