Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Let's Keep Guns Out of the Hands of.....

First, the quote of the day,  an explanation to follow:

--"I'm a gun owner.  It happens."

President Obama has renewed his commitment to keeping guns out of "the hands of the mentally ill."  See the story in Bloomberg here. 

In my world, I'd like to keep guns away from most people, but no one asked my opinion.  I realize there was a reason for the Second Amendment and that no one is going to go along with a repeal of the right to bear arms, so instead of designating people as targets for legislation based on having received medical treatment for psychiatric disorders, I'd like to talk about who is not safe with a gun.  I'm more interested in behaviors than labels.   

Who shouldn't be allowed to own guns:

People who are violent, impulsive, and who exhibit poor judgement.  I may be alone in this belief.

~Anyone found guilty of a violent crime, even one that is minor in nature -- a bar fight, an assault.  Why? Because it shows someone is capable of violence on a level that comes to the attention of authorities.

~Anyone with a history of a suicide attempt that is lethal enough to require a medical admission.  
Most firearms deaths are suicides not homicides.  Even if the admission is for an overdose, someone who is a proven danger to themselves should not have a gun.

~People with substance abuse problems -- intoxication leads to impulsive acts and leads people to do things they wouldn't otherwise do.  Obviously, everyone who has a few too many isn't dangerous, but our state law prohibits "habitual drunkards" from owning guns.  While people are reported to the NCIS database to prevent gun ownership if they've been hospitalized on a psychiatric unit for 30 days, you can go into rehab repeatedly without being reported.

~People who are committed to a psychiatric unit for being dangerous.  I don't mean everyone who is admitted against their will, but if it goes to a hearing and a person is found to both have a mental illness and to be dangerous and is unwilling to get treatment, then the court proceeding should include the loss of a right to own a weapon.  (This may make me unpopular, but it seems a reasonable level for safety).  

~People who reside with anyone in the above categories.  If you can't own a gun, what difference does that make if your sister leaves hers lying around.

~Anyone with any firearms misconduct at all. Period. If you're not able to be responsible with a weapon, you shouldn't own one.  Which brings me to the quote of the day above. It was made by Representative Leslie Combs, a state legislator in Kentucky after she accidentally discharged her legal gun in her office in the state's capital annex building today.  Apparently there are no charges being filed because it was an accident and no one was hurt, but really....if you fire a gun in a state capital even once, isn't that grounds to say someone might not be safe with a firearm?  If it were not a lawmaker, would this be tolerated? 

"I'm a gun owner.  It happens."  Really?  I'm astounded. 


CatLover said...

I am feeling rather huffy about this post, because this proposal would put me into an FBI database, and I sure don't appreciate it when folks advocate treating me like a criminal.

So now we're back to putting a young woman into an FBI database and taking away a civil right because she attempted suicide when she was 20 after a rape on campus, just for one common hypothetical example? Too bad you can't forever take away her right to own Tylenol, rope or anything else she can kill herself with.

How about make treatment more accessible and more help than just a pill which is what most people get if they're not well off, and be less punitive.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think an awful lot of people attempting suicide have probably been repeatedly and seriously victimized by others. That might be one reason they would want to own a gun for protection. Now society can victimize these folks on top of what they already went thru, because we all know that they can't get better, right? Therapy is just for show, and they will forever be untrustworthy, broken people. You can't ever again trust someone who attempted suicide. They shouldn't own cars, chainsaws, lawnmowers or circular saws either. All incredibly dangerous. Mental health providers lie when they use phrases like recovery for people who have more problems than the worried well.

This whole thing really torques me because the worthless psychiatric drugs I was prescribed CAUSED my suicide attempts, long before those black box warnings showed up. Unfortunately, I am left with the original serious depression problems, even though I'm no longer impulsive.

When a mental health provider marks an entire group of people who have never harmed anyone else as a target to put in a database in order to take away a civil right, that's bothersome. Of course, rules like this will be retroactive to the extent old records are available, or maybe current providers can rat out their patients who told them they attempted suicide years ago. Laws restricting gun ownnership tend to be sort of ex post facto, I've noticed.

I posted here a long time ago on this topic, and will add that I value gun ownership because I am rural and I deer hunt and shoot woodchucks in the garden, which cannot successfully be fenced out (I made many attempts to do just that). Virtually everybody around here owns guns for hunting. deer, ducks or squirrels. Go fishing and till your garden in the summer, hunt, can produce and cut firewood in the fall. It's what we all do. There are few other activities around here, and if people don't like living intimately with nature, they move away.

DogLover said...

I have more of a problem with the right to carry concealed weapons than I do with outright gun ownership.

I think CatLover is right. In rural areas, with lots of wild animals, I think this is just a necessity. I never took a shot at animal, but we had mountain lion footprints in our neighborhood. A poodle was torn to bits by a gang of coyotes. I took my dog's for a walk when I suddenly saw them sniff under a car. They backed away whimpering. I thought maybe it was a snake with some wicked fangs. A GIANT cat, bigger than the golden retriever and two black labs I had, jumped out into the bushes.

I would have no problem with shooting a vicious animal on my property that tried to me, my dogs, or anyone else.

While I can understand discomfort with bringing weapons into capitol buildings, I think a gun in the privacy of one's own home is not as bad, even with previous suicide attempts. There are other ways to die.

And honestly, if someone were a habitual drunk, I would permanently revoke their license to drive before I permanently revoked their right to a firearm. I hear a lot more about drunks killing people behind the wheel than I do about them killing people with firearms.

Joel Hassman, MD said...

Another issue not black and white, it is time for this society to realize that some access needs "recertification", ironic as we have to go through such a process to stay board certified, for things like using guns, driving cars, and I would submit it is time to think hard should ANYONE be allowed to vote simply because they were born here?

Much in life is a privilege, not a right as those with a limited agenda claim in shielding or denying the real point to an issue.

When you start blurring rights for things that are earned and need to be respected and appreciated ongoing, then it only plays into the hands of nefarious agendas. But, my position requires time money and energy of people to not only get recertified, but requires the states/fed to have a system to monitor and process the recert process, which means more money and time and energy of government employees, and we all know how that is received.

Not anyone can have and use a firearm, but, neither should all resonsible and law abiding citizens be victimized further by a growing lawless population, and I mean people in the community, not just our politicians!

Just my opinion.

CatLover said...

LOL I surely do love dogs too, but I don't own any.

To add more, the Supreme Court says that gun ownership is a right, and though I don't agree with that decision, nevertheless, under our constitution, it's their say so. If they say it is a right, it IS. Voting is a right. Driving a privilege, I guess, because probably the courts said that.

I did quiz my rural mental health providers, and they said they had some other patients upset over the gun issue whether or not they owned a firearm.

Living free in the community with depression and access to firearms is a risk, yep, a greater risk than for an "average" person, yep. Freedom is a *strongly* held American value, isn't it? I may be a mental patient, but I'm also a chili cooking deerhunting fisherman that loves cats (and dogs), and it should be *my* choice what level of risk I'm willing to take with my own life. Some people mountain climb, others ride motorcycles, yet others go cave diving, and I deer hunt and garden. I need a firearm for those activities. My lifestyle, my risk. I think my risk is a LOT lower than the risk someone takes on climbing Everest, which summitting is something like a 5% fatality rate when I figured it years ago. Living in the community as much like a "normal" person as possible is *my* Everest.

I have certainly talked this issue over with my providers.

Dinah said...

I'm not making any laws, I'm just a blogger spouting off my personal opinions.

I can't imagine there could be a law enacted in which a suicide attempt prior to the enactment of the law could be enforced.

There were over 31,000 gun deaths in 2010, over 19,000 were suicides. The question is whether you think this is a public health issue and the government should change the laws. I do. I realize some of the people who committed suicide would die anyone, but another means, but many would not.

So if you think the laws should be changed, ask what you're targeting. If it's spree shooters, they account for roughly 200 deaths over the last 30 years and the answer is simple: keep guns out of the hands of MEN. Everyone else is fine to own them.

Apparently our society is not willing to do what Australia did and have a gun buyback. There, there is no 'right' to bear arms. So given that, if we we are able to put some limits on gun ownership, then there needs to be a line somewhere -- in my pondering, I decided the line should be a suicide attempt serious enough to warrant a medical admission -- not a few pills swallowed by a jilted lover, or someone monitered in the ER for hours who then gets discharged or sent to a psychiatry unit. No line is perfect, but I picked one as a basis for my rambling. In Maryland, the new law captures anyone who is committed (based on the administrative law judge's assessment of gun safety, I believe) and anyone admitted to a psychiatry unit for 30 days or more, voluntary or not, dangerous or not. After a period of time, the person can petition to get their gun rights back. I thought my line was more reasonable than the 30 day issue, but who knows.

Really, I would make gun ownership a privilege, not a right, but that's not much of a blog post.

Anonymous said...

CatLover, I feel the same way. I don't have a gun nor do I want one, but I have the same concerns that you've expressed and have discussed those concerns with my psychiatrist, also.

I don't want to be in the database. I'm not a criminal. It's stupid, anyway. If I want a gun, I could drive over to my parents' house, or friends', or other family, and borrow a gun. It's not like I would have any problem finding one. I'm from a family and community of ranchers and farmers. Guns are plentiful.

I have never committed a crime. I don't deserve to be treated like I have.


Joel Hassman, MD said...

Two concepts I think this culture has to go out and unearth from their pathetically dug graves:

shame and humility, and
pride and ownership.

People as a quantifiable percentage, and I think it is approaching if not past 50% of Americans, don't really honestly and sincerely possess these two concepts, at least consistently and pervasively.

Shame and humility would solve a sizeable portion of political unrest and dysfunction, and pride and ownership would make product and service industries more respectable and reliable, and lead to more trust and appreciation, by both voters/consumers, and our alleged representatives/business leaders.

But, again, expense of at least time and energy, perhaps some money as well, and aren't people just too damn cheap in all aspects to expend things?!

Like the eternal debate of "which came first, the chicken or the egg", it equally is tough to answer, "is it people or guns who kill"? The answer is simply "evolution". Doesn't always lead to a better outcome, eh?

Dinah said...

Oh my, I updated the post, I forgot a hugely important category -- people who live with people with these issues. Thanks for reminding me, Catlover.

Joel: people kill people with guns.

Sunny CA said...

If you read your own post, you will see the phrase "leaves hers lying around" referring to a gun lying out in plain sight.

All the talk is about mentally ill being the problem, and taking guns away from the "crazy" people as the solution, whereas a much more fair and simple solution is laws that required guns to be securely locked up in a thick-walled safe with hinges on the interior and locks with a long throw.

Locked guns are not stolen, so do not enter the illegal gun market. Locked guns are not used by school kids as toys after school. Locked guns are not taken to school by kids.

Canada created laws that take guns away from suicidal people long before we started talking about it here, and their suicide rate did not change, only the means of suicide changed. Gun control is a stupid way to prevent suicide, in my opinion, since there are plenty of other ways to commti suicide. If somebody really wants to be dead they will find a way.

In Britain there are target shooting clubs where members can go and use the club guns for target practice and competition. In the USA, if you are not allowed to own a gun, you are not allowed near a target range. Our system does not acknowledge the entertainment value of target shooting, and neither, it seems do you.

Anonymous said...

People don't have to reside with family members to have access to their guns. Most people visit their family members whether they live with them or not.


Joel Hassman, MD said...

People kill people with lots of different weapons, including their own extremities. You can punch or kick someone to death, true?

My point is are we helping society just focusing on the means, and not exploring the ends? Are we dumbing down death, or at least trivializing it to some degree, I mean, we have made euthanasia legal in a couple of state here, so, what does that mean in the death process?

Getting rid of guns won't save so many lives at the end of some period of time, as I think people will just search out other means.

No, we have to refocus on the value of life, and unfortunately, also respect the value of death when it comes naturally and appropriately. The biggest falsehood to the debate about reeling in costs of health care is accepting death, and not prolonging suffering and giving false hope to those who are supposed to die, whether it be the old, or sometimes the young. Oh, that last sentence will outrage some readers, because it is truth beyond acceptable comprehension.

It is not black and white at the end of the discussion. Guns kill people as they are the instrument of death, but, the desire to kill or be killed is part of the equation too. You can't have guns without people, and we can't have people without guns.

When you frame the debate as an absolute, you wind up absolutely wrong! Just like abortion, immigration, fiscal responsibility, drug legalization, the death penalty, and so on.

The polarization of such issues only benefits the few, and disregards the many. I think you know that overall.

catlover said...

Perhaps we should learn from the Vulcans. Live long and prosper, all of you.

Seriously, I feel terrible about violence, but it has been improving a lot in recent years. It does seem that our culture has problems and there aren't any easy answers.

I am certain that violence was so much worse in the far past when people could get away with it on and on and on - the violence is within our species, and laws and other social control has gotten rid of an awful lot of it already. How many of the ladies commenting here would have endured regular beatings by their spouses a hundred years ago, with the blessings of society? How many kids were beat to death in 1800? 1900? More than today, I'm sure.

In spite of all the awful events, violence in this country's borders is overall getting better. You'll never get it to zero unless we all purge emotion like Spock.

Anonymous said...

I just don't think the answer is to penalize and further marginalize people with mental illness. They are not the ones causing most of the gun violence. Instead of addressing the real problem, the government is picking on the minority because they are easier to attack. I'm not the problem. I don't need to be in the database.


Unknown said...

While I agree with the points outlined in this post, I also feel as though we are hacking at the trunk of this tree, rather than pulling at the roots. A large part of gun problems (especially mass school shootings) result from irresponsible firearm storage and handling. I'm 21. My brothers are 23 and 16. All of us know how to operate and properly handle a gun; my dad hunts and we have all been hunting with him and been through hunter's education courses to become certified to do so. However, all firearms in the house are locked in a thick, heavy, metal gun safe. The only one who has that combination is my father. I couldn't access a gun in this house even if I wanted to. Yet, kids show up to school with guns obtained through friends, or family. Guns that are stored in closets, under beds, within reach of others are the ones used to kill. They are left out, open, loaded, and ready to use. This is an issue that requires attention and action.

Dinah said...

I should probably be quiet already, I seem to have insulted some of our regular readers.

I was raised in a city, no one shot squirrels, we didn't own a gun or know of anyone who did. So I hear 38,000 guns deaths/yr and don't empathize with "hunting is our way of life."

I wanted my post to emphasize keeping the guns away from those who are DANGEROUS (which our laws do not do).

Sunny CA: in the state of CA, the law is that anyone who gets 5150'd (brought in for what in other states is called a 72 hour hold)-- even if they are released before a hearing, even if they are held for being "gravely disabled" (a standard we don't have in Maryland. My suggestion to limit it to people who are found to be "dangerous" (meaning to self or others, not just gravely disabled) and to those who are certified at a hearing, would greatly reduce the number of people in the sunny state of CA who lose their gun rights.

It is just my rambling....

Unknown said...

Absolutely, I agree that there are people who should not have access to guns. I didn't intend to infer that I believe that guns should be widely available. I just wanted to contribute the point that, if people who do own guns properly store their firearms, not only are they less accessible to others in the household who should not handle them, it demonstrates the care that needs to be taken when handling guns. I think that when people leave guns laying around the house rather than being properly stored, that attitude of caution is greatly diminished.

I'm not offended; just presenting the topic from the point of view of someone who grew up handling guns and deer hunting.

Maggie said...

I still can't comprehend how people can be in favor of gun rights and somehow not care about firearm safety. I always believed that gun rights were closely linked to responsibility, but these days it usually seems to be used to mean "I can do whatever I want and be as irresponsible as I want because it's my right to carry this gun." The entire premise of rights and responsibilities seems to have somehow vanished, and somehow that fact rarely even enters the dialog.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how someone could favor gun rights and not care about firearm safety either. Where I grew up people took that very seriously, and although there were guns in most households I never knew of anyone getting shot. Contrast that with where I live now, in a large city, where people don't care about human life and shoot each other like it's a sport.


CatLover said...

Putting my nerd hat on, here, and hope I'm not annoying people. The perceptions are distorted by the media. Gun accidents and homicides and most other violent crimes are way down over the decades. Google it. The reason you don't hear about gun accidents or firearms crimes in rural areas much are 1) statistically, people handle guns better than they used to, and crime is down and 2) hardly anyone lives in rural areas compared to cities. (Oh, I suppose there are fewer firearms deaths than before not only because of less crime but also because trauma care is a LOT better than it used to be. So that is a partial counterargument to what I wrote).

Now I'll trot out some colorful stories. I know a senior citizen who used to take his shotgun to high school and store it in the coat closet (they didn't have lockers then) and hunt rabbits and squirrels on the way home. It was just fine with his teacher. It was a different world!

Lots of people used to leave loaded shotguns around, with many tragic results and I hear stories from the old days that aren't so long ago, about brothers periodically shooting at each other across a lake and yelling in between shots(and missing) and nobody did anything to stop it, but amazingly, nobody got hurt. kids shooting a hole in the kitchen floor years ago while playing with a loaded shotgun(the house I own now). I have a relative whose knee was shot out when he was a kid, because his dad left a loaded shotgun around. .. oh my, so many stories. Unreal! There were more accidents of every dreadful kind in the past, a past that a lot of people still remember. I don't know anyone so careless now, not even close. Cars are safer, chainsaws are safer, and so are guns because of education and safety features over the years. In the US today, we are probably as safe as any society in the history of the world has ever been. wasted life is a terrible thing, but it's getting better in the US, at least. Let's all continue to drive the accidents and violence down some more, but the hysteria in the news is misleading. I rather like the lead argument - banning the lead in paint maybe reduced violence. That's an interesting read.

catlover said...

I know no one is commenting on this post anymore, but in case anyone should see this, perhaps there are other groups of people who should not own guns (sarcasm). Just saw a story on CNN, and physicians, pharmacists, dentists and trial lawyers all have very high suicide rates. Ah, but the stress in those occupations. . . But those of us who are labeled mental patients and live in poverty, those of us who get poor peoples' care, we don't have any stress? I do of course (of course!!) feel very bad about stressed out professional people killing themselves and I did used to be a professional, too and I have family members who are or used to be professionals. At the same time, now that I live among the rural poor, I find it fascinating. If a labelled-up poor mental patient kills themselves, it's because of "bipolar disorder" or "schizoaffective" and somehow has nothing to do with stress, but if a doctor or trial lawyer kills themselves, it's because they have a stressful job or setbacks in life. If someone commits an act of extreme violence, the labels are tossed right out there in the news stories, too.

Anonymous said...

Catlover, that's interesting. Sounds like we should put those guys in the database. High risk. Never happen, though, because they have all the power. Easier to target people who have no power, the poor and people with mental illness. Sigh.