This summer’s bloodshed from people with mental illness attacking churches, military installations, movie theaters and this week a Manhattan federal building has not stopped the NRA’s guns-for-everyone-and-anyone agenda. The NRA-backed Mental Health and Safe Communities Act would restore the “gun rights” of someone who has been hospitalized for mental illness automatically–as soon as he is discharged. Why shouldn’t someone on heavy medication considered a threat to himself and others two days ago get his lethal weapons back the minute he leaves the hospital? Currently, someone who’s been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital must petition for the restoration of his “gun rights” or wait for a court or administrative body to restore them.
The NRA-backed legislation is reminiscent of H.R. 2640–The National Instant Criminal Background Check System Improvement Amendments Act which the NRA supported after the Virginia Tech massacre. Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech killer, was found “mentally ill and in need of hospitalization” by the New River Valley Community Services Board but bought legal guns and ammunition anyway.
Like the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act, HR 2640 sounded like it would make communities safer. But on its website the NRA wrote the bill was actually “better for gun owners than current law,” because “certain types of mental health orders will no longer prohibit a person from possessing or receiving a firearm,” like adjudications that have expired or been removed and “commitments from which a person has been completely released with no further supervision required.” Also excluded, said the NRA, “are federal decisions about a person’s mental health that consist only of a medical diagnosis, without a specific finding that the person is dangerous or mentally incompetent.”
Why does the NRA promote “gun rights” for people with mental illness? For the same reason it promotes “gun rights” for convicted felons, suspected domestic abusers and people under orders of protection. The NRA does not believe in “gratuitously tak[ing] away the rights of people because when you begin taking away the rights of people that you don’t like, that’s the slippery slope,” said NRA lobbyist Marion P. Hammer. “Don’t like?”
That is why after the murder of nine Charleston church worshippers by a suspect with white supremacy attitudes and clear mental problems, the NRA website ignored the massacre in favor of telling its followers—the “largest gun grab in American history” was underway. “The Obama social security system plans to deny 4.2 million people the Right to Keep and Bear Arms,” screamed the NRA referring to a possible White House move to deny guns to Social Security beneficiaries ruled incompetent to manage their own pension or disability payments. Why should people who cannot manage their own affairs and likely have dementia be denied guns? Persecution!
This summer was rife with bloodshed from mentally ill people who should have never been able to buys guns–but shootings at Aurora, Tucson, the Navy Yard, Santa Barbara, Fort Hood and Northern Illinois University also underscore the dangers. Is the NRA serious?
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