Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mental Health and Gun Ownership

I found this linked in a blog entry by David Berstein at the Volokh Conspiracy. Bernstein's piece relates to the issues with the college dealing with the mentally ill and the Americans with Disabilities Act. That's a little different than what I'm looking at, but it is related.
The new information raises questions about whether warning signs about Mr. Cho’s behavior and problems were handled effectively by police and the university.

Asked about the court document, the associate vice president for university relations, Larry Hincker said: “That is total news to me.”

“Shouldn’t the university have known that?” a reporter shouted as he left the room.

The police spoke with acquaintances of Mr. Cho’s and became concerned that Mr. Cho might be suicidal. Officers suggested to Mr. Cho that he speak to a counselor and he did so. He went voluntarily to the police department and, based on his meeting with the counselor, a temporary detention order was obtained and Mr. Cho was taken to a mental health facility, Carilion Saint Albans Behavioral Health Center.
The issue here, and the one that the reporter appears to be completely clueless on, is that even if Cho was mentally ill, there was nothing the University could do about it because of the ADA. Bernstein and a commentor:
Serious question: If you are a university official, and become aware of a court document like this [the Times does not say whether Virginia Tech officials knew about it], or other strong evidence that a student is mentally ill and potentially violent, is there anything you can do about it (other then recommending counseling) without violate relevant federal laws banning discrimination against the "disabled?"

UPDATE: Commenter Hans Bader writes:

It's not clear.

And I say that as someone who used to handle cases involving the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act for the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.

The law governing K-12 schools, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, is still worse, affirmatively coddling violent students who claim to have behavioral or emotional disabilities.

Courts have construed it as requiring schools to not expel violent disabled students under the statute's "stay-put" provision....

State disabilities laws are also sometimes broader than the ADA or the Rehab Act, making life even more difficult for businesses and schools.

That is informative. I suppose in some cases I can understand the protections though when those protections move into the realm of forcing the innocent to stand in harms way because of foolish legislation, I'm thinking there needs to be a change. Because the law fails to separate risks from disability rights, you have codification of rights that supersede those of the rest of society.

With that said, this is an indication of the problem with the NICs system and the failure to report violent mental disability. I understand that mental disability that disqualifies the individual from carrying is extremely vague and not at all limited to those with violent tendencies. The problem I see is that there are many people who seek assistance with issues that will never become violent. Depression is one of those cases. And personally, I find it unlikely that I would risk the loss of my rights by seeking assistance with depression.

Unfortunately, the other side of this is the issue with the incompleteness of the NICs system due to the failure of the legislation to put together a system for reporting. The vagueness of the requirement also makes this worse.

With all the yelping by the likes of Rep. McCarthy, you'd think that this is a simple issue. I'd say it most definitely is not. The reporting system needs to be clearly defined on what is disqualifying and what is not. Those definitions don't exist, and frankly, leaving those definitions to the politicians concerns me greatly. These are the same politicos that can't read legislation prior to voting and you think they should define what is a disqualifying mental issue? I watched Tucker Carlson ask McCarthy what a "barrel shroud" was last night on his show and she indicated she didn't know but believed it was, from her description, a collapsible stock. Carlson stated that the term barrel shroud is one of the items that is used to define an assault rifle in the newly proposed assault weapons ban. If the person pushing the legislation doesn't even understand what that part of the gun is for, how can they be depended on to make an intelligent assessment?

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